- Title: South Korea endgame could see Park leaving presidency in disgrace
- Date: 15th November 2016
- Summary: ASAN, SOUTH KOREA (FILE - 2013) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF HYUNDAI MOTOR'S AUTOMOBILES BEING MANUFACTURED SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (FILE - 2015) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF HYUNDAI AND KIA MOTORS LOGO OF HYUNDAI MOTOR ON TOP OF BUILDING
- Embargoed: 30th November 2016 10:34
- Keywords: South Korea politics analysis Park Geun-hye endgame president scandal
- Location: SEOUL AND ASAN, SOUTH KOREA
- City: SEOUL AND ASAN, SOUTH KOREA
- Country: South Korea
- Topics: Lawmaking,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00758K0RPH
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: South Korean President Park Geun-hye faces mounting calls for her to step down over a political scandal as prosecutors are investigating allegations that Park's confidant Choir Soon-sil used her ties with Park to meddle in state affairs.
Three weeks after her first public apology over a political scandal crippling her administration, she faces a narrowing range of options, as she becomes the first sitting leader to be questioned by prosecutors over a criminal case.
"The public sentiment at the massive rally proved that the president cannot keep her seat anymore. So there could be two options, one is stepping down by herself and the other is impeachment. In the case of first option, the president hasn't said she wants that and hasn't expressed an intention to do that either. And also, the legal liability and political responsibility will be grave if she resigns, so she will try to keep her position as long as possible. If so, the only option is for an impeachment," said a political science professor at Dongguk University, Kim Jun-seok.
The number of the ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers who call for her to step down is growing, sensing their leader has become a threat to the party's political survival.
Political analysts say an impeachment motion against Park could succeed. Impeachment can be initiated with a motion joined by at least half of the members in parliament and needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
"Whether the opposition parties lead an impeachment motion or some of the ruling party members do - I believe plenty of ruling party lawmakers will participate in it - so there is almost zero chance the impeachment will not be passed," said Kim, adding the Constitutional Court is likely to uphold an impeachment motion.
No South Korean leader in its modern democracy has failed to finish a five-year presidential term. In 2004, parliament voted to impeach then-President Roh Moo-hyun, only to have the motion overturned by the Constitutional Court.
Choi has been arrested and charged with pressuring chaebol conglomerates to donate $68 million to two foundations she controlled and using her position to get her daughter preferential admission to an elite university.
Prosecutors have already questioned the de facto head of Samsung Group Jay Y. Lee and the chairmen of Hyundai Motor Group over the scandal. They also raided Samsung Electronics last week as part of the probe.
Park has said she had discussed with conglomerate heads in July last year her desire for them to contribute more for culture without elaborating.
Research fellow at Korea Economic Research Institute, Kim Chang-bae, said deepening political anxiety within the country is undermining foreign investor confidence.
"As the heads of conglomerates were summoned by prosecutors for questioning, investors' confidence is expected to be reduced and it could have negative effects on the Korean economy and business investment next year," said research fellow at Korea Economic Research Institute, Kim Chang-bae.
South Korea's economy, Asia's fourth-largest, is on course for a recovery, but there are headwinds. Ongoing restructuring of the country's shipping and shipbuilding industries, for example, is expected to result in severe job losses. The Bank of Korea said in a statement last Friday (November 11) that domestic demand seems to have deteriorated.
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