South Korea's Park digs in, as tycoons deny seeking favors

Tue Dec 6, 2016 11:06am EST
 
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By Ju-min Park and Se Young Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean President Park Geun-hye, engulfed in an influence peddling scandal, said if she was impeached she would wait for a court to uphold the decision, a party official said on Tuesday, a sign a political crisis could drag on for months.

Park's embattled presidency faces a critical juncture, with parliament expected to hold an impeachment vote on Friday. Even if the motion is passed, it must be upheld by the Constitutional Court, a process that could take at least months.

Separately, South Korea's most prominent corporate chiefs told a parliamentary panel they had not sought favors when they made contributions to two foundations at the heart of the scandal, even as one of them acknowledged it was hard to say "no" to the government.

"It's a South Korean reality that if there is a government request, it is difficult for companies to decline," said Huh Chang-soo, who heads the energy-to-retail GS Group and is also chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries, the main lobby group for the conglomerates known as chaebol.

Park, 64, is under intense pressure to resign immediately, with big crowds taking to the streets every Saturday calling for her ouster. Her approval rating is at a record low of 4 percent.

She would be the first democratically elected South Korean president not to serve a full five-year term.

She is accused of colluding with a friend and a former aide to pressure big business owners to pay into two foundations set up to back policy initiatives. She has denied wrongdoing but apologized for carelessness in her ties with the friend, Choi Soon-sil.

Park met leaders of her Saenuri party and top official Chung Jin-suk later said the president was willing to accept her party's proposal that she step down in April - which has been rejected by the opposition - but gave no indication that she was willing to quit immediately.   Continued...

 
(L-R) CJ Group chairman Sohn Kyung-Shik, LG Group chairman Koo Bon-Moo, Hanhwa Group chairman Kim Seung-Youn, SK Group chairman Chey Tae-Won, Samsung Group's heir-apparent Lee Jae-Yong, Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-Bin, Hanjin Group chairman Cho Yang-Ho and Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-Koo take an oath during a parliamentary probe into a scandal engulfing President Park Geun-Hye at the National Assembly in Seoul on December 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Jung Yeon-Je/Pool