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South Korean PM to stay after nominees withdraw

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has decided to retain her current prime minister after 2 nominees withdrew their names for the post amid criticism over their past behavior.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won had offered to step down in April to take responsibility for the government's handling of a ferry disaster.

But on Thursday, a presidential press secretary said Park has now rejected Chung's offer and asked him to stay on the job.

The spokesperson said the president made a difficult decision because she could not allow a political void and a rift in public opinion to continue.

Park made her decision 2 days after her 2nd choice for prime minister withdrew his nomination due to criticism over his past comments. The former journalist told a church gathering 3 years ago that Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula was "God's will."

Last month, her first pick, a former Supreme Court justice, withdrew his nomination after he was criticized for earning an excessive amount of income as a lawyer.

President Park has reshuffled senior government posts following fierce public criticism over the ferry disaster.

Observers say the failure to find a qualified nominee for prime minister deals a serious setback for her.

Jun. 26, 2014 - Updated 04:04 UTC