Sun | Mar 18, 2018

South Korean ruling party splits over impeached president

Published:Wednesday | December 28, 2016 | 12:00 AM


While lawyers desperately tried to restore the impeached South Korean president's powers, politics advanced without her yesterday as parties and potential candidates postured for elections that could take place in just months.

Dozens of lawmakers split from the conservative ruling party and likely will try to create a party fielding outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as its presidential candidate. Ban's potential rivals reacted by questioning his presidential credentials and touting their own ideas, including significant policy changes regarding relations with nuclear-armed North Korea and allies United States and Japan.

Choung Byoung-gug, one of the 29 lawmakers who left the Saenuri Party accused President Park Geun-hye's loyalists in the party's leadership of "neglecting the values of real conservatism" and "shamelessly defending the historically worst infringement of constitutional values". More Saenuri lawmakers may leave the party in the coming weeks.

The split came as investigators widened their inquiry into the scandal surrounding Park, who has been accused of allowing a long-time confidante to manipulate government affairs, and colluding with the friend to extort money and favours from the country's biggest companies. The investigators summoned a former presidential aide as well as the former health minister over the decision to support the merger of two Samsung affiliates.

The special prosecution team planned to summon the president's jailed friend, Choi Soon-sil, but she requested a delay citing health reasons.

Ban is seen as the best hope for conservatives to win the Blue House after Park's collapse complicated politics for her party. Recent opinion polls show voters slightly favour Ban ahead of liberal politician Moon Jae-in, who conceded the presidential race to Park four years ago.