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S. Korea's prime minister-nominee withdraws over alleged pro-Japanese remarks in the past

Newly-nominated South Korean Prime Minister Moon Chang-keuk closes his eyes during a news conference about his resignation at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Moon has withdrawn from consideration following mounting criticism over his alleged pro-Japanese remarks in the past.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

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Newly-nominated South Korean Prime Minister Moon Chang-keuk closes his eyes during a news conference about his resignation at the government complex in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Moon has withdrawn from consideration following mounting criticism over his alleged pro-Japanese remarks in the past.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea's prime minister-nominee withdrew from consideration Tuesday following mounting criticism over alleged pro-Japanese remarks he made.

President Park Geun-hye had nominated former senior journalist Moon Chang-keuk to replace the current prime minister who offered to resign to take responsibility for April's deadly ferry disaster.

But Moon has been under fire after media reported that he called Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula God's will and made other controversial remarks in past speeches.

Japan colonized Korea from 1910-45 and many older Koreans still hold strong resentment against Japan.

Moon said in a televised news conference Tuesday that his past comments were taken out of context but he's voluntarily withdrawing so he does not pose a further political burden to Park.

His nomination had to be approved by the National Assembly. Moon had said he wanted to prove that he does not have pro-Japanese and other historically controversial views at a parliamentary hearing. Moon said he and his family have been hurt deeply by the allegations that he is a pro-Japanese figure.

Park said she regretted that Moon would not get a chance to have a parliamentary hearing.

Moon's withdrawal deals another blow to Park as her first choice for the job also withdrew last month over criticism over alleged ethical lapses.

Park has been pushing to reshuffle top officials and reorganize some government offices in a bid to restore public confidence following the ferry sinking that left more than 300 people dead or missing. Most of the victims were high school students.

On Tuesday, divers retrieved the body of a woman from the sunken ferry, increasing the death toll to 293, a government task force said in a statement. Eleven others are still missing.

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