Will impeachment petitions against Yoon bring tangible outcomes?

President Yoon Suk Yeol waves to crowds during the 70th anniversary ceremony of the Korea Freedom Federation in Incheon, Thursday. Yonhap

An online petition demanding the impeachment of President Yoon Suk Yeol has secured more than 1 million approvals just two weeks after its posting on the National Assembly’s website, gaining increased political attention to whether it will bring tangible outcomes.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and other opposition parties are using this public sentiment to boost its criticisms against the administration, but it has not been making tangible legislative actions so far, apparently reflecting on the precedents of impeaching or attempting to impeach former presidents.

The petition, which calls for the Assembly to table an impeachment motion for Yoon, surpassed the 1 million mark as of Wednesday, after gaining a daily average of 100,000 signatures since it was posted on the Assembly’s public petition website on June 20.

As of Thursday 10:30 a.m., between 5,000 to 6,000 internet users were still queuing to access the website, resulting in delays of 10 to 20 minutes, and the number of approvals rose to 1.09 million.

The post, which was posted by Kwon Oh-hyeok, secretary general of progressive civic group Candlelight Action, claimed that South Korea is facing an “omnishambles after President Yoon’s inauguration,” citing the heightening tensions between the two Koreas, Yoon’s vetoes on special counsel probes for major political cases and the worsening economic environment.

A National Assembly committee is obliged to review a petition that gains more than 50,000 approvals in 30 days after being uploaded to the website. Due to this, the petition was already handed over to the Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee on June 24.

The committee is headed by DPK Rep. Jung Chung-rae, and its subcommittee which will review the petition is comprised of four DPK lawmakers and one ruling People Power Party (PPP) lawmaker. This means that the DPK can send it unilaterally to the Assembly’s plenary session.

Through the petition process, the National Assembly in 2020 legislated a revision to the Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment of Sexual Crimes, better known as “Nth Room case prevention law,” which refers to a string of criminal sexual exploitation cases that were committed through Telegram chatroom groups.

The DPK is seeing the number of approvals as showcasing the growing public disappointment in Yoon.

“Even though the people have reprimanded the administration, the president is not budging at all, resulting in more than 1 million citizens 토토 joining the impeachment petition in just two weeks,” DPK floor leader Rep. Park Chan-dae said in a DPK Supreme Council meeting on Wednesday.

Park also said during the party lawmakers’ meeting that “the presidential office is looking down on the impeachment calls by saying that they do not believe impeachment is possible unless there is a clear violation of the law.”

Though Park and other DPK lawmakers were drumming up the growing negative sentiment against the president, they are refraining from clearly stating what the party’s next step will be.

DPK spokesperson Rep. Kang Yu-jung told reporters that “the party humbly accepts the 1 million petitioners’ demands” and the “legislation committee will thoroughly review the petition,” adding there could be a hearing if necessary.

However, Kang stressed that the hearing, even if it takes place, will be “a procedure required for the committee, not the party’s response to the petitions.”

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