South Korea’s president offers terms for resignation as protests rock nation

by WorldTribune Staff, November 29, 2016

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, in a live address to the nation  on Nov. 29, said she would resign if lawmakers develop a plan for the safe transfer of power after an influence scandal involving her closest friend brought thousands of protesters into the streets of Seoul and other cities.

Park’s father, a dictator who as president deployed Stanford-educated economists to help South Korea rocket from the ruins of the Korean War, was assassinated by his intelligence chief in 1979 as nationwide demonstrations protested his rule. Her mother had been killed earlier by pro-North Korean assassins attempting to kill her husband. Park as a young woman was serving as acting First Lady at the time of her father’s death.

People watch a live broadcast of South Korean President Park Geun-hye addressing the nation at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul on Nov. 29. /AP
People watch a live broadcast of South Korean President Park Geun-hye addressing the nation at the Seoul Railway Station on Nov. 29. /AP

A conservative, like her father, especially regarding national security affairs and North Korea, Park was a lightning rod for liberal political opposition in her own country and the object of sometimes obscene propaganda by the communist regime in Pyongyang.

“I will leave the matters about my fate, including the shortening of my presidential term, to be decided by the National Assembly,” Park said. “If the ruling and opposition parties discuss and come up with a plan to reduce the confusion in state affairs and ensure a safe transfer of governments, I will resign from the presidential position under that schedule and by processes stated in law.”

Related: North Korea ecstatic as mass protests neutralize a resolute leader in Seoul, Nov. 17, 2016

The country’s largest opposition party, the Minjoo Party, said it would not let Park’s “ploy to avoid impeachment” interfere with a planned vote on impeachment on Dec. 2.

South Korea’s two largest opposition parties were also planning to nominate a special prosecutor to independently investigate the Park scandal. At the heart of the scandal is Choi Soon-Sil, Park’s longtime friend and the daughter of a late cult leader who allegedly meddled in state affairs and pressured companies to donate millions of dollars to foundations controlled by her at the request of Park.

Opponents also said Park was merely trying to buy time and Yul Shin, a politics professor at Seoul’s Myongji University, pointed to her comment on “shortening” the presidential term, which he said would require a time-consuming constitutional amendment. Park’s single five-year term is set to end in early 2018.

“There is no possibility that the opposition parties will accept her offer; not when the public is this angry,” Shin said. “She apparently wanted to buy more time, but in the end she might have hastened the end of her presidency.”

Some of the president’s allies have called on her to “honorably” step down rather than face impeachment.

In her Nov. 29 address, Park said: “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. But since I failed to properly manage those around me, (everything that happened) is my large wrongdoing.”

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