By Yoo Seungki
SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye has let lawmakers decide on her fate, but it kindled public confusion about what the embattled president intended to do with her national address over a scandal involving herself.
President Park addressed the nation on Tuesday, a third since the corruption scandal surrounding the president and her decades-long friend, Choi Soon-sil, came into focus in October. Park had retreated from public view following the second apology on Nov. 4.
The scandal-plagued leader made overtures to lawmakers, saying she will "step down from the presidency if the ruling and opposition parties find a way to ensure a stable transfer of power while minimizing confusion and vacuum in state affairs."
Park demanded detailed schedules and legal procedures on her resignation, throwing the ball in parliamentary court. She vowed to defer her retreat, including the "shortening" of presidency, to the parliament.
IMPEACHMENT OR CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION
Under the country's constitution, there are only two options lawmakers can choose to cut short Park's single, five-year term: impeachment and constitutional amendment. She has refused a voluntary resignation citing the breach of the constitution that guarantees a full tenure except treason and insurrection.
Calls have lasted long for the revision of the constitution, which has been unchanged for around three decades, in a bid to reform South Korea's political system, where some claim too much power is being centered on an "imperial" president.
Most of legislators agreed to the need, but opposition lawmakers currently want it postponed as the amendment can take at least a year and may cause divisiveness in the political arena, which is already divided over when and how to remove the scandal-hit president from office.
Chiefs of three main opposition parties, which depicted the presidential speech as a "horrible snare" set by Park and as a "ploy" meant to fend off an impeachment vote, met on Wednesday to unite their minds.
They urged President Park to rapidly and unconditionally stand down, agreeing that there would never be any negotiation with the governing party on the shortening of presidency, which requires the constitutional revision.
The opposition heads confirmed a continued push for impeachment, the only option left to shorten Park's five-year tenure that ends in February 2018.
STOP IMPEACHMENT EFFORTS
The ruling Saenuri Party leadership, widely seen as the pro-Park faction for its loyalty to the president, welcomed Park's speech and called on opposition lawmakers and anti-Park Saenuri members to stop impeachment efforts.
The party leadership proposed negotiations on a road map for the so-called "orderly" and "honorable" retreat, indicating the need for constitutional amendment, which they believe could encourage Park to resign in April next year and hold an early presidential election two months later.
Park's Tuesday address came just three days before the widely expected vote on a bill to impeach the embattled president in the National Assembly. The opposition bloc had been poised to vote on the impeachment bill as early as Friday or no later than next Friday when the regular session ends.
Before the speech, 30 to 40 members of the ruling party's anti-Park faction had been set to vote for it, according to local media reports based on anonymous interviews.
As there are 172 opposition and independent lawmakers, at least 30 Saenuri legislators are required to pass the impeachment motion through the 300-seat assembly. The bill can be put forward with a half support from the unicameral assembly, while the passage requires two-thirds ayes.
The anti-Park faction showed a subtle change in its position, saying its members will join the impeachment vote unless rival parties agreed to the road map for Park's resignation until next Friday. This Friday's vote to impeach Park seems hard to be pushed through.
A majority of South Koreans looked enraged further by Park's speech. According to a survey by ResearchView, local pollster, released Wednesday, 74.2 percent said that the third address was a "political trick" to avoid impeachment. Over seven out of 10 respondents demanded the impeachment vote as scheduled.
"(The third speech) is a sly trick to delay resignation. Everybody knows that. Park Geun-hye looks to have contacted Choi Soon-sil secretly through someone else or phone call considering the trick," Choi Myo-ran told Xinhua.
The 80-year-old woman, who has recently watched cable news channels all the time, said it is high time to replace government power. She stressed that there will be no difficulty in electing new president within two months after impeaching Park.
If the impeachment motion is passed through the assembly, Park would immediately be stripped of all powers. If two-thirds of the nine-judge constitutional court upholds the bill, the country must hold a presidential election in two months.
Conservatives have recently worried about a power vacuum as Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn becomes acting president while the constitutional court is ruling on the impeachment motion.
The survey showed 18.4 percent of respondents preferring a scheduled resignation agreed upon by rival parties.
One man in his late 60s, who declined to be identified, said he cannot understand why the younger generation demands the impeachment that destabilizes the country. He stressed the importance of normalizing state affairs.
Recently, calls for an orderly resignation arisen from conservative-leaning figures. Dozens of former parliamentary speakers and former prime ministers met on Sunday to demand Park step down by next April to have time in preparing for next presidential election.
On Monday, even pro-Park faction members of the governing party advised President Park to accept the resignation schedule proposed by the elder statesmen.
Bin Woon-cheol, an office worker in his late 30s, said there must have been a "prior collusion" between President Park, the pro-Park faction and the elder statesmen to distract public attention from impeachment toward constitutional amendment.
It was a ploy, he said, intended to buy time and delay the impeachment by encouraging rival parties to bicker over when and how to let President Park stand down though she has no inclination to do.