SEOUL – South Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party said on Monday it and other parties would seek the impeachment of the prime minister, Yonhap News Agency reported after the premier said an investigation into a corruption scandal would not be extended.
The move to seek the impeachment of Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn was an apparent protest against his decision not to extend a special investigator’s investigation into an influence-peddling scandal that has engulfed President Park Gyuen-hye.
The floor leaders of opposition parties are meeting to discuss their plans, with the minor People’s Party also seeking cooperation from other parties to impeach Hwang, who has been acting president since Park was impeached by parliament in December over allegations she colluded with her longtime confidante to extort money from companies.
Faced with massive street protests, Park was forced to approve the launch of the investigation team led by independent counsel Park Young-soo before she was impeached.
The team has since arrested a slew of high-profile figures, including former Park administration officials and Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, in connection with the scandal. Park, who denies the allegations, has avoided a direct investigation because of a law that gives a sitting leader immunity from prosecution.
The Park Young-soo team, whose investigation is to end Tuesday, had asked acting leader and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn to allow 30 more days of investigations. Under the law they can seek such an extension.
But Hwang’s office said Monday it had rejected the request because the investigation team has already indicted key figures implicated in the scandal and that state prosecutors can look into any possible remaining areas of the scandal.
Hong Kwon-heui, a spokesman for Hwang, told a televised news conference that a longer investigation could sway a possible presidential election that would happen if the Constitutional Court approves Park’s impeachment. The court is expected to rule in March on whether to formally end Park’s rule or restore her presidential powers.
Lee Kyu-chul, a spokesman for the investigation team, described Hwang’s decision as “very regrettable.”
Hwang, who was Park’s justice minister before becoming her prime minister, is considered a potential conservative contender for president. In a presidential opinion poll released Monday, Hwang placed third place behind two liberal opposition politicians.
The South Korean Special Prosecutor’s Office said on Monday it will not be able to question Park in person as part of its investigation.
Prosecution spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said it was regrettable prosecutors would not be able to question her in person. He said Park’s office had refused a demand by prosecutors for a video or audio recording of any questioning.
Final decisions on indictments for all suspects embroiled in the scandal, including executives from Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest conglomerate, would be made by Tuesday.
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