November 30, 2016
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s three main opposition parties agreed Wednesday to stick to their plans to impeach President Park Geun-hye, dismissing as a stalling tactic her offer to resign if parliament arranges a safe transfer of power.
Park’s conditional resignation offer Tuesday came as she faces nosediving approval ratings and massive street rallies calling for her ouster amid a huge political scandal involving her and a longtime shadowy confidante.
“The people of South Korea do not want to enter the new year with Park Geun-hye as president,” Choo Mi-ae, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, said at the start of the meeting. “There is only one way under our constitution to halt a term of a president and that’s an impeachment motion.”
After the meeting, the three parties told a joint news conference that Park must step down immediately without setting any conditions and that their push for her impeachment remains unchanged. The opposition parties agreed to put an impeachment motion to a vote as early as this Friday or meet again if this plan doesn’t work, according to Yonhap news agency. The Democratic Party, formerly known by its Korean-language name, Minjoo, couldn’t immediately confirm the report.
The opposition have previously said they would try to impeach Park either this Friday or on Dec. 9, when a parliamentary plenary session is scheduled. Support from two-thirds of the 300-member parliament is needed to impeach Park. The three opposition parties and anti-Park independent lawmakers have a total of 172 seats, meaning they need help from dissenters in Park’s ruling Saenuri Party.
It was unclear how much Park’s overture could divide those who earlier supported her impeachment. But some in the Saenuri Party have already raised the need to review whether to try to impeach her or come up with other ways for her departure.
If impeached, Park’s presidential powers are immediately suspended until the Constitutional Court makes a ruling on her fate. The court has 180 days of deliberation. Park, in her Tuesday speech, continued to deny accusations by prosecutors that she colluded in the criminal activities of her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, who, despite having no official role in government, allegedly had a say in policy decisions and exploited her presidential ties to bully companies into giving large sums of money to businesses and foundations that Choi controlled.
“If the ruling and opposition parties discuss and come up with a plan to reduce the confusion in state affairs and ensure a safe transfer of governments, I will step down from the presidential position under that schedule and by processes stated in law,” she said. Park refused to take any question from journalists after her comments.
Prosecutors have indicted Choi, two ex-presidential officials and a music video director known as a Choi associate for extortion, leaking confidential documents and other charges. Park, who has immunity from prosecution while in office, has refused to meet with prosecutors. Her lawyer says the prosecutors’ accusations are groundless.
Park is the daughter of late dictator Park Chung-hee, whose 18-year rule ended after he was gunned down by his own intelligence chief in 1979.
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.