In an unprecedented move, the Constitutional Court of South Korea has formally removed President Park Geun-hye from office this Friday morning, South Korea time. The vote was 8-0 in favor of upholding her impeachment, which was announced live during a national broadcast by Justice Lee Jung-mi. The first woman president of South Korea was impeached in December 2016 and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn took over her duties as president. The acting president will choose the date for the presidential election.
Ms. Park, who became South Korea’s first democratically elected president to be impeached and formally removed from office, held her official post starting February 25, 2013.
The South Korean president was accused of corruption that involved a very close friend by the name of Choi Soon-sil, who’s said to have considerable influence over the embattled president. Ms. Choi is the daughter of Choe Tae-min, the cult leader of a Shamanistic-Evangelical group in South Korea. It was alleged that Ms. Choi was the mastermind of the governmental decision and policy making in Ms. Park’s administration. She’s been officially charged on November 20, 2016 for intervening in affairs of the state and forcing rich families to donate millions of dollars to businesses and foundations that she controlled due to her relationship with President Park, who’s accused of colluding with the civilian.
Aftermath of the impeachment
With the formal dismissal of the country’s president, South Korea will have another presidential election within 60 days, meaning the country is expected to have a new president in the early part of May. Ms. Park also loses the immunity granted to her as president and can now face prosecution.
While Ms. Park and Ms. Choi maintained that they did no wrong, documents were seized from their respective offices. The court said that Ms. Park released several secret official government documents to Ms. Choi, which is a breach of government security rules. She also violated several laws by allowing a civilian like Ms. Choi to meddle in state affairs.
There were many impeachment charges against the 65-year old Ms. Park Geun-hye but the court dismissed some of them, including her inaction throughout the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014 and infringement on press freedom.
Heightened police alert
Since the news broke out last year, a great number of South Koreans were calling for their president’s impeachment and sit down protests and night vigils were held, by both Ms. Park’s supporters and groups who demand for her removal. With the news of her impeachment now a formal decision, 21,000 police officers and 270 units were placed on high alert to prevent unruly incidents in the politically divided country. As expected, there were mixed emotions when the verdict was announced. Ms. Park’s supporters were in tears while others were shouting loudly. Loud cheers were heard from anti-Park groups.
Immediate response from the U.S.
South Korea’s longtime ally, the United States, through Mark Toner, the acting State Department spokesman, expressed the government’s continued support to the country. The statement said that the U.S. would continue working with Prime Minister Hwang until a new president is elected.