South Korean President Park Geun-hye speaks during an address to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Nov. 29, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)
South Korea's scandal-hit President Park Geun-hye says she is ready to resign, asking parliament to pave the way for a safe transfer of power.
ALALAM - Asia
The surprise announcement on Tuesday was however rejected offhandedly by the opposition which said it was Park's latest attempt to fend off impeachment efforts.
The South Korean leader has faced massive street protests in recent weeks amid prosecution claims that a corrupt confidante wielded government power from the shadows.
"I will leave to parliament everything about my future including shortening of my term," Park said in a brief televised speech on Tuesday.
"I will step down from my position according to the law once a way is formed to pass on the administration in a stable manner that will also minimize political unrest and vacuum after ruling and opposition parties' discussion," she added.
The main opposition Democratic Party described it as a ploy to delay impeachment proceedings, saying it would continue efforts to bring an impeachment motion in parliament that was planned for Friday.
"She is handing the ball to parliament, when she could simply step down," Park Kwang-on, a Democratic Party lawmaker 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," he added.
While Park has apologized for the influence-peddling scandal involving her long-time confidante Choi Soon-sil, she has defied demands for her resignation.
Choi Soon-Sil (front L) is escorted into the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office in Seoul on November 3, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans have staged rallies in Seoul each Saturday for the last five weeks, urging Park to quit.
Choi has been detained for fraud and abuse of power. She stands accused of interference in government affairs, despite lacking any official position in Park’s administration.
Choi allegedly used her close ties with Park to coerce donations from large companies to non-profit foundations which she set up and used for personal gain.
Prosecutors named Park, who has immunity from prosecution while in office, as an accomplice in the case but she has denied the accusations.
"Not even for a moment did I pursue my own gains and I have lived without one iota of self-interest," Park said on Tuesday.
Park’s approval ratings has plunge to a record low for a sitting president, with her top advisers and a number of the most powerful corporations in the nation also caught up in the swelling scandal.
Lawmakers from the conservative ruling party have also called on Park to "honorably" resign rather than face impeachment.
Park would be the first South Korean president to resign since the current democratic system was implemented in 1987.
If Park resigns or impeached, a presidential election must be held within the following 60 days, with the prime minister leading the country in the interim, Press TV reported.