South Korea Impeachment Push Advances as Park ‘Ready’ for Vote

  • Legislative leader says Park prepared to accept result
  • Park had agreed to April resignation date for ‘orderly exit’

How Likely Is an Impeachment of South Korea's Park?

South Korea’s opposition pressed forward with plans for impeachment proceedings against Park Geun-hye on Friday, as an ally of the president said she was “ready” to face the vote.

Park was prepared to accept the results, Chung Jin-suk, floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, said in televised comments Tuesday after meeting with the president. If parliament votes in favor of impeaching her, Chung said she would wait for the constitutional court to rule on the measure.

Meanwhile, a special parliamentary panel investigating allegations of influence-peddling on Wednesday began grilling Park’s former chief of staff, her top economic adviser and other figures implicated in the scandal. Lawmakers kept a seat assigned for Choi Soon-sil, the president’s long-time friend at the center of the scandal, empty. Choi, who is in jail, refused their summon to appear.

The opposition plans to introduce a motion to impeach Thursday. A majority of the parliament has endorsed the motion, which requires a 24 hour waiting period before the impeachment vote can take place. Passage could pacify the anti-Park protests that have been swelling by the week in Seoul. Should the president survive the vote, the demonstrators may return, growing increasingly frustrated as the country limps along through political uncertainty.

Opposition lawmakers said Monday they might have enough votes in the 300-seat parliament to pass the measure. If 200 or more lawmakers vote in favor, Park would be suspended from power while a constitutional court takes as many as 180 days to review the move. If the court agrees, a presidential election would be held in 60 days, with the prime minister staying on as interim leader.

“She’s run out of options after her apologies failed to make a difference,” said Choi Chang-ryul, a political commentator and professor of liberal arts at Yong In University. “She also seems to think she has a chance of winning the case at the court.”

Read more: The influence-peddling scandal rocking South Korea

Six of the nine judges have to agree for her to be removed from power. The court rejected an impeachment motion against former President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004. Park has said she hasn’t committed any wrongdoing and blamed her associates for what prosecutors called a scheme to extract tens of millions of dollars from top companies.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to demand her resignation since Park said in October that she allowed her friend, Choi Soon-sil, to meddle in government affairs.

On Tuesday, senior executives at nine of South Korea’s largest companies, including Samsung Group and Hyundai Motor Group, were grilled by lawmakers, and denied they made their donations in return for government favors. The Samsung leader Jay Y. Lee, who was among the those pressed on live television to answer questions, told lawmakers he would “make sure never to get involved in such unfortunate situations again.”

Read more: Samsung heir apparent’s shaky debut

Chung said Park felt responsible for the turmoil and remained willing to follow a ruling party proposal for her to step down in April. The opposition and a faction of her party plan to go ahead with an impeachment vote regardless of whether she resigns in April. The faction would provide the opposition with just enough votes to impeach Park. More than 170 opposition and independent politicians endorsed the motion filed last week.

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