"I'd like to apologize for the mishandling of a slew of problems, from preventive measures before the accident to the government's initial response and follow-up steps," Chung said.
"During the search process, the government took inadequate measures and disappointed the public. I should take responsibility for everything as the prime minister, but the government can assume no more. So I will resign as prime minister."
Chung went on to plead that South Koreans "come together" for the recovery efforts rather than divide further over the investigation into the cause and handling of the tradgedy.
South Korean authorities are unaware what specifically sunk the ship and are investigating a number of causes. As of Sunday, 187 dead bodies have been recovered while 115 people are still missing. According to a presidential spokesman, Chung will remain in office until the government has concluded its official response.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]
Syrian Al Qaida group executes Lebanese soldier