With Impeachment Looming, South Korean President is Willing to Resign
In a five-minute televised address on Tuesday, South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, who has single-digit approval ratings after a scandal that rocked the nation, said that if parliament would like, she will “step down as president.” Tuesday’s speech was the latest in a string of public apologies since it came to light that she had received secret advice from the daughter of a cult leader and longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, who she also allegedly helped embezzle millions of dollars.
“I will relegate the decision to the National Assembly, including the shortening of my presidential term and resignation,” Park said. “If the governing and opposition parties inform me of the way to minimize the confusion and vacuum in state affairs and ensure a stable transfer of power.”
With an impeachment vote initially expected on Friday, now likely to be pushed back, some saw Park’s speech as a way to deflect an immediate resignation, and delay relinquishing power through impeachment proceedings. Many opposition lawmakers rejected the idea of Park’s resignation residing with the National Assembly.
“This is nothing but a sly trick to avoid impeachment,” said Youn Kwan-suk, a spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party. “What the people wanted was her immediate resignation.” Instead, lawmakers from opposition parties as well as Park’s own ruling party, Saenuri, will proceed with their impeachment efforts. A vote is expected on December 9.
Park’s first term was set to end in February 2018. That was before thousands took to the streets to protest and demand her resignation. A two-thirds majority of the 300-member legislature would need to vote for Park’s impeachment for it to pass, and the Constitutional Court would get 180 days to ratify the vote. If she were to be impeached, the similarly unpopular Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn would assume the presidency.
Since the scandal took hold, members of Park’s cabinet have stepped down and she has ceded some of her powers. A few weeks ago, she gave parliament the ability to choose the next prime minister. With the looming impeachment vote and plunging approval ratings, Park’s speech signals she is aware that her previous concessions will not be enough.
“I am giving up everything now,” Park said. “I hope that the nation will find stability.”