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Korean opposition sees just enough votes to impeach Park
[SEOUL] South Korea's opposition may have secured just enough votes from President Park Geun Hye's ruling party to impeach her this week, getting a boost from the biggest candlelight protests yet over her influence-peddling scandal.
A faction in Ms Park's ruling party agreed Sunday to support an impeachment motion set for vote on Friday, Chang Je Won, a Saenuri Party lawmaker, said on Facebook. Votes from the 29 lawmakers, when added to the 171 opposition and independent politicians already supporting impeachment, would be just enough to reach the threshold of 200 required to pass the motion in the 300-seat National Assembly.
The faction led by former floor leader Yoo Seong Min said last week they would oppose impeaching Ms Park if she agreed to step down at the end of April. That condition no longer applies, Mr Chang said, calling the decision by his faction a "tough" one.
"Joining the impeachment vote is the only way to humbly accept the wishes of the people reflected in the candles and put the government affairs back on track," he said.
The anti-Park rally on Saturday - the sixth since she apologised to the nation in October for allowing her friend, Choi Soon Sil, to meddle in government affairs - drew 320,000 protesters in Seoul, according to police. Organisers put the number at 1.7 million. Moon Jae In, the front-runner in presidential polls, plans to lead another candlelight rally at the National Assembly on Monday to keep the pressure on the Saenuri party, said Lee Ji Soo, a spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea.
Ms Park is mulling how early she should resign and will announce her decision soon, her chief of staff Han Gwang Ok told lawmakers at a hearing on Monday.
The president may give her fourth national address over the scandal on Tuesday or Wednesday, and she may say she will resign by the end of April, Yonhap News said, citing unidentified people in the ruling bloc. Presidential spokesman Kim Dong Jo said no new information is available on the potential address.
Ms Park's single, five-year term is scheduled to end in early 2018. Her impeachment, if approved by the parliament, has to be reviewed by the Constitutional Court, which can take as long as 180 days. A presidential election would follow in 60 days if the court agrees to removing her from power.
A former Ms Park adviser has been indicted on charges of placing undue pressure on some of the country's biggest companies to donate tens of millions of dollars to foundations controlled by Ms Choi. Ms Park has denied seeking any personal gain. Parliament is holding a series of hearings this week with her aides and the executives at the companies, including Jay Y Lee, vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics Co.