Opposition close to draft of a joint impeachment motion

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Opposition close to draft of a joint impeachment motion

Opposition parties agreed Monday to draft a joint motion to impeach President Park Geun-hye by the end of today and possibly vote on it Friday.

Deputy floor leaders of the Minjoo Party of Korea, People’s Party and Justice Party held a meeting to make a timetable for the three parties’ coordinated effort to impeach Park over an abuse of power scandal involving a secret inner circle. “We agreed to complete a joint motion by the end of tomorrow and submit it without delay,” Rep. Park Wan-joo of the Minjoo Party said after the meeting.

“We talked about holding a vote on the impeachment motion on Dec. 2 or 9,” said Rep. Kim Kwan-young of the People’s Party. “We agreed to vote on it as soon as possible and pick a date based on the situations of the party leaderships and the Saenuri lawmakers.” Park added, “The primary goal is this Friday.”

After weeks of special investigation, the prosecution indicted Park’s friend Choi Soon-sil and two former presidential aides for a range of crimes including coercion of money from big companies and the creation of slush funds. The prosecutors called Park a “co-conspirator” in most of the crimes. She could not be indicted because of presidential immunity stipulated in the Constitution. She can be charged after her term ends.

As Park refuses to resign or cede all her power to a prime minister, opposition parties and some ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers are vowing to impeach her over the Choi-gate scandal and the paralysis of government it has caused. At least 200 votes are required to pass the impeachment. Of the 300-member National Assembly, three opposition parties and liberal independents occupy 172 seats as of Monday.

Once a motion is presented, the National Assembly 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. If it fails to be passed within this period, the motion shall be deemed abolished, according to Article 130 of the National Assembly Act.

The three parties on Monday each presented drafts to be combined. While the primary ground for impeachment is Park’s violation of the constitution, they also included other charges including bribery.

In their drafts, Park was accused of violating clause 1 in Article 1 of the constitution, which says “The Republic of Korea shall be a democratic republic.” She was also accused of violating clause 2 of Article 7, which says, “The status and political impartiality of public officials shall be guaranteed as prescribed by this Act.”

She was further accused of violating other articles concerning the principles of democracy and the value of a democratic republic. “By allowing, encouraging and turning a blind eye to her secret inner circle, including Choi, interfering in state affairs, Park allowed the power of the state to be used as a tool for private gains in violation of the constitution,” Rep. Sohn Kum-ju of the People’s Party said. “Leaking state secrets to her also violated the constitution’s principles of popular sovereignty, representative democracy and a law-governed country.”

Rep. Keum Tae-sup of the Minjoo Party, who created his party’s draft, told reporters that the main grounds for impeachment was Park’s failure to fulfill the duty to protect the constitution and a “destruction of the principles of popular sovereignty and representative democracy.”

The opposition parties added a “bribery to a third party” charge under the criminal act as an additional legal breach.

At first, they worried that including the bribery charge might prolong the Constitutional Court’s deliberation on the impeachment. After the motion is passed, Park’s presidential authority will be immediately suspended, and the prime minister will serve as the acting president while the Constitutional Court will review the legality of the impeachment. That process can take up to 180 days.

“Because Park demanded massive contributions from conglomerates by using the government’s power to issue business permits, conduct tax probes and offer financial assistance,” Keum said, “the bribery charge is sound.”

The Justice Party and the People’s Party also said they added the bribery charges in their drafts.

The Justice Party said in its draft that Park should be impeached for having violated the people’s rights to life and safety through her negligence at the time of the sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014.

It remains to be seen if the Saenuri lawmakers in favor of impeachment will accept such a wide range of charges. “If the opposition parties include grounds that are not easily acceptable to the ruling party, the situation will become complicated,” said Saenuri Rep. Yoo Seong-min.

The Minjoo Party admitted the need for some compromise. “They are just drafts,” said Keum.

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