With her back against the ropes, South Korean President Park Geun-hye has embarked on a “crafty ploy” to fend off moves to impeach her. South Korea’s political drift will accelerate and its prolongation will be inevitable.
Park has been identified as a “suspect” by prosecutors investigating the alleged intervention in national politics by a female friend of the president. In an address to the nation, Park announced her intention to resign before her term ends in February 2018.
Park said she will “leave the matters about my fate … to be decided by the National Assembly,” and as a condition for her resignation said the ruling and opposition parties must discuss a process to ensure a smooth transfer of power. Park did not indicate when she would step down.
By dragging the ruling and opposition parties into the debate over making a constitutional amendment necessary for her resignation, Park appears to be seeking to stall leaving office.
Three opposition parties have rejected Park’s call for cooperation on her proposal to resign, and they confirmed a position that aims to pass an impeachment motion.
Passing the motion requires the approval of two-thirds or more of all lawmakers in the National Assembly, but opposition parties alone do not have enough seats. It remains unclear how many lawmakers from nonmainstream factions in the ruling party will align themselves with the impeachment drive.
If the motion is passed, the constitutional court will hold a hearing for 180 days at the maximum and decide whether the president can be removed from her post by impeachment.
Strengthen ties with allies
In this scandal, there are suspicions Park even urged companies to give sums of money to foundations with ties to her friend. Park allegedly also instructed her aides to give internal documents to her friend.
Rampant nepotism in which relatives and other people close to the president receive special privileges is a chronic disease plaguing South Korean politics.
Park has refused to be questioned by prosecutors. She did not take questions after her latest speech, avoiding giving a detailed explanation about her relationship with her friend. Park’s handling of the matter will not quell public anger with her administration.
It has become increasingly likely that the presidential election scheduled for December 2017 will be brought forward. This would be the first time since South Korea became a democracy in 1987 that a president has not been able to serve a full five-year term.
It is worrying that the opposition parties seeking to win back power harbor reconciliatory tendencies toward North Korea.
Pyongyang is accelerating its nuclear and missile development. Unshakably and steadily promoting cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea is essential for preventing North Korea from getting out of control militarily. South Korea has a duty to contribute to regional stability.
Applying the general security of military information agreement (GSOMIA) signed by Japan and South Korea in November will be vital.
Steady implementation of the deal Tokyo and Seoul reached at the end of 2015 to resolve the “comfort women” issue is essential for improving bilateral ties.
Park’s resignation announcement has jeopardized the trilateral meeting of leaders from Japan, China and South Korea that is scheduled to be held in Japan this month. It would be unfortunate if the chance was lost for Park to make her first visit to Japan as head of state and for three-way talks on the regional situation.