Oooh, it's getting feisty. Next year's presidential contenders are calling for Park to leave
SEOUL, Nov. 15 (Yonhap) -- Political bigwigs from opposition parties on Tuesday ratcheted up pressure on President Park Geun-hye to step down over the alleged corruption and influence-peddling scandal involving her confidante, pledging to launch a nationwide campaign to oust the embattled leader.
In an address to the nation, Moon Jae-in, a former leader of the main opposition Democratic Party and presidential hopeful, vowed to carry out an anti-Park movement, which he said will continue until the president bows out "unconditionally."
Moon's remarks marked a shift from his earlier demand that the president retreat from state affairs and delegate all of her executive authority to a parliament-picked premier who will control a nonpartisan Cabinet.
"Now, the situation has reached a point of no return," Moon said. "I, along with citizens, will set out to conduct a nationwide campaign for Park's resignation until she declares she will unconditionally step aside."
He also pledged to establish an emergency body, which consists of opposition parties, civil society members and citizens, to drum up national support and aggressively push for the president's resignation.
Other opposition heavyweights welcomed Moon's move.
"Given that President Park's decision to step down is a way to revive our country, I will join (Moon's) efforts," Ahn Cheol-soo, a former co-chair of the minor opposition People's Party and potential presidential contender, told reporters.
Ahn added that the president must take "legal, political and moral" responsibility for the political scandal that has left her leadership in tatters and state governance in disarray.
"If she can show a last sense of patriotism, she should immediately step aside and that is a way to benefit citizens," he said.'
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon also joined the chorus of voices demanding Park's immediate resignation. "I welcome (Moon's initiative)," Park said in a social media message.
Despite the growing calls for her resignation, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae has maintained that the president should retain her constitutionally guaranteed rights such as the role of commander-in-chief, although it has shown its willingness to allow a new premier to take control of social and economic affairs.
A factional rift within the ruling Saenuri Party was widened amid mounting demands for Park's resignation.
A group of ruling party lawmakers, who are not close to Park, stepped up their calls for the party leadership -- led by Lee Jung-hyun, a staunch loyalist to the president -- to step down en masse. They also started to mention the need for Park's impeachment.
"As long as the president refuses to decide to resign, what we can do at a parliament level is to push for her impeachment," Kim Sung-tae, a Saenuri lawmaker, said in a radio interview.
Lee, the ruling party leader who has been calling for party unity, said he would resign sometime next month after things stabilize.
Lee, meanwhile, fired a broadside at the ruling party's potential presidential candidates who have been clamoring for his resignation. He, in particular, pointed out that their combined approval ratings hovered below the 10-percent range. He hinted that their attacks are politically motivated and they themselves should first renounce their presidential ambitions.