World Bulletin / News Desk
The National Assembly's opposition bloc agreed on the same day to start gathering lawmakers' signatures with a view to officially voting on a motion to impeach Park on Dec. 9 -- weeks after the president and close aides became embroiled in an influence-peddling affair.
With the Saenuri Party divided between Park loyalists and those wishing to oust her, the president's impeachment had looked a formality before she issued a national address Tuesday offering to step down if the Assembly could agree on a timeline and appropriate legal steps.
Suddenly, the ruling party's anti-Park faction realigned with mainstream Saenuri lawmakers in agreeing that it would be best for the president to step down in April -- giving the conservatives time to regain ground lost to the main opposition Democratic Party.
The parliament's liberal bloc originally planned to vote on their impeachment motion this week, but decided to wait until they can be sure of sufficient support from the ruling camp.
The motion needs a two-thirds parliamentary majority; meaning 28 Saenuri representatives would have to back it even if every opposition lawmaker also were to do so.
As the situation stand, rebel ruling party lawmakers say they will give Park until 6 p.m. (1100GMT) next Wednesday to announce an April resignation date.
If that deadline passes without success, they have vowed to join impeachment proceedings.
But the presidential office revealed the country's leader might have another card to play.
"It is my understanding that the president will listen to the views of the Saenuri Party's leadership and non-mainstreamers, and explain her position," the source was quoted as telling local news agency Yonhap.
"At this important juncture, she will not just idle away her time."
Another problem for the opposition is that the motion itself is contentious. Even anti-Park lawmakers are against its current mention of the president's failure to protect people during the Sewol ferry tragedy that claimed 304 lives in 2014.
The disaster dealt a major blow to the Park administration over its handling of a botched rescue operation, while also raising suspicions that corruption had compromised public safety.
However, Park has lost most of her support base due to the ongoing scandal involving claims that she allowed a private confidante to steer state affairs and helped force conglomerates to make donations.
The president's Gallup Korea approval rating was fixed at a record-low four percent again Friday after weeks in the single-digit range.
Protestors are planning a sixth weekend of mass rallies to demand Park's resignation.