Asia South Korean PM rejects resignation calls in bribery scandal

South Korean PM rejects resignation calls in bribery scandal

South Korean Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo
Embattled South Korean Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo

 (AA) — South Korea’s embattled prime minister has rejected calls for his resignation as the main opposition party threatened Thursday to impeach Lee Wan-koo amid allegations of his involvement in a bribery scandal.

“[I] will perform my official duty without any agitation,” Lee told reporters, according to national news agency Yonhap. 

A growing bribery scandal has centered on members of the administration of President Park Geun-hye, including Lee and the chief of staff she handpicked earlier this year.

Lee Wan-koo and Chief of Staff Lee Byung-kee were among eight names written on a list found in the pocket of a businessman who was under investigation before committing suicide last week.

The list, along with an interview with a local newspaper given by the late Sung Wan-jong before his death, has fuelled claims that key political figures accepted bribes from the businessman.

Sung reportedly told The Kyunghyang Sinmun that he had given the prime minister 30 million South Korean won (more than $27,000) in cash in 2013.

Lee’s comments came after the leader of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, Moon Jae-in, warned earlier in the day that if Lee remained in his post, the opposition “will consider presenting a dismissal proposal.”

“Our party will be forced to make a stronger decision if he does not step down for himself and the president does not take any action,” he told reporters during a visit to Ansan, Gyeonggi province, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of a deadly ferry disaster.

Lee has denied the allegations, offering his own life if he was found to be guilty.

A prime minister has not been impeached in South Korea to date.

If an impeachment process receives the endorsement of one-third of lawmakers, the parliament can initiate a motion – which would need the support of half the National Assembly to be referred to the Constitutional Court.

President Park insisted Wednesday that she would not “condone anyone responsible for corruption,” cautioning that the public “won’t forgive” corrupt officials.

Park’s reign had already been under scrutiny due to allegations that corruption involving the public and private sectors had contributed to last year’s Sewol ferry disaster that left 304 people, mostly schoolchildren, dead.

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