SEOUL, Nov 29 — South Korean President Park Geun-Hye will address the nation over a snowballing influence-peddling scandal today, her spokesman said, as Seoul lawmakers stepped up efforts to impeach her.
The televised address — Park’s third over the scandal that has engulfed her presidency — will be made at 0530 GMT today, her spokesman said without elaborating further.
Meanwhile, a sufficient number of ruling party lawmakers joined the three opposition parties in endorsing a motion to remove the president from office, lawmakers said.
“We plan to have the impeachment passed (by parliament) this week”, floor leader Woo Sang-Ho of the main opposition Democratic Party was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.
Woo’s counterpart in the second largest opposition People’s Party, Park Jie-Won also said the impeachment motion would be passed on Friday.
Massive weekly protests have been intensifying over the past month, with up to 1.5 million people braving freezing temperatures in Seoul Saturday to demand Park’s resignation, according to organisers.
Park’s justice minister and a senior advisor have both stepped down, while even staunch supporters from within the president’s ruling Saenuri Party have joined calls for her departure.
Park has issued public apologies over the scandal involving her long-time confidante Choi Soon-Sil, who has been arrested for fraud and abuse of power, but has defied repeated calls to resign.
Choi is also accused of interfering in government affairs, despite holding no official position.
The 60-year-old allegedly leveraged her relationship with Park to coerce donations from conglomerates, including SK, Lotte and Samsung, to non-profit foundations which she set up and used for personal gain.
Park had promised to submit herself to a judicial probe, as well as a separate investigation by an independent special prosecutor to be appointed by parliament.
But she backtracked, with her lawyer rejecting a series of requests by prosecutors to make herself available for questioning.
Her approval ratings have plunged to a record low for a sitting president as top advisers and some of South Korea’s most powerful companies are caught up in the ever-widening scandal.
The headquarters of SK, Lotte and Samsung were raided by state prosecutors last week along with the offices of the finance ministry and state pension fund.
If parliament passes the impeachment motion, Park would immediately be suspended from official duties and her prime minister would take over as an interim head of government.
The Constitutional Court could take as long as six months to decide whether to approve the impeachment. — AFP