South Korean President Park Geun Hye willing to end her term early

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South Korean President Park Geun-hye asks parliament to find a way for her to relinquish power amid calls for her to resign over an influence peddling scandal.
South Korean President Park Geun Hye speaks during an address to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, on November 29, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
South Korean President Park Geun Hye said in a national address on Tuesday (Nov 29) that she will let parliament decide how she should relinquish power. FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL - South Korean President Park Geun Hye said in a televised address on Tuesday (Nov 29) that she is willing to resign, following mass protests against her for the fifth consecutive weekend over an influence peddling scandal.

"I will leave the parliament to decide on the shortening of my term. In a way that minimises a power vacuum, I would hand over my authority to the next candidate and then step down," she said in a televised speech to the nation.

Ms Park, whose five-year term ends in February 2018, was making her third national address since the scandal erupted in late October.

Ms Park's longtime friend Choi Soon Sil, who has no official government position, is alleged to have edited Ms Park's speeches and influenced her policies, among other things. Choi has been indicted along with two of Ms Park's former aides, on charges include abuse of power.

The prosecutors investigating the case have labelled the President an "accomplice" in the case and asked to question her face-to-face, but Ms Park's lawyer has rejected their request.

The opposition bloc, which holds a majority in parliament, is pushing to vote for impeachment as early as this Friday, to force Ms Park out of office early.

Even Ms Park's most loyal supporters in the ruling Saenuri Party urged her on Monday to "honourably" step down to take responsibility for the scandal.

In her four-and-a-half minute speech on Tuesday, Ms Park, whose popularity ratings have plunged to new lows, insisted that she has never done anything for her own personal gain in her 18 years in politics, and that she has "wholeheartedly" devoted herself to public service.

She apologised for causing public distress "due to my carelessness", and that "failing to keep my surroundings in check was my biggest mistake".

"I have put everything down and I hope that our nation can move out of this political turmoil as soon as possible," she said.

Ms Park's speech came three days after a record 1.9 million people all over the country took part in the fifth weekend protest to call for her resignation. She did not take any questions, but ended by saying she will give more details in the future.

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