South Korean President Park Geun-hye leaves the scene after releasing a statement of apology to the public at the Blue House in Seoul. Photo: Reuters, Baek Seung-ryeol
South Korean President Park Geun-hye leaves the scene after releasing a statement of apology to the public at the Blue House in Seoul. Photo: Reuters, Baek Seung-ryeol

South Korea’s embattled President Park Geun-hye has asked parliament to come up with a way for her to relinquish power, including when she should step down from the presidency.

“I will leave to parliament everything about my future including shortening of my term,” she said in a televised speech on Tuesday amid mounting calls for her to resign over an influence peddling scandal that has engulfed her presidency.

“Once the ruling and opposition parties come up with measures to transfer power in a way that minimizes any power vacuum and chaos in governance, I will step down,” said Park whose official term is not due to end until early in 2018.

“I have laid everything down,” the President said. “My only desire is for South Korea to break away from this chaotic state and return to its original state as soon as possible.”

The main opposition Democratic Party rejected Park’s offer, calling it a ploy to escape being impeached, Yonhap news agency said.

Park Kwang-on, a Democratic Party lawmaker, said it looked like she was trying to delay proceedings.

“She is handing the ball to parliament, when she could simply step down,” he said.

“She is asking the parliament to pick a date for her to resign, which she knows would lead to a discussion on when to hold the presidential election and delay everything.”

Shin Yul, a professor of political science at Myongji University, agreed.

“She doesn’t want the parliament to impeach her and she doesn’t think that the parliament can soon reach an agreement, so she is making things complicated and trying to shift some of her blame to the parliament,” he said.

Some lawmakers from Park’s own conservative Saenuri party had asked her to resign under an agreement that would allow her to leave office with some dignity.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans rallied for the fifth weekend in a row, calling for Park’s resignation. Organisers said the crowd totalled 1.5 million, while the police estimated the crowd at 260,000.

No South Korean president has failed to complete a term since the current democratic system was implemented in 1987. If Park is impeached or resigns, an election would be held in 60 days to nominate a president to serve a five-year term.

Park’s approval rating fell to just 4 percent in a weekly survey released on Friday by Gallup Korea, an all time-low for a democratically elected South Korean president.

Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, and a former aide have been indicted in the case. Prosecutors named Park as an accomplice in an investigation into whether big business was inappropriately pressured to contribute money to foundations set up to back Park’s initiatives.

The presidential office and Park’s lawyer have denied the accusations.

Park has acknowledged carelessness in her ties with Choi, who Park has said had helped her through difficult times.

Their friendship dates to an era when Park served as acting first lady after her mother was killed by an assassin’s bullet intended for her father, then-president Park Chung-hee. Five years later, in 1979, Park’s father was murdered by his disgruntled spy chief.

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