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South Korean Political Crisis: Park Asks Parliament to Decide Her Fate

The political crisis in South Korea has come to a head, as President Park Geun-hye announced she would allow her country’s National Assembly to decide how long she remains in office, and she will resign at once if asked. Opposition lawmakers declared on Wednesday they would proceed with impeachment despite her offer.

“I will relegate the decision to the National Assembly, including the shortening of my presidential term and resignation. If the National Assembly sets a path for the stable transition of power, I will resign from the presidency and lessen the confusion as much as possible. I hope that the nation will find stability,” Park said on Tuesday, in a television address to the nation.

CNN reports that the South Korean Confederation of Trade Unions nevertheless said it would proceed with a nationwide strike on Wednesday. In fact, they were even angrier at Park than before because they believe she is shirking her responsibility to resign honorably.

“Park can’t even decide on her own to resign from the Presidency, she is letting the National Assembly decide,” an activist group called the Emergency People’s Movement sneered to CNN, while other critics accused Park of stalling for time and vowed to move ahead with impeachment proceedings.

If she is stalling for time, it will probably work, as observers believe it would take the National Assembly months to decide her fate. “Leaving everything to the National Assembly means ‘please take forever to make a decision about my future,'” sighed Korea University sociology professor Ingyu Oh.

On the other hand, those who wish to impeach her think they can bring a vote before the end of the year, and are already calling on members of Park’s Saenuri party to declare their support for impeachment. Park’s offer to let the National Assembly decide the matter may prove to be an effective strategy for pulling Saenuri legislators back from the brink of impeachment.

The three main opposition parties in South Korea reached an agreement to move ahead with impeachment on Wednesday, after which they held a news conference and demanded the President step down at once, without any preconditions. The impeachment vote could be held as early as this Friday or possibly at a scheduled plenary session the following week. South Korea’s Constitutional Court would then have 180 days to reach a final judgment.

“The people of South Korea do not want to enter the new year with Park Geun-hye as president. There is only one way under our constitution to halt a term of a president and that’s an impeachment motion,” declared Choo Mi-ae of the opposition Democratic Party, as quoted by the Associated Press.

Park is embroiled in a corruption scandal that has taken her approval ratings from stratospheric highs to a stunning 4 percent, the lowest ever recorded for a sitting South Korean president.

She named an independent counsel to handle the case on Wednesday, following a recommendation from opposition leaders. The counsel, a private attorney named Park Young-soo with considerable experience in corruption investigations, will set to work with a team of 20 prosecutors and 85 other staff. President Park has consistently denied the allegations against her, and her office has expressed confidence that the independent counsel’s investigation will exonerate her.

“From the time I first entered politics in 1998 to this moment today as president, I have been making every effort for the sake of the country,” Park said in her address to the nation on Wednesday. “Not for one moment did I pursue my private gains, and I have so far lived without ever harboring the smallest selfish motive. The problems that have emerged are from projects that I thought were serving the public interest and benefiting the country.”

She added that the scandal engulfing her administration was her “large wrongdoing” because she “failed to properly manage those around me” and apologized to the nation for the resulting “confusion.”

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