President Park Geun-hye has faced weeks of huge protests
She has been named as a suspect in a corruption scandal
South Korea’s embattled President has put her fate in the hands of the country’s parliament.
President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday she will allow the National Assembly to decide the duration of her remaining term in office, and will resign if that is what they decide.
“I will relegate the decision to the National Assembly, including the shortening of my presidential term and resignation,” she said.
“If the National Assembly sets a path for the stable transition of power, I will resign from the presidency and lessen the confusion as much as possible. I hope that the nation will find stability.”
Protests to continue
Park made her statements in a televised address to the nation, after several weeks of protests by hundreds of thousands of people calling for her resignation.
The country’s Confederation of Trade Unions said it will go forward with plans for a national strike on Wednesday, accusing Park of “relegating responsibility to the National Assembly.”
The Emergency People’s Movement (EPM), which has organized several of the protests against Park, also said it would continue with demonstrations.
“Park can’t even decide on her own to resign from the Presidency, she is letting the National Assembly decide,” EPM told CNN.
A spokesman for the opposition Minjoo Party accused the President of trying to create “orderly confusion,” and vowed to proceed with impeachment.
“Saenuri should not play ‘trickster’ games anymore and should participate in the impeachment process,” Ki Dong-min said.
“(Park) is trying to buy some time,” Ingyu Oh, professor of sociology at Korea University, told CNN.
He predicted that it could take months for the National Assembly to hammer out a solution, giving Park an opportunity to “start thinking about her own way out, (such as) finding a next president who will pardon her.”
What happens next?
Before Park’s statement, South Korean lawmakers had said they planned to vote on an impeachment motion against her within weeks.
Under the constitution, impeachment requires a two-thirds majority of the 300-member legislature to pass. Park’s Saenuri party currently controls 125 seats.
The motion should then pass to the constitutional court for consideration. Justices have 180 days to decide the case after it is referred to them.
However, it is unclear now whether Park would resign at this point in the process, if parliament is seen to have expressed its will, or if she would wait for the court to rule.
“Opposition parties are split, and the Saenuri party is split,” Oh said. “(Park) leaving everything to the National Assembly means ‘please take forever to make a decision about my future’.”
Prosecutors have said they want to speak to Park after naming her as a suspect in a corruption probe involving her confidante Choi Soon-sil and other aides.
Choi has been in prison for weeks after being indicted on charges of fraud, abuse of power and coercion, accused of extorting millions of dollars from big businesses for her foundations and personal use.
Offices have been raided, top executives hauled in for questioning and two of Park’s former Presidential aides, among others, have also been indicted.
As President, Park is currently immune from prosecution. Though her lawyers have said she is willing to cooperate with the investigation, this week she claimed to be too busy to meet with prosecutors.
Paula Hancocks and Jungeun Kim reported from Seoul; James Griffiths reported and wrote from Hong Kong.