President Park Geun-hye’s offer to leave her fate to the National Assembly – an apparent bid to avoid an impending impeachment and buy time – gives a clue to why her loyalists in the Saenuri Party resisted the ferocious public demand that they give up control of the ruling party.
In her third national address since the scandal broke out more than a month ago, Park said Tuesday she would step down from her post early if the National Assembly sets the timetable and method for a “stable transition.”
Some, including the Park loyalists and Saenuri leaders, took that as a major concession by the president. Indeed, it was the first time Park had publicly said she could cut short her tenure, which otherwise is to end in February 2018.
But as opposition leaders pointed out in unison, the announcement is nothing but another shallow ploy by Park to buy time by halting the impeachment process and putting the ball in the National Assembly’s court.
This strategy seems to have been well orchestrated by Park and her underlings in the ruling party. Breaking their silence over the fate of the president, the Park loyalists said Monday they asked the president to “step down honorably.” It marked the first time the Park loyalists mentioned the possibility of Park resigning voluntarily.
As if she had waited for such advice, Park issued the national address the following day, asking the ruling and opposition parties to determine her fate and the timetable for her exit and a change of government. Park said that she had “laid down everything.”
She – and her henchmen in the ruling party – didn’t. Park’s loyalists immediately called for a halt to the opposition’s move to impeach Park. Saenuri leader Lee Jung-hyun said that Park finally met the demand of the people and that the National Assembly should start discussions on her proposal immediately. Floor leader Chung Jin-suk went on to say that the impeachment issue should go to the square one.
Indeed, Park’s unilateral proposal seems to be working in her favor. Some ruling party members critical of Park and her followers, who had pledged to support the parliamentary impeachment of Park, now say that Park’s proposal deserves discussion. They argue the impeachment motion could be put to a vote as late as next Friday if the National Assembly fails to reach a consensus on Park’s future by that time.
All these developments show that the Park loyalists – instead of soul-searching and taking responsibility – may continue to maneuver to shield their unpopular boss.
That should not be allowed -- for the sake of the ruling party and more broadly, the nation’s healthy conservatives who, in the wake of the Choi Soon-sil scandal, are facing the gravest crisis in decades ahead of a presidential election.
The current crisis was of course prompted by Park and her preposterous reliance on a civilian confidante over state and presidential affairs. But the Park loyalists in the ruling party themselves deserve condemnation for having been accomplices to Park in causing the scandal and the overall failure of the Park administration.
Key members of the pro-Park faction in the ruling party held senior posts in the Cabinet and Cheong Wa Dae. None of them served their boss – and the nation – in a way to prevent her from making such a terrible mess of the government.
These people, who also were the main culprits for the ruling party’s devastating defeat in the April 13 parliamentary elections, remained as brazen as ever even after the corruption and influence-peddling scandal plunged the Park presidency and the nation into an unprecedented crisis.
Party leader Lee and other pro-Park members’ resistance to the demand that they step down resulted in a virtual split of the party, with the non-Parks having formed their own leadership body and joining the opposition’s move to impeach Park.
These non-Parks -- not the Park loyalists led by Lee -- should represent the ruling party in negotiations with the opposition parties, be they on Park’s proposal or parliamentary impeachment.
And what the Park loyalists should do -- instead of holding any hope of revivign their boss who has already fallen into a political vegetative state -- is reflect on how they contributed to ruining the government, dissolve their Park faction, take a backseat in politics and renounce their ties with Park.