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South Korean 2018 Olympic chief quits over company trouble

SEOUL, South Korea -- The business tycoon who led South Korea's organizing committee for the 2018 Winter Olympics quit on Tuesday amid escalating financial troubles at the business group his family controls.

Seoul's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourisms accepted the resignation of Cho Yang-ho, according to a ministry official who didn't want to be named, citing office rules. The official couldn't comment on how long it would take to appoint a new chief organizer for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.

Cho is chairman of the Hanjin Group, which controls Olympic sponsor Korean Air and a major shipping company struggling with heavy debt.

In a statement released by the organizing committee for the Pyeongchang 2018 Games, Cho said he couldn't continue with the Olympic job because he needs to focus on stabilizing Hanjin Shipping, South Korea's largest container carrier, which said last week that it will undergo a debt revamp program with creditors in its last-ditch efforts to stay in business.

The cash-strapped company said it will sell buildings, ships and other assets and take other intensive measures to improve its financial status.

"For the past two years, I have truly put forward my very best efforts to work with every member of the organizing committee to prepare a successful Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2018," Cho said in the statement.

Cho took over as president of Pyeongchang's organizing committee in July 2014, succeeding Kim Jin-sun, the former governor of the region that includes Pyeongchang.

Pyeongchang organizers have faced a series of challenges in recent years, including construction delays, local conflicts over venues and criticism about their financial planning, but preparations had seemed to turn a corner after the successful hosting of test events earlier this year in Olympic snow venues.

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Associated Press writer Youkyung Lee contributed to this report.