SEOUL – South Korea’s opposition may have secured just enough votes from President Park Geun-hye’s ruling party to impeach her this week, getting a boost from the biggest candlelight protests yet over her influence-peddling scandal.
A faction in Park’s ruling party agreed Sunday to support an impeachment motion set for vote on Friday, Chang Je-won, a Saenuri Party lawmaker, said on Facebook. Votes from the 29 lawmakers, when added to the 171 opposition and independent politicians already supporting impeachment, would be just enough to reach the threshold of 200 required to pass the motion in the 300-seat National Assembly.
The faction led by former floor leader Yoo Seong-min said last week they would oppose impeaching Park if she agreed to step down at the end of April. That condition no longer applies, Chang said, calling the decision by his faction a “tough” one.
“Joining the impeachment vote is the only way to humbly accept the wishes of the people reflected in the candles and put the government affairs back on track,” he said.
The anti-Park rally on Saturday — the sixth since she apologized to the nation in October for allowing her friend, Choi Soon-sil, to meddle in government affairs — drew 320,000 protesters in Seoul, according to police. Organizers put the number at 1.7 million.
Moon Jae-in, the front-runner in presidential polls, plans to lead another candlelight rally at the National Assembly on Monday to keep the pressure on the Saenuri party, said Lee Ji-soo, a spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea.
Park is mulling how early she should resign and will announce her decision soon, her chief of staff Han Gwang-ok told lawmakers at a hearing on Monday.
The president may give her fourth national address over the scandal on Tuesday or Wednesday, and she may say she will resign by the end of April, Yonhap News said, citing unidentified people in the ruling bloc. Presidential spokesman Kim Dong-jo said no new information is available on the potential address.
Park’s single, five-year term is scheduled to end in early 2018. Her impeachment, if approved by the parliament, has to be reviewed by the Constitutional Court, which can take as long as 180 days. A presidential election would follow in 60 days if the court agrees to removing her from power.
A former Park adviser has been indicted on charges of placing undue pressure on some of the country’s biggest companies to donate tens of millions of dollars to foundations controlled by Choi. Park has denied seeking any personal gain. Parliament is holding a series of hearings this week with her aides and the executives at the companies, including Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co.
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