Seoul: South Korea`s parliamentary Speaker
resigned on Thursday over a bribery scandal which has tarnished the
conservative ruling party in a key election year.
Park Hee-Tae was alleged to have offered cash envelopes
to lawmakers of the Grand National Party before a vote, which
he won, to select a new party chief in 2008.
Park, who became Speaker in 2010, said in a brief
resignation statement he was "really sorry" for the scandal
but did not acknowledge personal wrongdoing.
"Please lay all responsibility on me... I intend to quit
my position," he said in a statement read by his spokesman.
It was the first time the country`s parliamentary Speaker
has quit over corruption allegations.
The ruling party`s interim leader Park Geun-Hye in a
statement welcomed the resignation, which came after leading
lawmakers had urged the Speaker to step down to minimise
political damage to the party.
The scandal was exposed by a GNP lawmaker who said he
received an envelope stuffed with USD 2,685 from an aide to
the Speaker, which he returned.
The disclosure prompted a major probe by prosecutors and
dealt a blow to the conservatives, already suffering from
The party now holds 166 of the 299 parliamentary seats
along with the presidency. But it anticipates a struggle in
the April general election and the presidential poll in
Recent surveys show the main opposition Democratic United
Party is more popular than the ruling party amid growing
discontent over social and economic inequality and an economic
The embattled conservatives, in a bid to shed their image
as the party for the rich, have shifted policies leftward to
focus on welfare for the poor.
The former Grand National Party also changed its name to
the Saenuri party, a common rebranding tactic in Korean
politics. The party said today its name in English would be
the New Frontier Party.
Critics said the new name would merely be cosmetic
without a major change in the party`s senior leadership.
The Speaker`s departure will put further pressure on the
leadership to reform, said Kim Min-Jeon, a political science
professor at Kyung Hee University in Suwon south of Seoul.
"There will be more and more talk of personnel overhauls
and finding new faces to distance the party from its old image
of the Grand National Party," she told YTN news channel.