South Korea’s Opposition Files Motion to Impeach Leader ParkBy
Vote will go to parliament next week as protests mount
Motion needs support of dissenters from ruling party to pass
South Korea’s three opposition parties filed a motion Saturday to impeach President Park Geun-hye, rejecting her offer earlier in the week to resign in the wake of an influence-peddling scandal.
Parliament will vote next week on the motion, which has the support of all 171 lawmakers from the three opposition parties and independents, excluding the parliamentary speaker. The opposition will need the support of dissenters from Park’s ruling Saenuri Party to achieve the 200 votes it needs to pass an impeachment bill.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters have called for Park to leave office over accusations that she allowed her friend Choi Soon-sil to pressure some of South Korea’s biggest companies -- including Samsung Electronics Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. -- to donate tens of millions of dollars to her foundations. Another protest is planned for Seoul Saturday.
A faction of the Saenuri Party that had previously supported Park’s impeachment said Wednesday it would accept her offer on Tuesday to resign at the end of April, and gave her nine days to make a proposal. The group of about 40 lawmakers holds the balance of power in an impeachment vote, which requires support from two-thirds of parliament.
The motion will officially be proposed during a regular parliamentary session on Thursday, with the vote to be held on Friday, Kang Sun-a, deputy spokesperson at the Democratic Party of Korea, said by phone.
A statement accompanying the impeachment motion claimed the president broadly and gravely violated the constitution. Park allowed Choi and others to exert influence on state affairs, which ended up distorting the economy, finance, culture and business, it said. The motion also cited bribery allegations against Park and accused her of failing to protect lives in the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster.
The Sewol ferry, carrying 476 passengers, sank while en route to the southern resort island of Jeju from Incheon, west of Seoul. Most of the 304 dead were high school students.
President Park has denied allegations of bribery, saying she has never sought personal interests during her government service. Over the criticisms on her responsibility in the Sewol disaster, the presidential Blue House website’s fact-checking sections said that Park carried out her official duties mostly in a private office at her residence and ordered directives by phone. An official at the Blue House declined to comment on allegations cited in the impeachment motion.
If the parliament approves the impeachment motion, Park will be suspended from power immediately and the prime minister will take over. The final ruling of the impeachment process has to be made by the Constitutional Court within 180 days, which needs at least six of nine judges’ approval that the impeachment abides by Korea’s constitution.