[THE INVESTOR] President Park Geun-hye on Nov. 29 said that she will let the National Assembly decide the fate of her presidency.
“I shall lay my course of action, including a curtailment of my presidential term, to the decision of the National Assembly,” Park said in an address to the nation.
“Should the political circles suggest a way in which I may hand over power so as to minimize chaos and the vacuum in state affairs, I shall step down from the presidency according to the given timeline and legal procedure.”
Park's term is until February 2018.
By reducing her presidential term, and not resigning, Park seems to be calling for a revision to the Constitution, which currently states a single presidential term as five years. Talks on altering this system to a four-year double-term have been ongoing within political circles, so as to promote continuity in state affairs.
The presidential address, which came with little notice, was the third of its kind since the extensive influence-peddling scandal revolving around her confidante Choi Soon-sil broke in late October.
Over her last two speeches, Park apologized for causing public discontent but never admitted her intentional involvement nor offered to step down from power.
Park‘s concessive statement came amid escalating political moves for impeachment, just days ahead of the parliament’s anticipated vote on a presidential impeachment bill which may legally force Park out of her elected post.
It also followed growing resignation calls from the public and opposition circles, as reflected in the record-breaking nationwide candlelight rally held over the weekend, an event said to have gathered over 1.9 million participants in crying out for Park‘s ouster.
“I have now laid down everything,” the president said.
“All I hope for is for the Republic of Korea to break away from this confusion and get back on track.”
Though the state chief offered few details, her statement was seen as reflecting the concept of ”orderly withdrawal.“
The idea, earlier suggested by opposition parties and later fielded by a number of ruling party members, is considered a valid alternative to the president’s immediate ouster, which is likely to cause chaos in state affairs.
It was also deemed the only way for the beleaguered president to gesture a voluntary resignation, amid the public‘s persisting anger and the prosecution’s investigation.
Under such circumstances, the ruling Saenuri Party‘s leading figures considered to be loyalists to Park had asked on Monday that the president bow out “for the sake of the country and herself.”
Also, on Tuesday morning, shortly before Cheong Wa Dae confirmed the urgent presidential address, the party’s first-termers -- most of them classified as pro-Park members -- announced that Park should choose to “resign in an orderly manner.”
Despite such explicit calls from the pro-Park cluster, not to mention the vow by other political figures to participate in the opposition-led impeachment, the Blue House continued its silence, only claiming to be “all ears to all opinions.”
But this moderate tone, clearly differentiated from the stern denial which it had so far let out over resignation scenarios, triggered speculations that the president was weighing the “advice” of her loyalists.
Throughout the snowballing allegations that she was actively involved behind Choi’s corruption, Park has expressed disapproval -- though not explicitly -- over the escalating calls for her resignation.
When the special probe team listed her as accomplice in her aides‘ irregularities, the Blue House vowed to quit all cooperation with the prosecution, alluding that Park would rather face an independent counsel or even impeachment.
”We would rather settle these disputes through a legitimate procedure which may clearly discern the president’s liability,“ said Park‘s spokesperson Jung Youn-kuk.
The spokesman also said repeatedly that ”there is nothing for the president to decide yet“ as the related investigation is under way, implying that none of Park’s allegations were proven.
In her address, Park reiterated her “innocence” in the series of corruption and influence-peddling charges, for which a number of presidential aides are currently facing indictment.
“Ever since I started politics back in 1998, up to this very moment as president, I have made every effort for the sake of the nation and of the people,” she said.
“Not for a moment have I promoted my own personal interests but only worked for what I believed to be public businesses for the state.“
She only admitted to having “failed to properly manage” those around her, vowing to offer further explanations on the Choi scandal soon in a separate address. Once again, she withdrew after her speech, without taking questions from the press.
By Bae Hyun-jung/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org