By Kim Rahn
All senior Cheong Wa Dae officials tendered their resignations en masse Monday after former President Park Geun-hye was ousted over the corruption scandal and left the presidential office.
This is the first time in the nation’s history that all senior presidential secretaries have offered to quit.
Chief of staff Han Gwang-ok and nine senior secretaries submitted their resignations to acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, leaving their fate in Hwang’s hands.
“A president was unseated for the first time in the nation’s history. It is not legally obligatory for the secretaries to quit along with Park, but with the resignations, the top aides are showing their will to take political and moral responsibility for the administration’s failure,” a source at Cheong Wa Dae said.
But it is unclear whether Hwang will accept their resignations.
Although the presidential post is vacant, the secretaries and other Cheong Wa Dae staff do not sit idle and enjoy free time; they belong to Cheong Wa Dae, not Park, and since the National Assembly passed the impeachment motion in December, they have reported state affairs to Hwang, the acting head of state. And if Hwang does not accept their resignations, they will continue to work.
The acting president has a series of challenges to deal with, such as the early presidential election in May, controversy over the deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, China’s retaliatory measures against the deployment, and North Korea’s nuclear threats. He may need their assistance in handling these challenges to keep continuity in policies.
So Hwang may accept the resignations selectively, having secretaries in charge of foreign affairs and security stay and those in charge of political affairs leave.
It is also possible for him to turn down all the resignations for stability of state affairs and a smooth transition of power, as the secretaries will also have to transfer their duties to their successors when the new government comes in after the election in two months.
Even in that case, their roles will be limited and minimized, as many functions of their offices overlap those of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Park, who returned to her private residence in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, the previous night, stayed inside Monday.
Rep. Cho Won-jin of the Liberty Korea Party, who visited her in the morning, told reporters that Park slightly injured her ankle. He said Park did not mention anything about the Constitutional Court upholding the impeachment. She did say the previous night, “The truth will be revealed without fail,” indicating she does not accept the decision.
The alleys around the house were crowded with security staff, maintenance workers, nearby residents and her supporters. Security staff were in and out of the house from early morning, and cars carrying home appliances and boxes arrived, as minor renovation work to the long-vacated house and moving in her belongings have not been finished.
Hundreds of Park supporters gathered around the house for the second consecutive day, waving the Taegeukgi, the national flag, and chanting slogans against the impeachment. Dozens of them stayed there overnight.
More than 300 police officers kept guard to prevent people from approaching the house and to minimize if not totally eliminate possible violent acts by the protesters.