The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Reducing uncertainty

All key players should put national interest first to overcome crisis

By 김케빈도현

Published : Dec. 12, 2016 - 16:35

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The parliamentary impeachment of President Park Geun-hye tells us two important things regarding the political crisis caused by a corruption scandal involving her civilian confidante and friend Choi Soon-sil.

The first is that Park was all but finished. About 80 percent of lawmakers, including half of the members of her own ruling party, lined up to impeach her. Regardless of the Constitutional Court’s decision on her fate, Park is destined to be remembered as one of the worst presidents since the republic’s foundation in 1948. 

The second point of the parliamentary sanction of Park is that this nation should continue moving forward. This requires all key players -- from the acting president and the top court to political parties -- to play their due roles in a somber and sensible way.

Most of all, Park should wait for the top court’s verdict in a humble manner. One of her utmost duties is to faithfully comply with the investigation of the independent counsel Park Young-soo.

Park may hope that the top court overturns the parliamentary impeachment, as it did for the late President Roh Moo-hyun 12 years ago, but she may not yet realize that the charges against her are far graver than those for Roh.

As caretaker, acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn’s first job should be to make sure that no power vacuum occurs and that the government -- if not as usual -- manages state affairs, including security issues and the economy. He also needs to reach out to the opposition, which controls the National Assembly. 

If the Constitutional Court upholds the parliamentary impeachment, Hwang’s duty will go beyond filling the power vacuum, as he will have to administer the next presidential election. This calls upon him to be extra careful about being bipartisan.

It is needless to say that the Constitutional Court should hand out its verdict as soon as possible. So far, the court is seen as trying to live up to the public’s expectations: The court gave Park seven days to clarify her position on the parliamentary charges, compared with 10 days during the 2004 Roh case.

Most justices and their assistants came to their offices in the weekend and the court held its first full meeting Monday. Such efforts to speed up their work are needed all the more because unlike Roh, Park was charged with at least 20 counts of violations of the Constitution and other laws, and there are more than 50 people implicated in the scandal. These lead many experts to predict that it will take longer than the 63 days it did in 2004 to rule on Park’s case.

A matter as grave as this one should be dealt with carefully, fairly and in accordance with the law. But time is equally important because political uncertainty cannot be cleared until the court makes its decision.

The opposition, which spearheaded the parliamentary impeachment vote riding the wave of popular antipathy toward Park, has yet to form a unified stance on how to deal with the post-impeachment situation. For instance, presidential hopeful Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea and the progressive Justice Party still demand Park’s immediate resignation. Some hardliners even demand a collective resignation of the entire Cabinet.

But such a demand faced criticism even from their opposition colleagues who caution against a state of anarchy and possible popular backlash. Opposition leaders have also taken a step back on their previous demand that Hwang resign.

The most positive development is that the Democratic Party and the People’s Party have proposed to form a consultative body with the ruling party and the government.

With the ruling party on the verge of breakup, the opposition camp may find it difficult to find a legitimate ruling party leadership for the time being, but that should not keep them from their efforts to help the National Assembly look after state affairs in conjunction with the acting president.

One good symbolic start of such endeavors could be to make a prompt decision to end the awkward situation surrounding Deputy Prime Minister for Economy and Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho and the chief financial regulator Yim Jong-yong who was nominated by Park more than one month ago to succeed Yoo.