Opposition parties spurn Park's offer to share power

Mr Cha, who has close ties with Ms Choi, was arrested at Incheon International Airport. He is nicknamed the "crown prince" of the culture sector because of his apparent influence in the Park administration.
Mr Cha, who has close ties with Ms Choi, was arrested at Incheon International Airport. He is nicknamed the "crown prince" of the culture sector because of his apparent influence in the Park administration.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

They say the offer is too 'ambiguous', pledge to join rally to demand the PM's resignation

SEOUL • South Korean opposition parties yesterday rejected President Park Geun Hye's offer to share power to overcome a crippling crisis, calling in effect for a caretaker government.

In a major climbdown forced by a corruption scandal, Ms Park had agreed to dump her nominee for prime minister and accept one chosen by the opposition-controlled Parliament.

But opposition parties said her offer was too "ambiguous", urging her to guarantee that the new prime minister would be given a completely free hand in selecting Cabinet ministers, handling state affairs and functioning without interference.

"It's not even worth consideration," the country's three opposition parties said in a joint statement.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, the People's Party and the Justice Party instead decided to join a rally demanding her resignation, scheduled for Saturday near the presidential Blue House.

Mr Park Jie Won, president of the People's Party, said the President is resorting to a divide-and-rule tactic, sowing seeds of discord among her opponents and letting them fight among themselves over who should be the next prime minister.

"This is also a delaying tactic intended to earn time," he told reporters.

The Blue House said yesterday that the President is sincere in her offer to share power with opposition parties, calling for a meeting with heads of both ruling and opposition parties to discuss details.

Ms Park has come under mounting pressure to step down over the scandal involving a close friend, Ms Choi Soon Sil, who has been arrested on charges of fraud and abuse of power.

The charges relate to allegations that Ms Choi leveraged her personal relationship with President Park to coerce donations from large companies such as Samsung to two non-profit foundations which she set up and used for personal gain.

She is also accused of interfering in government affairs, including in the nomination of senior officials.

In a bid to regain public trust, Ms Park reshuffled her advisers and senior Cabinet members, and nominated a liberal candidate for prime minister from outside her conservative Saenuri Party.

But opposition parties had vowed to block her nominee on the grounds that they were not properly consulted.

Another key figure in the political scandal was arrested at Incheon International Airport late on Tuesday.

Music video director Cha Eun Taek, who has close ties with Ms Choi, 47, is the de facto head of one of the two non-profit foundations controlled by her. The foundation amassed 48.6 billion won (S$60 million) in donations within two days of its launch in October last year, reported JoongAng Ilbo.

"I apologise to the people. I will tell everything truthfully to the prosecutors," Mr Cha said in a shaky voice after returning from China.

Mr Cha is nicknamed the "crown prince" of the culture sector because of his apparent influence in the Park administration.

President Park appeared at many of the events he was involved in.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline 'Opposition parties spurn Park's offer to share power'. Print Edition | Subscribe