S Korean president willing to step down
SOUTH Korea’s scandal-hit President Park Geun-hye said yesterday she was willing to resign early and would let parliament decide her fate as leader.
“I will leave the issue of my departure, including the 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 minimises any power vacuum and chaos in governance, I will step down,” she said without giving further details.
But opponents said the statement was a tactic to derail efforts in the opposition controlled parliament to impeach Ms Park over the scandal, which has already seen her confidante Choi Soon-sil charged with fraud and abuse of power.
A number of lawmakers from the ruling party have backed a bid by the three main opposition parties to pass a motion as early as December 2 to impeach Ms Park.
If parliament does pass the motion, Ms Park would immediately be suspended from official duties and her prime minister would take over as an interim head of government.
The Constitutional Court could take six months to decide whether to approve the impeachment.
Ms Park’s Saenuri Party welcomed her statement yesterday, calling for the opposition parties to delay their impeachment bid.
Massive weekly protests have been intensifying over the past month, with up to 1.5 million people braving freezing temperatures in Seoul on November 26 to demand Ms Park’s resignation.
Ms Park’s justice minister stepped down, while even staunch supporters from within her party have joined calls for her departure.
But Ms Park sought to distance herself from Ms Choi, who allegedly leveraged her ties with the president to coerce more than US$60 million in “donations” from top firms including Samsung and Hyundai.
“I pushed for the projects, sincerely believing that they were for public good and for the nation. I have not sought any personal gain there”, Ms Park said yesterday.
The 60-year-old Ms Choi is also accused of interfering in government affairs, despite holding no official position or security clearance.
Ms Park had promised to submit herself to a judicial probe, as well as a separate investigation by an independent special prosecutor to be appointed by parliament.
But she backtracked, with her lawyer rejecting a series of requests by prosecutors to make herself available for questioning.
Ms Park’s approval ratings have plunged to a record low for a sitting president as top advisers and some of South Korea’s most powerful companies are caught up in the ever-widening scandal. –
People at a railway station in Seoul watch
President Park Geun-hye making a speech on TV yesterday.