Asia

South Korea's President Park 'willing to resign'

South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul (29 Nov 2016) Image copyright EPA
Image caption The president said she wanted MPs to find a way to minimise chaos caused by her resignation

South Korea's President Park Geun-hye has said she has asked parliament to help her find a way to stand down.

Ms Park faced growing calls to resign amid an investigation into whether she allowed a long-time friend to influence political decisions for personal gain.

She said she would "leave to parliament everything about my future including shortening of my term", but did not want to leave a power vacuum.

Parliament is due to discuss on Friday whether she should face impeachment.

Some in the ruling party had said the president should stand down "honourably" before it reached that point. Opposition parties accuse her of now trying to escape impeachment.

Ms Park has apologised twice before, and has said she is "heartbroken" by the political crisis around her, but has refused to stand down.

In Tuesday's televised address, her third since reports of the scandal began, Ms Park said she would step down "once lawmakers come up with measures to transfer power in a way that minimises any power vacuum and chaos in governance".

A spokesman for the opposition Democratic Party, Youn Kwan-suk, said the speech was a "trick" which "lacked reflection".

"What people want is her immediate resignation, not dragging out and dodging the responsibility to the parliament," he told the Yonhap news agency.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Hundreds of thousands of protesters have been demanding the president's resignation

What did Ms Park do?

The scandal stems from the president's relationship with her close friend, Choi Soon-sil.

Ms Choi is accused of trying to extort huge sums of money from South Korean companies. She is also suspected of using her friendship with Ms Park to solicit business donations for a non-profit fund she controlled.

It is also alleged that Ms Park passed large numbers of confidential government documents to Ms Choi, via an aide.

Ms Choi is in police detention, facing a string of charges.

What could happen next?

If parliament passes a motion for Ms Park's impeachment on Friday, she would face immediate suspension from presidential duties. The prime minister would take over as temporary government head.

The Constitutional Court would then have to decide whether to approve the impeachment, a process which could take up to six months.

But given Ms Park's recent announcement, her party is now asking for the impeachment efforts to be delayed.

The BBC's Steve Evans in Seoul says her announcement is not quite a resignation, but an offer to resign later. Yet it does imply, he adds, that her days in office are now severely limited.

What has been the impact of the scandal?

The allegations have reached across South Korean politics and industry. Two of Ms Park's aides have also been charged along with a pop music producer.

The offices of the national pension fund have been raided as have several major Korean companies including Lotte and Samsung.

Investigators believe Ms Park had a "considerable" role in the alleged corruption, but the president's representatives have said the accusations are a "fantasy".

In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of Koreans have joined huge street protests across the country demanding that she leave office.

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