South Korea: 29 lawmakers leave ruling party over Park scandal
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South Korea: 29 lawmakers leave ruling party over Park scandal

DOZENS of lawmakers left South Korea’s ruling Saenuri Party on Tuesday following factional fighting over the corruption scandal surrounding impeached President Park Geun-hye.

According to Yonhap, the 29 anti-Park lawmakers will register their own parliamentary negotiation group and establish a new party on Jan 24 in order to prepare for the coming presidential election.

“Park loyalists have forgotten the true values of conservatism and as a result lost the people’s trust,” the news agency quoted the group as saying. They criticised Park’s allies for ignoring the people’s wishes in their defence of the president embroiled in the corruption and influence-peddling scandal.

The group’s departure has reduced the governing party to the second largest in Parliament with 99 seats, behind the main opposition Democratic Party with 121 lawmakers. The People’s Party is third with 38 seats.

The group initially claimed 35 lawmakers will leave, with around 30 members expected to tender their resignation from the conservative party on Tuesday, while others were to join in January.

Lawmakers voted to impeach Park on Dec 9 over allegations that she colluded with longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil to extort money and favours from companies, and allowed the latter to manipulate state affairs.

Speculation is rife that the party, tentatively named the New Conservation Party for Reform, will likely try to lure outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as its presidential candidate in hopes of winning back the Blue House after Park’s fall from grace complicated the party’s politics.

This comes after the news agency reported on Monday that South Korea’s Constitutional Court will start the official review of Park’s impeachment next week.

SEE ALSO: South Korea: Top court to start official impeachment review next week

The top court said its preparation procedure will be complete this week once it receives the outcome of the prosecution’s investigations into the case.

Meanwhile, Yonhap also reported that South Korean lawmakers were able to question Park’s friend, Choi, on Monday at a detention center despite her repeated refusal to appear at a parliamentary hearing.

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Choi Soon-sil, a long-time friend of South Korean President Park Geun-hye who is at the center of the South Korean political scandal involving Park, arrives for her first court hearing in Seoul, South Korea, December 19, 2016. Korea Pool/via REUTERS

Members of a special parliamentary committee who visited the detention center on the outskirts of Seoul had originally planned to air the question session but decided to carry out the interrogation in private after hours of arguing with the correctional office.

Lawmakers claim Choi denied most of the allegations raised against her during the two and a half-hour-long questioning.

Some members of the committee also visited two of Park’s former presidential aides, who had refused to attend a hearing at the National Assembly, at another detention center.

Choi and the two aides claim that their testimonies could affect an ongoing investigation by independent prosecutors.

Additional reporting from Associated Press.