Opposition Parties Gain Momentum for Impeachment from Ruling and Splinter Party Support
SEOUL, Nov. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's opposition parties kicked off full-fledged efforts to impeach President Park Geun-hye in relation to her corruption scandal linked to her confidante, observers said Wednesday, with support also rising from ruling party lawmakers.
The main opposition Democratic Party said it will come up with details to push an impeachment motion forward by next week, and finalize the plan after receiving feedback from its members and legal experts.
"We will come up with the overall frame for the impeachment motion this week, and a draft next week," said Rep. Keum Tae-sup, who heads the party's impeachment preparation committee. "We will gather opinions from legal and civic groups through panel discussions."
South Korea's three opposition parties earlier agreed to seek to impeach Park, who has made clear that she will not step down voluntary, amid escalating allegations that Choi Soon-sil, who has been the president's friend for more than 40 years, exerted influence on state affairs and benefitted financially from her connections.'
The splinter People's Party also established a committee to prepare for the impeachment, which includes lawmakers with legal backgrounds.
The two parties are expected to merge their plans through discussions.
The opposition parties have expanded efforts to persuade independents and even Saenuri lawmakers to join the move, as a successful impeachment of Park calls for approval from 200 lawmakers from the 300-seat National Assembly.
The opposition bloc must persuade all independent players and at least 28 Saenuri lawmakers. Experts said at least 35 Saenuri lawmakers must join considering that some opposition lawmakers will also vote against the motion.
"Although I do understand that Saenuri lawmakers must go through deliberation to impeach the president who is their party member, they must consider what is important for the country's future," said Rep. Woo Sang-ho, the floor leader of the main opposition.
On Wednesday, former Saenuri head Rep. Kim Moo-sung vowed to seek an impeachment motion of Park.
Even if the motion is passed at the parliament, pundits said the state affairs will continue to be virtually paralyzed for the time being as the Constitutional Court must review the decision.
It took 63 days for the court to dismiss the impeachment motion against late former President Roh Moo-hyun. The duration could be longer for Park considering the gravity of the issues that needs to be checked, sources said.
Unlike Roh's case brought on by the president making comments that were seen by some as conflicting with the country's election law, Park has steadfastly rejected all allegations raised other than to say that she failed to keep close tabs on those nearest to her. Such a stance can lead to a long drawn-out legal battle, where the court will have to check all evidence leveled against the president.
Meanwhile, state prosecutors on Wednesday called on President Park Geun-hye to answer questions related to her involvement in the scandal surrounding her confidante, despite her attorney's earlier refusal to face any criminal inquiry.
"We have sent our request to the president's attorney that we want to question Park face-to-face by Nov. 29," a senior prosecutor told reporters, declining to be named. "We are waiting for a reply."