News Analysis: Rift deepens among S.Korean politicians over ways to let president resign


SEOUL,   (Xinhua) — Rift deepened among South Korean politicians over how to let President Park Geun-hye resign after the embattled leader’s third address to the nation in which she threw the ball of decision on her fate in parliamentary court.

Choo Mi-ae, chairwoman of the biggest opposition Minjoo Party, and former ruling Saenuri Party chairman Kim Moo-sung who is leading the anti-Park faction in his party, met on Thursday to discuss the way of removing the scandal-hit president from office, according to local media reports.

The meeting was held at the chairwoman’s suggestion, but the political big shots failed to reach any agreement on detailed schedules and legal procedures for the president’s resignation which Park demanded in her speech on Tuesday.

Addressing the nation for the third time since the scandal involving herself emerged in October, Park said she will defer her retreat, including the shortening of presidency, to the unicameral parliament.

Under the country’s constitution, impeachment and constitutional amendment are the only options to cut short Park’s single, five-year term as the scandal-plagued leader refused a voluntary resignation citing the breach of the constitution that guarantees a full tenure except treason and insurrection.

The former Saenuri chief reportedly said his anti-Park faction would vote on a bill to impeach Park unless the president accepts the faction’s call to voluntarily resign by next April.

He indicated no need for impeachment vote if Park accepts it.

Choo stressed the importance of the impeachment motion to be passed through the National Assembly as late as next Friday when the regular session ends. The main opposition party head demanded Park step down by the end of next January.

Divisiveness deepened between rival parties. The ruling party held a general meeting of the assembly members, adopting its party line unanimously that Saenuri lawmakers will demand President Park stand down by next April and a presidential election be held two months later.

The so-called “orderly” retreat was proposed by the elder statesmen, including former parliamentary speakers and ex-prime ministers who met on Sunday to come up with a road map for the scandal-hit president’s resignation.

Chung Jin-seok, the ruling party’s whip, explained the party line to reporters, saying the minimum preparation period is required to ensure a stable transfer of power, urging the opposition bloc to agree to the timeline his party suggested.

If the opposition bloc agrees to the schedule and President Park follows it, she would become the first South Korean leader to resign since 1960 when Rhee Syngman, the country’s founding president, stepped down on popular uprisings against a disputed election.

However, Park has refused any voluntary retreat. Public distrust of the president is deep-rooted as she repeatedly dismissed prosecutors’ request for face-to-face interrogation after the prosecution office’s branding of the president as a criminal accomplice to her decades-long friend, Choi Soon-sil.

Push to amend the country’s constitution, which has been unchanged for about three decades, would take at least one year, discouraging opposition legislators to pursue it. Park’s five-year tenure is originally set to end in February 2018.

Move to impeach Park would be challenging to opposition lawmakers. As there are 172 opposition and independent lawmakers, three main opposition parties must gain support from at least 30 Saenuri Party legislators in the anti-Park faction.

The main opposition Minjoo Party offered to put forward the impeachment bill on Thursday and vote on it on Friday, but the casting vote-wielding People’s Party opposed it on expectations that the anti-Park faction would not vote for the impeachment.

Without the support from the People’s Party, the Minjoo Party is unable to put forward the impeachment motion as it requires a half support from the 300-seat parliament. The passage for the bill must have two-thirds ayes. The Minjoo Party has 121 parliamentary seats.

Chiefs of the three main opposition parties, including the minor Justice Party, had a trilateral meeting, but they failed to reach an agreement. The widely expected vote on the impeachment motion this Friday gets impossible to happen.