Op­po­si­tion-con­trolled Par­lia­ment sets up impeachment vote

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Seoul

South Korea’s op­po­si­tion­con­trolled Par­lia­ment in­tro­duced an impeachment mo­tion on Thurs­day against Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye, set­ting up a likely vote on Fri­day on whether to sus­pend her pow­ers over a huge po­lit­i­cal scan­dal.

A par­lia­men­tary of­fi­cial re­ported the mo­tion to a ple­nary ses­sion, which means an impeachment vote must take place be­tween 24 and 72 hours. Fri­day is the fi­nal day of the cur­rent par­lia­men­tary reg­u­lar ses­sion.

The mo­tion needs twothirds ap­proval in the 300-seat sin­gle-cham­ber Par­lia­ment to pass. The op­po­si­tion and an­tiPark in­de­pen­dents have 172 seats and they ap­pear to have se­cured enough sup­port from rul­ing party dis­senters to pass an impeachment, ac­cord­ing to po­lit­i­cal ob­servers.

If the vote passes, nine judges from the coun­try’s Con­sti­tu­tional Court will have up to 180 days to de­ter­mine whether to for­mally end Park’s pres­i­dency. Dur­ing that time Park would be sus­pended as pres­i­dent but not re­moved, with her du­ties, in­clud­ing com­man­der in chief of South Korea’s 630,000mem­ber mil­i­tary, tem­po­rar­ily trans­ferred to the prime min­is­ter un­til the court reaches a de­ci­sion on whether her impeachment is con­sti­tu­tional.

Prose­cu­tors say they be­lieve Park col­luded in the crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties of a long­time con­fi­dante to ma­nip­u­late govern­ment af­fairs and ex­tort busi­nesses. The con­fi­dante, Choi Soon-sil, and two of Park’s for­mer aides al­legedly linked to the scan­dal have been in­dicted. Park, who has im­mu­nity from pros­e­cu­tion while in of­fice, has re­fused to meet with prose­cu­tors in­ves­ti­gat­ing the scan­dal.

Park, South Korea’s first fe­male pres­i­dent, would be the coun­try’s sec­ond leader to face an impeachment vote. In 2004, law­mak­ers im­peached then­pres­i­dent Roh Moo-hyun on al­le­ga­tions of in­com­pe­tence and elec­tion law vi­o­la­tions. But the impeachment led to a big pub­lic back­lash, and the Con­sti­tu­tional Court re­in­stated Roh two months later. Roh left of­fice in early 2008 af­ter serv­ing out his sin­gle five-year term. In 2009, he killed him­self amid a high-pro­file cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his fam­ily.

Park has pub­licly apol­o­gized over the scan­dal three times and ac­knowl­edged that she re­ceived help from Choi in edit­ing her speeches and with un­spec­i­fied “pub­lic re­la­tions” mat­ters. Park de­nies in­volve­ment in Choi’s al­leged crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties.

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