Heads of South Korea’s three opposition parties on Wednesday officially rejected President Park Geun-hye’s offer to cut her term short, demanding she resign immediately and unconditionally.
The parties also reconfirmed their commitment to impeaching the conservative president as early as this Friday, which requires at least 28 votes from Park’s former allies in the ruling Saenuri Party.
The three party leaders Reps. Choo Mi-ae of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (center), Park Jie-won of the People’s Party (left) and Sim Sang-jung of the Justice Party.
“Passing the motion on Dec. 2 might be a long shot,” Rep. Park Jie-won of the People’s Party told reporters after a close-door meeting with Reps. Choo Mi-ae of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea and Sim Sang-jung of the Justice Party.
Reps. Park and Choo were said to have clashed during the meeting over the voting schedule. While Choo insisted that the opposition stick to Friday, Park countered that Dec. 9 is a more viable date to gather enough votes from Saenuri Party lawmakers.
Earlier in the day, Saenuri lawmakers critical of the president -- who hold the key to the required number of votes needed for the motion’s passage -- said they would vote for Park’s removal, but wanted to delay the ballot till Dec. 9 to give rival parties time to discuss the president’s suggestion.
Opposition parties and independents combined have 172 votes as of Monday, 28 shy of the required 200 in the 300-member National Assembly. In a survey conducted by a local daily Wednesday, only 19 lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party said they would approve the motion, if the vote took place this Friday.
In a surprise move Tuesday, Park said she was leaving everything to the National Assembly, including her own presidency, and asked the legislative body to decide the time frame and legal process of her early departure from office. Her term finishes in February 2018.
The opposition coalition wants to pass the motion as soon as possible, because a delay could affect its chances of clearing the threshold at the nine-member Constitutional Court. By law, at least six judges must approve to impeach Park.
“One week is quite a long time. We don’t know what Park will plot to do during this time,” said Rep. Keum Tae-sup of the Democratic Party, a former prosecutor in charge of drafting the impeachment motion.
Keum also warned that if the lawmakers pass the motion next week, the legal process at the Constitutional Court will be delayed. He noted that if the Court fails to offer their ruling before their chief justice ends his term next January, it will be forced to wait until the new justice takes office.
A day earlier, opposition parties came up with the final draft of their impeachment motion, which was scheduled to be submitted to the floor no later than Thursday. More than 150 lawmakers are needed to propose the measure.
The document contained allegations that the president violated the democratic values of the Constitution, abused her power as a public official and leaked classified presidential documents to her longtime friend Choi, who did not have security clearance
Some contentious charges were also added, even though they had been left out in the prosecution document in which Park was named a suspect. Among them was her involvement in a graft charge tied to Choi and her aides, as well as her mishandling of the 2012 Sewol ferry incident which left over 300 people dead.
Earlier in the day, a group of Saenuri lawmakers advocating impeachment demanded the opposition reduce the scope of charges to make the case for impeachment. Opposition parties said that they would incorporate Saenuri’s suggestion, if needed.
The conservative party’s lawmakers are concerned that including too many charges in the motion would undermine the prospects of getting the Constitutional Court to impeach Park. The impeachment motion will be a major point of reference for the Court in reviewing the case.
“As a lawyer and a member of Saenuri Party, I can’t bring such a motion to the Constitutional Court,” said Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, chairman of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee who will represent the legislative body in a trial at the Constitutional Court.
The allegations surrounding Park’s dealings during the Sewol disaster are not compelling enough to convince both the court’s judges and Saenuri lawmakers that the president committed a “grave violation” of the Constitution, the former prosecutor added.
By Yeo Jun-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org