South Korea's Park indicates willing to relinquish some power amid crisis

Tue Nov 8, 2016 12:32am EST
 
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By Jack Kim and Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Tuesday she will withdraw her nominee for prime minister if parliament recommends a candidate and is willing to let the new premier control the cabinet, seeking to defuse a crisis rocking her presidency.

Park's comments at a meeting with the speaker of parliament indicated she was willing to relinquish some control over state affairs - a key demand by opposition parties to resolve the scandal stemming from allegations that her friend improperly wielded influence using her ties to the president.

"If parliament recommends a good person with an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties, I will appoint that person as prime minister and allow him to essentially take control over the cabinet," Park told the speaker, Chung Sye-kyun.

The position of prime minister is usually a figurehead in South Korea, with most power concentrated in the presidential office.

Park has been severely bruised by the scandal involving her friend, Choi Soon-sil, who is alleged to have used her closeness to the president to meddle in state affairs and wield influence in the sports and cultural communities.

Choi has been charged with abuse of power and fraud while a former aide has been charged with abuse of power and extortion after they helped raise 77.4 billion won ($68 million) from dozens of the country's biggest conglomerates on behalf of two foundations.

Park nominated Kim Byong-joon, a former cabinet minister under a liberal ex-president, as premier last week but the move, which requires a parliamentary approval, drew anger from the opposition as a bid to divert attention from the crisis and yet another example of her heavy-handed approach.

Park's visit to parliament was brief and she did not meet the leaders of opposition parties despite news reports that said she had hoped to do so.   Continued...

 
South Korean President Prak Geun-hye (in red) walks past members of the minor opposition Justice Party at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, November 8, 2016.   Yonhap/Bae Jae-man/via REUTERS