Public outrage followed corruption scandal involving President Park's informal adviser
Hundreds of thousands have called for Park to resign
Pressure is building on South Korean President Park Geun-hye to stand down after revelations this weekend she’s been named as a “suspect” by prosecutors in a corruption probe.
The president is accused of colluding with three people close to her office, and an investigation will continue into her potential involvement in the unfolding scandal.
Park’s office said she doesn’t have anything to answer for, and has suggested the probe has been politically motivated.
Mass protests demanding Park step down show no signs of waning. However, despite the unrest, low approval ratings and the resignations of several key aides, analysts say the president is unlikely to resign.
1. With the presidency comes immunity
While Park remains president she’s immune from prosecution, unless for insurrection or treason.
If she were to step down, she’d expose herself to potential arrest. Over the weekend, South Korean prosecutors officially indicted three people close to Park.
Her confidante Choi Soon-sil and former aide An Chong-bum have been charged with abuse of power, fraud and coercion. Another former aide, Chung Ho-sung, faces charges related to leaking classified documents to Choi through email, phone and fax.
2. There’s no one to take over
In South Korea, the prime ministerial post is largely ceremonial. Though Park fired Hwang Kyo-ahn in early November, he represented her at APEC in Peru as Park hasn’t been able to get her replacement approved by opposition parties.
She nominated Kim Byong-joon, a professor at Seoul’s Kookmin University, as his replacement, but the National Assembly has not yet cleared Kim to take the role.
Local media reports have suggested that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon – who ends his term at the UN in December 2016 – could run for president.
Ban hasn’t confirmed speculation that he’ll run, though South Korean news agency Yonhap reported in September 2016 that he rated well in approval surveys.
However, John Delury, an expert on Korean affairs at Yonsei University, told CNN that Ban’s close association with Park’s political party and his outsider status could be a disadvantage.
3. No push from within her party to go
While calls for Park to resign have grown in the wake of her corruption scandal, Paul Cha, an assistant professor specializing in modern Korean history at the University of Hong Kong, told CNN, that there were still no concrete reasons for Park to step down.
“There’s been a tremendous domestic outcry and some leaders of opposition political groups have called for her to step down. But, in general, politically, the opposition seems more inclined to seek impeachment. Likewise, her own party has not placed pressure on Park to resign,” pointed Cha.
Cha explained that though media reports had portrayed Park as weak-willed, she was not “running away” from public pressure by stepping down.
4. A weak opposition
While the public has vociferously called for Park to resign, Dave Kang, a professor of international relations and South Korea specialist at the University of Southern California, told CNN that the main opposition parties had not yet backed the public’s claims.
“Everyone knows that there will be a power vacuum if she resigns,” said Kang, noting that political “chaos” was likely to ensue.
“That’s why the opposition hasn’t come out for her impeachment. If Park steps down, elections will be called in 60 days and [the opposition] aren’t ready to rule.”
5. Her pedigree
Park is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, the country’s president from 1961 to 1979, who was assassinated by his own intelligence chief. It came just five years after her mother’s own mistaken assassination – the bullet was meant for former South Korean President Park Chung-hee.
The elder Park was seen by many as a dictator who violated human rights and crushed dissent.
His daughter fought long and hard to get back into the Blue House to become country’s first female president. She’s unlikely to give it up without a fight.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that the prime ministerial role in South Korea was 'vacant.' Technically this is not the case. Though the current prime minister has been sacked, he continues in the role as his replacement has not been approved.
CNN’s Paula Hancocks contributed to this report.