South Korea's prime minister resigned Tuesday after drawing a firestorm of criticism for playing golf rather than overseeing the government's response to a railway strike.

Lee Hae-chan offered his resignation to President Roh Moo-hyun, who accepted the offer Tuesday afternoon, said ruling Uri Party spokeswoman Seo Young-kyo.

The prime minister has been under fire from the opposition and public for going golfing March 1, the first day of a nationwide walkout by railway workers.

Moo-hyun, who just returned from a trip to several African countries, presidential spokesman Kim Man-soo told The Associated Press.

Lee has been under fire from the opposition and public for golfing March 1, the first day of a nationwide walkout by railway workers.

Lee was off that day, a national holiday marking Korea's 1919 civil uprising against Japanese colonial rule, but he was heavily criticized because South Koreans expect high-level officials to work overtime during times of crisis. Lee, who took the job in June 2004, has since repeatedly publicly apologized over the incident.

The prime minister is largely a ceremonial job in South Korea where power is concentrated in the president's office. But as one of Roh's key allies, Lee is considered to have considerable influence over state affairs.

The resignation is an embarrassment for the Uri Party ahead of local elections in May, and party leaders had hinted Lee should step down to placate the public ahead of that vote.

The latest scandal wasn't the first time Lee was accused of hitting the links when critics said he should have been on the job. In April 2005, he was golfing during a wildfire and in July he was again playing when heavy rains buffeted the country's south.

Golf is widely popular among upper-class Koreans, who spend vast amounts on lessons, green fees and golf vacations.