Opposition says impeachment is most important

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Opposition says impeachment is most important

Opposition parties are moving to end the disgraced presidency of Park Geun-hye, with the possibility of sponsoring and voting on an impeachment motion next week.

With the possibility that at least one million people may gather on Saturday to demand Park’s immediate resignation, opposition lawmakers are creating a timetable for the National Assembly’s presidential impeachment. After weeks of intense investigation, the prosecution on Sunday pressed charges against Park’s longtime friend and associates on charges of coercing conglomerates to make massive donations to nonprofit foundations, which were intended to be used as slush funds. The prosecutors named Park as a co-conspirator of various crimes, but could not indict her due to presidential immunity, as guaranteed in the Constitution.

The three opposition parties decided to push forward the presidential impeachment, as Park refused to step down while denying all charges and refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

“We have no reason to delay,” Rep. Woo Sang-ho, floor leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, said Tuesday. “When we have enough lawmakers to sponsor it, it should be submitted immediately.”

“A motion for the impeachment of the president shall be proposed by a majority of the members of the National Assembly,” says Article 65 of the Constitution, “and approved by two-thirds or more of the total members of the National Assembly.”

The three opposition parties - the Minjoo Party, People’s Party and Justice Party - occupy 165 seats in the 300-member National Assembly.

Rep. Ahn Gyu-back, secretary general of the Minjoo Party, said the party expects to present the motion in the first week of December. “We need to have some legal reviews, so the process won’t be imminent,” he told the JoongAng Ilbo. “We are talking to Saenuri lawmakers who are not Park loyalists and we don’t see any problem in passing the motion.”

Although the three opposition parties agree on the presidential impeachment, they were split on whether or not to recommend a prime minister before the impeachment process. But Moon Jae-in, presidential frontrunner of the Minjoo Party, settled the issue, forcing the opposition parties to start the impeachment without making an attempt to replace the prime minister.

“I don’t think it’s a reason to delay the impeachment process,” Moon said Tuesday.

Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae of the Minjoo Party agreed.

“If the opposition parties have a dispute over the prime minister issue,” she said, “the Blue House will enjoy the situation.”

The People’s Party, which demanded that the National Assembly recommend a new prime minister first, changed its position after the Minjoo Party’s decision. “We will wait until Saturday’s candlelight protest and follow the Minjoo Party’s intention,” said Rep. Park Jie-won, acting chairman of the party. “What authority do I have to disagree?”

He also said sarcastically that “Moon is now the president.”

Rep. Kim Kwan-young, deputy floor leader of the People’s Party, said under the current schedule the impeachment motion can be introduced and voted on Dec. 1 and 2 or Dec. 8 and 9, citing the law governing the voting of an impeachment motion. If not, he said, the lawmakers can always schedule sessions.

When a motion is created, the speaker is required to report it to the plenary session first opened after the proposition, which may refer it to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee for an investigation. If the plenary session fails to refer to the committee, a secret vote will be held between 24 and 72 hours after the motion is reported to the plenary session. If it fails to take votes within this period, the motion shall be deemed abolished, according to Article 130 of the National Assembly Act.

Regarding the party’s proposal that the National Assembly recommend a new prime minister before the impeachment, Kim said it will naturally die once the impeachment is passed. “An agreement by the ruling and opposition parties on a candidate and President Park’s acceptance at a subsequent confirmation hearing will take at least two to three weeks,” he said. “So it will be impossible.”

Once an impeachment motion is passed, Park’s presidential power will immediately be suspended and the prime minister will oversee the government as acting president. In the meantime, the Constitutional Court will deliberate on the legality of the impeachment, and the judges have up to six months to make a ruling.

Although the opposition parties hated the idea that the current Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, appointed by Park, will serve as the acting president in the months possibly leading up to the presidential by-election, they appear to have come to terms with the idea. “What can Hwang possibly do as acting president? said Rep. Hong Young-pyo of the Minjoo Party, a Moon loyalist. “This is not a crucial matter.”

Shortly after the scandal broke out, President Park nominated Kim Byong-joon, a former presidential aide of the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration, as the new prime minister on Nov. 3.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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