South Korea pres­i­dent says will­ing to leave of­fice early Bill could be passed as early as Fri­day

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

South Korea’s scan­dal-hit Pres­i­dent Park Geun-Hye said yes­ter­day she was will­ing to re­sign early and let par­lia­ment de­cide her fate, a move crit­ics said was a bid to de­lay im­pend­ing im­peach­ment.

Park has been en­gulfed in al­le­ga­tions of in­flu­ence ped­dling and claims that tens of mil­lions of dol­lars have changed hands, spark­ing wide­spread anger across South Korea and bring­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of pro­test­ers onto the streets de­mand­ing her ouster. “I will leave the is­sue of my de­par­ture, in­clud­ing the (pos­si­ble) re­duc­tion of my term in of­fice, to a de­ci­sion by the Na­tional Assem­bly”, she said in a speech car­ried live on tele­vi­sion. “Once law­mak­ers come up with mea­sures to trans­fer power in a way that min­i­mizes any power vac­uum and chaos in gov­er­nance, I will step down,” she said.

Park’s pres­i­dency has gone into a tail­spin, with ac­cu­sa­tions that Choi Soon-Sil-a se­cre­tive con­fi­dante dubbed “Korea’s Rasputin”-elicited more than $60 mil­lion in pay­ments from some of the coun­try’s top firms, in­clud­ing Sam­sung.

Park has been named as a sus­pect in the grow­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, mak­ing her the first sit­ting pres­i­dent to be sub­ject to a crim­i­nal probe while in of­fice. While she re­tains the pres­i­dency, she can­not be charged with a crim­i­nal of­fence ex­cept in­sur­rec­tion or trea­son, but she could be charged once she steps down.

Huge protests call­ing for her im­peach­ment have rocked Seoul ev­ery week­end for the more than a month, and op­po­si­tion par­ties say they ex­pect to vote to re­move her as early as this week. Park’s lat­est re­marks are a pos­si­ble bid to de-fang that ef­fort, crit­ics say, with the pres­i­dent hop­ing that she can cut a deal that would avoidor lessen-for­mal sanc­tions. But op­po­nents on Tues­day rub­bished her of­fer.

“Our stance to seek Park’s im­peach­ment re­mains un­changed,” Choo Mi-Ae, leader of the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Party, said, de­scrib­ing Park’s re­marks as “a trick” de­signed to dis­tract at­ten­tion.

Push for im­peach­ment

Three op­po­si­tion par­ties, which jointly hold 55 per­cent of seats in par­lia­ment, and some mem­bers of Park’s party are seek­ing to col­lect a two thirds of to­tal votes to pass the bill as early as Fri­day. If the mo­tion passes, Park would im­me­di­ately be sus­pended from of­fi­cial du­ties and her prime min­is­ter would take over as in­terim head of gov­ern­ment. But the im­peach­ment would not be fi­nal­ized un­til the Con­sti­tu­tional Court ap­proves it-a process that could takes six months. Mas­sive weekly protests have in­ten­si­fied over the past month, with up to 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple brav­ing freez­ing tem­per­a­tures in Seoul Satur­day to de­mand Park’s res­ig­na­tion, ac­cord­ing to or­ga­niz­ers. Park has been hem­or­rhag­ing al­lies, with her jus­tice min­is­ter step­ping down and staunch sup­port­ers within her own party call­ing for her to go. Park-in her third pub­lic apol­ogy over the scan­dal-tried Tues­day to dis­tance her­self from Choi, who was charged ear­lier this month with co­er­cion and abuse of power. She said the huge sums of money that had changed hands had been directed to­wards projects that were for “the pub­lic good”.

“I have not sought any per­sonal gain there” she said, but added: “It was my fault that I failed to keep my per­sonal ties (with Choi and Choi’s as­so­ci­ates) un­der con­trol.” Park had ear­lier promised to sub­mit to a ju­di­cial probe, as well as to a sep­a­rate in­ves­ti­ga­tion by an in­de­pen­dent spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor. But she later back­tracked, with her lawyer re­ject­ing a se­ries of re­quests by pros­e­cu­tors to make her­self avail­able for ques­tion­ing.—AFP

HONG KONG: This Thurs­day, Nov. 24, 2016 photo shows nine eight-wheeled Sin­ga­pore-made Ter­rex in­fantry car­rier ve­hi­cles seized at a con­tainer ter­mi­nal.—AP

SEOUL: South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-Hye speaks dur­ing an ad­dress to the na­tion, at the pres­i­den­tial Blue House yes­ter­day.—AFP

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