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Opposition threatens to quit if vote fails

National Assembly will decide President Park's fate this afternoon

South Korea’s parliament will decide Friday whether to impeach President Park Geun-hye, with opposition lawmakers threatening to quit en masse if the vote fails.

In their full-fledged efforts to push to remove Park from office, the three main opposition parties -- the Democratic Party of Korea, People’s Party and Justice Party -- pledged to resign from the National Assembly if the motion is rejected.

“We are determined to pass the motion to take Park down from office, and tendered our resignations to the party leadership in case it is voted down,” floor leader Rep. Woo Sang-ho of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea said after a general meeting of lawmakers Thursday.

The party decided as its official stance that all of its 121 lawmakers would abandon parliamentary membership if impeachment fails. 
A flag reading
A flag reading "impeachment Park Geun-hye Resignation," set up bya civic group, flutters in the air in front of the National Assembly in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
“This is a watershed moment in history,” said Rep. Choo Mi-ae, the party’s chief, calling on all members to think only about the nation and its citizens and make sure Park is removed from office.  

The runner-up opposition People’s Party and Justice Party followed suit, also announcing that all of their respective 38 and 6 members would give up their parliament seats if the conservative president survived the vote. The Justice Party went further to call for the complete disassembling of the National Assembly in that case.

“The impeachment train has departed. Nothing can stop the train,” floor leader Rep. Park Jie-won of the People’s Party said.

Public opinion is overwhelmingly supportive of the opposition coalition’s campaign to oust Park over a corruption scandal involving her confidante Choi Soon-sil.

According to local pollster Realmeter on Thursday, 78.2 percent of the surveyed 1,511 citizens agreed with impeaching the president.

The impeachment bill against Park lists multiple violations of the Constitution and laws. The president is also accused of “neglecting her constitutional duty to protect the lives of the people when the Sewol ferry sank in 2014, killing nearly 300 people.”

Supporting her ouster are some members of the governing Saenuri Party.

In fact, the fate of Park depends on a group of the Saenuri rebels.

According to a poll conducted by a local daily, only 23 Saenuri lawmakers surveyed said they would vote for impeachment, while others either did not reply or express their stance.

To pass the parliament, the bill needs all of the 172 lawmakers from the three opposition parties and independents, plus 28 votes from the Saenuri Party.



“Just one vote can change the results. We will continue to push for the passage of the bill,” Rep. Hwang Young-chul of the ruling Saenuri Party said.

If the impeachment motion passes Friday, the assembly speaker has to deliver the impeachment resolution to the parliament‘s Legislation and Judiciary Committee and send the copies to the Constitutional Court and President Park. At that moment, she would be suspended from her presidential power and the prime minister would take over.

The beleaguered president is on the verge of ending her presidency after a swirling scandal revealed she had allowed her confidante and longtime friend Choi to meddle in state affairs. Choi is suspected of using her ties to the president to extort money from conglomerates and secretly intervene in government appointments.

Despite the public’s strong call for the immediate resignation of the president, Park hinted she would face impeachment “according to legal procedures” in her meeting with the loyal conservative leadership of the ruling Saenuri Party on Tuesday.

Rep. Choo demanded that if the president is impeached, the entire Cabinet, including Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, leave office in a news interview Wednesday.

“The citizens would not let the prime minister stay in his position and stand in for the president,” she said.

By Jo He-rim  (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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