Rul­ing party faces split over im­peach­ment

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

South Korea’s rul­ing party on Wed­nes­day faced an im­mi­nent split over the im­peach­ment of scan­dal-hit Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye, a devel­op­ment that would se­ri­ously un­der­mine its presidential elec­tion chances.

More than 30 law­mak­ers of the Saenuri Party, who have been at odds with Park, have vowed to leave, ar­gu­ing the party’s cur­rent lead­er­ship re­fuses to embrace re­forms de­spite the cor­rup­tion scan­dal and im­peach­ment cri­sis.

“We’ve reached a con­clu­sion that con­ser­va­tives’ re­form through the Saenuri Party is im­pos­si­ble”, Yoo Se­ung-min, an em­i­nent law- maker among the dis­senters told jour­nal­ists.

A split would also com­pli­cate a pos­si­ble run by out­go­ing UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon, who had been widely ex­pected to com­pete as a cen­ter-right can­di­date on the Saenuri ticket.

Thirty-five law­mak­ers have agreed to break away from the party on Dec 27, the group said, adding they will try to con­vince more par­lia­men­tary mem­bers to join them.

Their de­par­ture will leave the party with some 90 law­mak­ers within the 300-seat Par­lia­ment and rel­e­gat­ing it to sec­ond place be­hind the lib­eral Demo­cratic Party within the Na­tional Assem­bly.

The group crossed party lines to join op­po­si­tion par­ties in pass­ing a mo­tion to im­peach Park this month.

Park is ac­cused of col­lud­ing with her friend Choi Soon-sil to strong-arm large com­pa­nies such as Sam­sung into hand­ing over tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to two du­bi­ous foun­da­tions Choi al­legedly con­trolled and plun­dered.

Daugh­ter of Choi

Park is also ac­cused of or­der­ing aides to leak state doc­u­ments to Choi, who has no of­fi­cial ti­tle or se­cu­rity clear­ance, and al­low­ing her to med­dle in some state af­fairs, in­clud­ing the ap­point­ment of top of­fi­cials.

A court is­sued an ar­rest war­rant on Wed­nes­day for Chung Yoo-ra, the 20-year-old daugh­ter of Choi.

The case is now be­ing con­sid­ered by the con­sti­tu­tional court, which has up to 180 days to rule on the va­lid­ity of the im­peach­ment that charged Park with mul­ti­ple crim­i­nal and con­sti­tu­tional vi­o­la­tions — rang­ing from bribery to abuse of power.

If the jus­tices con­firm im­peach­ment, Park will be per­ma­nently re­moved and elec­tions must be held within 60 days — mean­ing a bal­lot could be held as early as late March.

The split will dras­ti­cally re­duce the chances of the con­ser­va­tive party win­ning the presidential elec­tion.

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