– Park Geun-hye: Court ousts South Korea’s scandal-hit president

March 10, 2017

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Ms Park has also lost her presidential immunity and can be prosecuted

South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has become the country’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office.

Judges unanimously upheld Parliament’s decision to impeach her over her role in a corruption scandal involving close friend Choi Soon-sil.

Ms Park’s dismissal from office means South Korea must now elect a new president by early May.

She also loses her presidential immunity and can be prosecuted.

Ms Park has been suspended from presidential duties since December, with the country’s prime minister taking over her responsibilities.

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Ms Choi meanwhile has been charged with bribery and corruption for allegedly pressuring big companies to give money in return for government favours. Ms Park has been accused of colluding with her.

Both women have denied wrongdoing.

What the court said

A panel of eight judges with the country’s apex constitutional court had deliberated Ms Park’s impeachment before deciding there was sound reason for her dismissal.

Crowds had gathered outside the court building to hear the culmination of a drama that has gripped South Koreans and sparked mass demonstrations in Seoul and other cities.

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Many who had gathered in the streets of Seoul calling for Ms Park’s dismissal celebrated the court’s decision

The court ruled she leaked many documents in breach of a rule on securing official secrets, and violated the law by allowing Ms Choi to meddle in state affairs, according to news agency Yonhap.

Her action had “seriously impaired the spirit of… democracy and the rule of law,” said constitutional court chief justice Lee Jung-mi.

The judge added that Ms Park had “concealed completely Choi’s meddling in state affairs and denied it whenever suspicions over the act emerged and even criticised those who raised the suspicions.”

The court dismissed other impeachment charges brought against her, such as infringement on freedom of press and inaction during the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster.

‘Fury’ of the public

As the various twists and turns of the scandal came to light in recent months, public fury across South Korea intensified with many calling for her to step down.

It has also deeply divided the country, with older conservatives continuing to back her while younger liberals have demanded her dismissal.

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Distraught supporters of Ms Park wept outside the constitutional court in Seoul after the verdict was announced

The verdict on Friday morning prompted mixed emotions in the crowd outside the constitutional court, with loud cheers among anti-Park protesters while her supporters were seen shouting angrily or in tears.

The court’s decision prompted a swift response from the United States, a longtime ally.

An embassy spokesman said in a statement that they looked forward to a “productive relationship” with the next South Korean president and promised to be a “steadfast ally” to the country.

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