Impeachment demands snowball for SKorea president
Days of reckoning approach as parties respond to Park Geun-hye’s attempt to reach political solution to leadership crisis
A majority of South Korean lawmakers still appear to back President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, but key figures showed enough differences Wednesday to give a glimmer of hope to their scandal-hit leader.
“We will do our best to put the impeachment motion up for a vote this Friday,” the heads of the National Assembly’s three opposition parties said in a joint statement.
The statement was released one day after the president offered to resign if the country’s parliament could agree on an appropriate transition.
Considering the National Assembly’s history of discord, senior liberal representatives quickly dismissed Park’s proposal as a ploy to escape an impeachment trial.
A two-thirds majority would be required to pass the motion, needing at least 28 ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers to vote the same way as the opposition bloc.
While sufficient anti-Park members of the ruling camp remain willing to do so, their faction said via a spokesperson that they want to first give the Assembly a chance to negotiate next steps by Dec. 8 -- meaning the opposition’s planned impeachment vote would be delayed by a week.
But the liberal leaders responded by refusing to hold such talks, and called for the president to step down immediately in accordance with nationwide demands and a record-low approval rating of just four percent.
Park’s extreme unpopularity has been provoked by ongoing allegations that she cooperated with an unofficial confidante and several aides in a scam to force conglomerates into making donations among a string of other claims.
The president’s position protects her from criminal prosecution for now, although she did on Wednesday select private attorney Park Young-soo to lead an independent investigation into the scandal.
A former prosecutor, the attorney was one of two names put forward by the main opposition parties and has a reputation for cracking down on big business corruption.
At the very least, Park’s speech Tuesday has caused sufficient disarray to buy her some time.
Even divided Saenuri lawmakers agree it would be best if she resigns in April -- less than a year before she would be due to leave office anyway.
The later the election the better for a ruling party that may rely on outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to stand a chance of retaining the presidency based on polls.
Ban, however, is not likely to finalize his status as a candidate until he returns to South Korea in January.
Moreover, rebel Saenuri members oppose the liberal bloc’s decision to include in their draft impeachment motion Park’s failure to protect victims of 2014’s Sewol ferry disaster, a hugely divisive political question as well as a national tragedy.