South Korean opposition parties introduce bill to impeach scandal-hit President Park Geun-hye

Bill could mark the democratically elected South Korean leader to leave office early in disgrace

May Bulman
Saturday 03 December 2016 18:42
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Protesters shout slogans as they march toward the presidential Blue House to press their demand for the resignation of South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye in central Seoul
Protesters shout slogans as they march toward the presidential Blue House to press their demand for the resignation of South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye in central Seoul

South Korea’s three opposition parties have introduced a bill in parliament to impeach scandal-hit President Park Geun-hye, in what could make her the country’s first democratically elected leader to leave office early in disgrace.

The bill, signed by 171 members of the 300-seat assembly, stated Ms Park had violated the constitution and criminal law by abusing her position of power.

“We hereby propose impeachment proceedings to protect the constitution and restore constitutional order by removing President Park Geun-hye from office,” stated the bill.

“The will of the people that President Park Geun-hye should be made to cease exercising the duty of president is clear.

“The sovereign will has been shown clearly through rallies and protests peacefully attended by countless numbers of the public regardless of generation, ideology or background.”

Ms Park has previously rejected calls to leave office and denies prosecutors’ claims she colluded with a confidante who allegedly manipulated power from the shadows and extorted companies for both money and favours.

The scandal has sparked mass protests each Saturday in downtown Seoul. In the latest demonstration, the protesters advanced to a narrow alley about 100 yards away from the presidential palace grounds, an area police didn’t previously permit them to enter.

Police estimated the turnout at 320,000, making it the biggest anti-Park rally so far, though the crowd appeared to be much larger. Protest organizers estimated the crowd at 1.7 million.

Ms Park is accused of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, who has been accused of abuse of power, to put undue pressure on conglomerates to contribute money to foundations that were set up to promote her policy initiatives.

Ms Park has apologised to the nation but denied wrongdoing. Choi Soon-sil has also denied that she influenced state affairs or benefited financially.

The three opposition parties said on Friday they will hold a parliamentary impeachment vote on Ms Park on 9 December. A bill once introduced is reviewed by the parliament secretariat, a formality, before it can be reported to the plenary session.

The bill was expected to go to the session on Thursday, according to the parties.

The three opposition parties have enough members to bring the impeachment but will need 28 members from Park’s Saenuri Party to bring the vote to the two-thirds majority required to pass the bill.

It was not clear whether enough Saenuri members would support the vote. There are seven non-party-affiliated members plus the speaker who are expected to give their backing.

Some Saenuri members had earlier said they would join the opposition parties to impeach Ms Park but changed their position after Ms Park offered to quit, saying she should be given the chance to step down of her own accord by April.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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