S.Korean President calls on Parliament to decide her fate

Seoul, Nov 29 (IANS) South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Tuesday called on Parliament to decide her fate ahead of an expected impeachment vote on Friday, the media reported.

Park said she will follow the National Assembly’s decision, including a shortened presidency, following a scandal involving her and longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil, her decades-long friend who has been indicted on charges including abuse of power and extortion, Xinhua news agency reported.

Park became the first South Korean President to be investigated as a criminal suspect after the scandal emerged in October, Yonhap news agency reported.

“If ruling and opposition parties find a way through discussion to minimise confusion and vacuum in state affairs and to stably transfer power, (I) will step down from the presidency in accordance with the schedules and legal proceedings (determined by Parliament),” she said.

Park did not mention the voluntary resignation, demanded by opposition parties, the public and even by some members of her ruling Saenuri Party.

Her statement came ahead of the scheduled parliamentary vote on a bill to impeach the President between December 2 and December 9.

As opposition parties and some members of the governing party reached a tacit agreement on putting the impeachment motion to vote, it is highly likely for the bill to be passed through the 300-seat National Assembly.

There are 172 opposition and independent legislators who want to remove Park from office, with as many as 40 lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party expected to vote in favour of it.

After the passage of the impeachment resolution, Park would immediately be suspended and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn would become an interim President.

Following the impeachment, presidential election is required to be held within 60 days, according to the constitution.

Higher probability for the impeachment passage encouraged the ruling party’s lawmakers close to Park to ask for an “honourable” resignation on Monday.

Park’s speech, however, indicated her reluctance to voluntarily step down.

Opposition parties denounced the address which they claimed to be a ploy to delay the impeachment process.

Park Jie-won, floor leader of the casting vote-wielding People’s Party, said President Park refrained from scheduling her own resignation and threw the responsibility to Parliament from the strategy that rival parties could not agree to the scheduling.

Choo Mi-ae, chairwoman of the biggest opposition Minjoo Party, said her party will continue to push the impeachment vote as Park’s speech was aimed at passing the buck to parliament.

Choo noted that Park’s immediate and unconditional resignation was the sole way to normalise state affairs.

Saenuri Party’s whip Chung Jin-seok told the media that he wants to call on opposition parties to go back to the starting point to re-schedule the impeachment, Yonhap reported.

Meanwhile, Park said it was all her “big” fault to mismanage personal relationships around her, stressing she had not pursued any personal gains “for a flash” as she believed that things would contribute to public interests.

Prosecutors said Park conspired with Choi as large conglomerates were pressured by her friend into donating tens of millions of US dollars to two nonprofit foundations Choi controls.

Choi has also been accused of having illegal access to secret presidential documents under the connivance or protection of Park.

The President made her renewed apology to the public, saying it shattered her heart to be unable to appease people’s anger and big disappointment.

Park added she will elaborate on what’s the truth behind the biggest political scandal she ever faced since her inauguration in February 2013.

–IANS

py/vt

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