Opposition coordinates impeachment motion

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Opposition coordinates impeachment motion

A joint motion to impeach President Park Geun-hye, detailing a wide range of alleged constitutional and criminal violations, was created Tuesday based on drafts presented by three opposition parties.

The Minjoo Party of Korea, the People’s Party and the Justice Party each created a draft on Monday to lay out the legal grounds for a presidential impeachment. Negotiators from the Minjoo and People’s Party created a joint motion on Tuesday based on the three drafts.

“We just need to confirm it with the Justice Party, but we already coordinated the details with them, so you can call this the final draft,” said a Minjoo official.

The three parties said Park committed a grave violation of the constitution by allowing her secret inner circle including friend Choi Soon-sil to interfere in state affairs. In addition to Choi, the inner circle included Park’s three longtime secretaries - nicknamed “the three doorknobs” - who were fired from the Blue House after the scandal broke out in October.

“The secret inner circle influenced national policies and cabinet meetings and leaked confidential documents,” said Rep. Kim Kwan-young, deputy floor leaders of the People’s Party. “By allowing them to do so, President Park denied popular sovereignty as stipulated in Clause 1 of Article 1 of the Constitution and the principle of representative democracy stipulated in Article 67 and violated Article 66, which stipulates the president’s responsibility and duty to safeguard the constitution.”

Kim said Park associates’ abuse of power in appointments of top government posts - including the cultural and sports minister - violates the Constitution’s Article 7 on governing of public servants and Article 78, which say the president shall appoint and dismiss public officials under the conditions prescribed by the constitution and other laws.

“Park’s use of a secret inner circle directly denied the principles of a democratic republic,” said Han Sang-hie, a law professor of Konkuk University. “The constitution requires the state to function based on a public system, and she has lost both legitimacy and constitutionality.”

Kim Sun-taek, a law professor at Korea University, said Park violated her presidential oath to observe the constitution and defend the state.

The motion also said Park must be impeached for an alleged “bribe to third person” crime. Article 130 of the Criminal Act, which defines the charge, says, “A public official or an arbitrator who causes, demands or promises a bribe to be given to a third party on acceptance of an unjust solicitation in connection with his duties shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than five years or suspension of qualifications for not more than ten years.”

“Park demanded massive donations from conglomerates by using the government’s power to issue business permits, conduct tax probes and offer financial assistance,” the Democratic Party said.

Opposition lawmakers were initially concerned that including the bribery charge could prolong the Constitutional Court’s trial on the impeachment because it may proceed like a criminal trial. But Lee Jong-soo, a law professor of Yonsei University, said the Constitutional Court’s trial is different from a civil or a criminal case. “The focus is whether she can continue to perform her duty as the president or not,” Lee said. “So the process won’t be affected by whether there is evidence or not.”

“There is more than enough reason to rule that the bribe to third person charge is in violation of the constitution,” said Kim Dae-hwan, a law professor at the University of Seoul.

The motion also said Park’s lack of actions for seven hours during the Sewol ferry’s sinking in 2014 is grounds for impeachment. The Minjoo Party initially did not include that in its draft. It worried that Saenuri lawmakers might not accept that charge.

It remains to be seen if the Constitutional Court will find it grounds for impeachment.

BY SER MYO-JA, PARK SUNG-HOON [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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