Cautious moves to impeach Park
> Main opposition party votes to push for president’s removal
SEOUL: South Korea’s main opposition party voted yesterday to seek the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye after prosecutors named her a criminal suspect in a snowballing corruption case.
But it remains unclear exactly when Park’s opponents will formally try to start the process, a difficult and lengthy one with no guarantee about the outcome.
Members of the Democratic Party voted unanimously in favour of seeking Park’s impeachment and setting up a working group to review related legal issues, its spokesman, Ki Dong-Min, told reporters.
“We have decided to join efforts with civic groups, other opposition parties and even members of the ruling party who want Park to be impeached,” Ki said.
He said the party would formally begin the process when it sees the “biggest possibility” of parliament approving such a move.
Two smaller opposition parties have already said they will seek to remove Park.
Even some members of the president’s ruling conservative party have come out in favour of impeachment.
But their commitment to the process is unclear for now, partly due to fear of a political backlash if the impeachment bid fails.
A failed attempt in 2004 to impeach then-President Roh MooHyun backfired badly, with two parties that led the bid suffering a devastating defeat in a general election the same year.
In some ways the opposition has had its hand forced by the huge outpouring of anti-Park sentiment, which has seen hundreds of thousands take to the streets demanding she step down.
With Park showing no sign of going voluntarily, the opposition has come under pressure to take a more assertive stance, but is wary of the political dangers involved.
“Even if there is great public anger over Park for now, many lawmakers may be reluctant to take such a big risk by walking into an impeachment minefield,” political commentator Kim Hong-Guk said.
Park has just over a year to run of her single, five-year presidential term, and impeachment could take months, as it requires a two-thirds approval by the national assembly and a similar majority in the Constitutional Court.
There are concerns about a backlash from conservative voters who – while disappointed with Park – would see her impeachment as unwarranted and overly punitive.
On Sunday, Seoul prosecutors said Park had colluded with her long-time friend Choi Soon-Sil, who is accused of coercing local firms to donate millions and of meddling in state affairs.
That made Park the first South Korean president to become a criminal suspect while in office.
Park had previously said she would submit to prosecutors for questioning, but her lawyer signalled a change on Sunday, saying she would only answer to independent investigators who will soon take over the case. – AFP
Rescue workers search for survivors in the wreckage of the train that derailed near Pukhrayan in Kanpur district on Sunday.