Lee Hae-chan, chief of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), said Wednesday he feels heavy responsibility for political turmoil surrounding a former justice minister causing public concerns.
Lee expressed regret over his party's failure to read public sentiment about a monthslong row over whether ex-Justice Minister Cho Kuk was suitable for the Cabinet post.
"As a ruling party chief, I feel heavy responsibility. I would like to take this time to say I am very sorry for the row," Lee said during a press conference.
"While focusing on a great cause for reforming the prosecution, we've failed to take into account a sense of relative deprivation and frustrations that young people might have felt over unfairness," he added.
Cho's family is under a prosecution probe over allegations including his daughter's academic favors and his wife's forgery of a school award. He resigned on Oct. 14 after weeks of protests by people for and against his appointment.
The controversy, in particular, brought to light the value of fairness as Cho has long preached the need for a fair and just society and condemned the social ills of the privileged.
Lee stressed that the latest turmoil reaffirmed the need to push for reforming the prosecution.
"Believing this would be the last time, we will focus on (the passage of) key reform bills so as to thoroughly overhaul the prosecution's organizational culture and correct its wrong practices," Lee said.
He referred to bills to set up a special unit to probe corruption allegations by high-ranking public officials and give more investigative authority to police.
Cho was a key architect of President Moon Jae-in's drive to reform the prosecution.
As Cho quit the job, several DP first-time lawmakers called for the DP leadership to overhaul itself. Lee was under pressure from some party members to step down.
Lee rejected calls to resign, saying that it is time to focus on preparing for parliamentary elections set for April 2020.(Yonhap)