Why Was South Korea's President Impeached?

Posted March 12, 2017

President Park Geun-hye of South Korea has been formally removed from office after the country's constitutional court unanimously upheld the parliament's decision to impeach her after a corruption scandal. Since the scandal first came to light in October, protesters have taken to the streets every weekend to call for the president's impeachment.

The country's first female leader is accused of allowing a close friend to profit from her connections with the presidency, and was impeached in December after weeks of protests aimed at securing her resignation.

"She had one more year left as "president" but, now she's been ousted, she will be investigated as a common criminal", the North Korean mouthpiece Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said a brief dispatch.

"The removal of the claimee from office is overwhelmingly to the benefit of the protection of the constitution".

Park has not been seen or heard from since the Constitutional Court's ruling Friday, which ended a power struggle that had consumed the nation for months. The nation now must hold a presidential election within 60 days, making it likely to fall on May 9.

A snap election will be held in the next two months to elect her replacement and opposition liberals are expected to gain control of the government.

The court's verdict upholding her impeachment immediately stripped her of all powers and privileges, except for her security.

Jan 1, 2017: Park denies wrongdoing, calling accusations "fabrication and falsehood".

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Shielded from prosecution while in office, Park could face criminal charges, the possibility of detention pending trial, and finally a jail sentence. More than 300 people, majority high school students, died when the ferry sank.

Park's lawyer, Seo Seok-gu, who had previously compared Park's impeachment to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, called the verdict a "tragic decision" made under popular pressure and questioned the fairness of what he called a "kangaroo court".

While the ruling might have irrevocably derailed Park's political career, analysts saw defiance in her silence, saying that Park was perhaps hoping to use the growing anger of her followers to rebuild support.

Moon was born in the southern island of Geoje in 1952 during the Korean War after his North Korean parents fled to the South.

Both became leading figures in the pro-democracy protests that swept the country in 1987 and led to South Korea's first direct presidential elections the same year.

Carrying signs and candles, the crowd cheered to speeches and swayed to music Friday night, while angry supporters of Park continued to scuffle with police in streets near the court.

South Korea's defence minister has ordered the military to be on alert for possible Pyongyang provocations aimed at exploiting the "unstable situation at home".