Emptying S. Korea court offers president a lifeline

Park was impeached by parliament in December over a corruption scandal that tapped into mounting economic and social frustrations and brought millions of people onto the streets in weekly protests.

Emptying S. Korea court offers president a lifeline

World Bulletin / News Desk

South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye is trying to run out the clock in her impeachment trial, analysts say, warning of public uproar if her lawyers' delaying tactics succeed.

The Constitutional Court in Seoul is now deliberating whether to approve the impeachment, which would trigger new elections, or to allow her to see out her five-year term.

Critics say Park's lawyers have been stalling the process, filibustering and calling up irrelevant witnesses. Last month her counsel threatened to resign en masse when the court allowed only 10 out of their requested 39 witnesses.

The delays could offer Park a political lifeline.

The court's chief justice retired last week, leaving an empty red-backed chair at the end of the bench, and another judge will step down at the end of her term in little over a month.

By law six votes -- a two-thirds majority of the full nine-member bench -- are needed to uphold the impeachment, however many judges are sitting.

That effectively means that from March 14, Park will need the backing of only two justices to return to the presidential Blue House -- and most have conservative political allegiances.

"For this reason, there are ample reasons for Park's side to seek to delay the verdict as long as possible," said Kim Jong-Cheol, a law professor at Yonsei University.

Park, the conservative daughter of a late army-backed dictator, is accused of colluding with a longtime friend, Choi Soon-Sil, to strong-arm donations worth tens of millions of dollars from top firms to dubious foundations controlled by Choi.

The scandal has laid bare cosy ties between business and politics in South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, and embroiled many of its leading companies, including the world's biggest smartphone maker Samsung.

It has catalysed intense frustrations in a competitive society, in areas ranging from education to jobs and incomes, and seen immense crowds throng central Seoul for candlelight protests demanding Park's departure.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Şubat 2017, 10:12
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