A historic 2.32 million people joined mass protests across the country last Saturday to demand that Park Geun-hye step down. The majority of the country agrees that she should, but how exactly? What is the difference between impeachment versus resignation versus “reduced term”? Here’s a break-down–


Impeachment by National Assembly

Who proposes this?

  • Lawmakers of the opposition parties (the Minjoo Party, Justice Party, People’s Party)

What does this mean?

  • The lawmakers of the opposition parties have drafted and filed a motion to impeach Park Geun-hye
  • On December 9, they will put the motion to a vote on the floor of the National Assembly.
  • If the motion passes with a two-third majority in the 300-member National Assembly, the Constitutional Court must review it and decide whether Park’s impeachment is in accordance with the constitution.
  • Park would be suspended while the Constitutional Court deliberates; the Prime Minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, would serve as acting president.
  • The Constitutional Court must come to a decision within 180 days. At least six out of the nine judges of the Constitutional Court must agree to rule in favor of impeachment.
  • If Park is ruled impeachable, she would be removed from office and investigated for her involvement in the corruption scandal (and possibly prosecuted).
    • She would be stripped of privileges normally granted to former presidents, such as a pension and government-provided security detail
  • A presidential election will be held within two months following Park’s removal from office.

The opposition parties have submitted the motion for impeachment to the National Assembly, and a vote is scheduled for December 9. The three opposition parties have agreed to vote in favor of the impeachment motion and need to persuade at least 28 of the 128 Saenuri Party lawmakers to go along. Members of the anti-Park faction of the Saenuri Party face pressure from both sides trying to sway their vote. The people’s ouster movement is focusing its efforts this week on applying pressure on Saenuri representatives through myriad forms of direct action to vote in favor of impeachment.


Reducing the Presidential Term through Constitutional Amendment

Who proposes this?

  • The pro-Park faction of the Saenuri Party
  • Many are implicated in the corruption allegations involving Park and want to avoid Park’s impeachment at all cost as it may mean they also become the targets of investigation and prosecution
    • They want an “honorable” end to the Park administration

What would this mean for Park Geun-hye?

  • Park would serve a reduced term as president and step down before the end of the current mandate of five years.
  • The Saenuri Party proposes Park step down at the end of April, after the special prosecutor’s mandate to investigate the government corruption scandal ends in March. This is a ploy to protect the president from prosecution, from which she has immunity as long as she remains in the presidential office.
  • While in office, Park would transfer her executive powers to an interim cabinet constituted by members appointed through bipartisan agreement
  • The interim cabinet would govern until the next presidential election, which the Saenuri Party proposes to hold in June 2017.
  • Park would be allowed to retire “honorably” from the presidential office.

Why does the Saenuri Party Advocate Constitutional Reform?

  • In order to reduce the president’s term in office, the National Assembly must pass a constitutional amendment, which has been on the Saenuri Party agenda for a long time
  • The Saenuri Party wants a constitutional amendment that allows the president to serve two four-year terms (currently, the president serves one five-year term and cannot run for re-election)
  • The Saenuri Party also wants to change South Korea’s political system to a parliamentary system through constitutional reform, whereby–
    • A Prime Minister serves as the head of government and the president is relegated to a largely ceremonial role;
    • The Prime Minister would not be elected by the people but appointed by the federal legislature
    • The Saenuri Party knows that it is currently at a disadvantage in the eyes of the public and has a slim chance of winning the next presidential election. They also lack a viable candidate.
    • But in a parliamentary system, if the Saenuri Party (or a new conservative party) is able to form an alliance with members of the centrist People’s Party, they have a chance to be the majority in the legislature and gain the political advantage needed to determine the Prime Minister.


Immediate Resignation, Arrest, Investigation

Who proposes this?

  • South Korean people
  • Organized movement forces
    • Workers, farmers, students, activists, civil society/grassroots organizations

What would this mean for Park Geun-hye?

  • Park Geun-hye would step down immediately.
  • Once she has relinquished her power as president, she would be arrested as a suspect in the government corruption scandal.
  • Park would be investigated and prosecuted for abusing her government authority and doling out favors in exchange for funds from major conglomerates including Samsung, SK, Lotte, GS, Hanhwa.
  • Members of Park’s cabinet would likely be investigated and prosecuted as accomplices

What would this mean for the South Korean government?

  • The Saenuri Party, weakened by Park’s forced resignation as well as investigations of its members in the corruption case, would be forced to dissolve itself.
  • An interim cabinet would be constituted by appointees of the various political parties in consultation with the South Korean people.
  • New presidential elections would be held within sixty days of Park’s resignation.

How have the people been making these demands?

  • Weekly mass demonstrations across the country
  • Workers’ strikes, student walk-outs, civil disobedience actions
  • Citizen statements, petitions

For now, the people support the opposition parties’ impeachment motion and are focusing their efforts on applying pressure on members of the Saenuri Party to vote to impeach Park. But if the impeachment motion fails to pass on December 9, the people’s movement will push forward with — and the opposition (including the opposition parties) will likely consolidate around — the people’s demands, which are immediate resignation, arrest and investigation.


By ZoominKorea staff


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