Opposition heavyweights Sunday vowed to pursue the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye over the influence-peddling and corruption scandal tied to her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil.
The comments came following an announcement from the prosecutors that the president was an accomplice to a series of crimes committed by Choi and Park’s aides.
Eight liberal-minded presidential hopefuls, such as Moon Jae-in who served as a leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, urged the opposition-controlled National Assembly to begin steps to impeach the president who they said faced enough grounds for the measure.
The prosecutors said earlier in the day that the president was found to have played a key role in allowing Choi to meddle in state affairs -- such as leaking confidential documents and forcing conglomerates to donate money to the foundation run by Choi.
Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party speaks at a gathering of opposition presidential hopefuls at the National Assembly in Seoul on Sunday to discuss the political situation of South Korea. From left: Kim Boo-kyum, Moon Jae-in, Park Won-soon and Sim Sang-jeong. (Yonhap)
“We reaffirmed that the president’s violation of law is obvious and grave enough to make the case for impeaching her. We requested the National Assembly and opposition parties to discuss impeachment of Park,” the opposition politicians said in the statement.
The eight politicians attending the meeting -- including Moon, Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon -- have been reluctant to impeach the president because they were concerned that the process would be too complicated and aggravate the public’s unease over political deadlock.
To avoid such turmoil caused by the impeachment process, the liberal bigwigs decided to demand that the legislative body elect a new bipartisan prime minister and set up an interim Cabinet until the nation elects a new president next year.
South Korea’s Constitution stipulates that the Assembly may impeach the president if they have proven to commit a “grave breach” of the Constitution and other laws while in office. Such violation includes the act that undermines democratic value such as the rule of law and betrays the public trust of the people by receiving bribery, said the Constitutional Court when they ruled the impeachment motion against the late President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004.
The measure requires two-thirds approval of the 300-strong National Assembly and nine-member Constitutional Court.
The ruling Saenuri Party’s whip Rep. Chung Jin-suk said later in the day that he would agree to discuss the impeachment motion if the opposition bloc proposes it. For the motion to meet the two-thirds quorum at the Assembly, the opposition needs extra 29 votes from Saenuri members.
Saenuri lawmakers critical of the president have rejected the calls for Park’s voluntary resignation, but appeared to support the impeachment process. They have noted that it is the only legitimate measure to hold the president liable for her wrongdoings.
“Impeachment procedure is prescribed in the Constitution. Should the impeachment motion be proposed, we have to act in accordance with the Constitution. It is something that we cannot avoid,” Chung told reporters during press conference.
Most opposition presidential hopefuls have been skeptical of pursing the impeachment process until the prosecutors described the president as an accomplice in their indictment against Choi Soon-sil and her aides for their involvement with the scandal.
For example, Moon Jae-in said during the press conference on Tuesday that “it is not the time” to push for impeaching Park. Instead, Moon urged the president to resign immediately and yield her governing power to an opposition-elect prime minster in the transition period.
Even though Moon agreed to join other opposition bigwigs in pursuing impeachment on Sunday, he continued his demand for Park’s resignation. “If the president declared that she would resign, we would help her leave the office with dignity,” he said.
Yeo Jun-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)