November 23, 2016 12:43
The Minjoo Party on Monday decided to seek the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye over a crony scandal that has sent her approval rating to record lows.
The party said impeachment proceedings are the only way to remove Park legitimately and without creating a power vacuum as the president seems determined to cling to her post and the immunity it ensures.
The People's Party also decided to try and impeach Park.
Prosecutors on Sunday named Park as an accomplice in charges of corruption and abuse of authority brought against her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil and two former presidential aides.
The sordid affair saw Cheong Wa Dae turn into a virtual delivery service for Choi's demands, but Park has dug in her heels and refused to respond to requests for questioning by prosecutors, daring her opponents to impeach her.
As Minjoo leader Choo Mi-ae pointed out, impeachment proceedings consume a huge amount of national resources. The impeachment of Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff, who was charged with accounting fraud, started in December last year and only ended last month because it took 10 months for Brazil's supreme court to turn down an appeal. In all that time Brazil was sinking further into a slump and repercussions continue to this day.
The U.S. has elected a president with protectionist leanings and the nuclear threat from North Korea is growing. Korea cannot afford to take the same route as Brazil. If impeachment is the only way out of this mess, it must proceed swiftly and according to the law.
When former president Roh Moo-hyun faced impeachment in March 2004, the National Assembly passed the bill just three days after the motion was tabled. But this time it is less certain to pass, and even a considerable number of opposition lawmakers are nervous, which means the process could take much longer.
But the National Assembly must reach a decision no later than the first two weeks of December. Once it passes the impeachment bill, the Constitutional Court starts deliberating on the matter. It took the Constitutional Court 64 days to reach a decision in Roh's case, which would be far too long if a severe power vacuum is to be avoided.
What is worrisome is that some opposition lawmakers seem to feel they would have nothing to lose if the impeachment process drags on because it gives them time to shore up voter support for the next presidential election. But the public's patience has its limits.
Members of the opposition must remember that it was they who rejected Park's candidate for a prime minister who would take over domestic affairs from her, leaving the caretaker prime minister as acting head of state. This state of affairs must end as soon as possible.
Politicians on all sides must use the debacle as an opportunity for serious discussions on how the country can be transformed. A major overhaul is needed to end endemic corruption and cronyism and promote transparent cooperation between political groups so the country's top-down structure becomes more flexible.
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