Following continuous popular protests against her over an influence-peddling scandal and struggling with an all-time record low approval ratings, South Korea President Park Geun-hye has announced her intentions to step down from the presidency. However, the realities and dynamics of her intent to leave office are far more complex than an outright resignation.
Park has not resigned effective immediately, and instead asked the parliament to determine and sanction the contours of her resignation. The South Korean head of state has then effectively shifted the burden for the South Korean National Assembly to decide how and when she can give up power.
Park said that her decision to involve the parliament with the final details of her would-be departure from office is guided by her desire for a stable transition of power. The country's main opposition, the Democratic Party, however, scored Park's offer, describing it as a mere ploy to escape being impeached. The party vowed to pursue impeachment proceedings against Park starting on Friday. The opposition also said Park could have made things a lot easier had she just stepped down from the presidency.
South Korea's next presidential election is scheduled in December next year, with the new president slated to assume office February of 2018. The country's Constitution prescribes that in the event that the current president can no longer discharge his/her duties, the prime minister which holds a role similar to a vice-president should take over. In case, however, of a resignation or impeachment, new presidential election should take place within 60 days.
The influence-peddling scandal shook South Korea in October when a close friend and former aide of Park, Choi Soon- sil was officially charged by South Korean prosecutors for intervening in state affairs and forcing the nation's conglomerates into funding her foundations and businesses. Prosecutors believe that Park may have conspired with Choi in criminal activities, but as President she enjoys immunity from suits.
Park has apologized to the South Korean public on a couple of occasions but apparently has meant little to the people. Park's approval rating had plummeted to an all-time low of 4% and a recent poll result reveals that 80% of South Koreans support impeachment proceedings against their president.
Park's case is monumental for the country since no president has failed to complete a single five-year term since the current democratic system was implemented in 1987.
South Korea is an important US ally in East Asia, especially in light of North Korea's nuclear threats. After the US election, President-elect Donald Trump and Park even spoke on the phone promising the continued close ties between the two countries.