Opposition votes to seek Park impeachment
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 Ms 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 Ms Park’s impeachment and setting up a working group to review related legal issues, its spokesperson 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,” Mr 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 Ms 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 Moo-hyun backfired badly, with the 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 of Seoul in recent weeks demanding the president step down.
With Ms 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.
Ms Park has just over a year left in 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 Ms Park – would see her impeachment as unwarranted and overly punitive.
Seoul prosecutors say Ms Park had colluded with her long-time friend Choi Soon-sil, who is accused of coercing local firms to donate more than US$60 million and of meddling in state affairs.
That made Ms Park the first Korean president to become a criminal suspect while in office. –