Asia

South Korean leader to accept impeachment outcome, lawmakers say

Opposition leaders rejected the offer and vow to move ahead with impeachment proceedings; James Rosen goes in-depth for 'Special Report'

 

South Korean President Park Geun-hye will calmly accept impeachment if the opposition-controlled parliament votes for her removal this week, but prefers to resign on her own terms, lawmakers from her party said Tuesday.

Chung Jin Suk, floor leader of the conservative ruling party, said after an hour-long meeting with Park that she was willing to accept a now-withdrawn proposal by the party for her to voluntarily step down in April to set up a presidential election in June.

The party's chairman, Lee Jung Hyun, who also attended the meeting, said it seemed that Park was hoping lawmakers would accept her resignation rather than push ahead with an attempt to impeach her.

Park has been accused by state prosecutors of helping a close confidante extort money and favors from large companies and manipulate state affairs.

On Saturday, opposition lawmakers registered an impeachment bill for Park to set up a floor vote that could take place as early as Friday. If the bill goes through, Park would be suspended as president but not yet removed. Her duties would be temporarily transferred to the prime minister while the country's Constitutional Court reviews whether her impeachment could be constitutionally justified.

Following a conditional offer by Park to leave office last week, a group of anti-Park lawmakers in the ruling party called for her to announce by this Wednesday that she will step down voluntarily in April. However, they changed their stance after millions of people rallied across the country over the weekend calling for Park's removal. The ruling party lawmakers said Monday that about 35-40 of them will vote on Friday to impeach Park regardless of whether she promises to quit.

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Park said she was ready to "calmly move ahead for the state and the people and to see what happens with the Constitutional Court" if lawmakers vote to impeach her, Chung said.

"We explained that the party's stance that had called for an April resignation and June presidential election has become realistically hard to maintain," Chung said.

She said she told Park that the party's lawmakers will vote by "their conscience and free will" on Friday.

The impeachment bill needs the support of at least 200 lawmakers from the 300-seat parliament to pass. If it passes, the Constitutional Court would be required to rule within 180 days. If six of the court's nine justices support the impeachment, Park will be officially removed from office. The country then has to hold a presidential election within 60 days.