South Korea: Critics call for arrest of impeached Park Geun-hye

Melba UnderwoodMar 12, 2017

Lee Jung-mi, acting Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, reads the final ruling in a historic case that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye on March 10, 2017.

Thousands of people celebrated the historic decision on the streets of the capital Seoul, with polls showing that between 70 and 80% of South Koreans had wanted the court to throw Ms Park out of office.

In its ruling, the eight-judge panel unanimously voted to impeach the president.

The ruling on whether to permanently remove Park from office or reinstate her will be made at 11 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) on Friday, the court said on its website.

An independent investigator claims the former president was an accomplice to Choi in attempting to extract 43bn won (£30.9m) from the technology giant, saying the two friends "shared economic interests", the Korea Herald reports.

Park, South Korea's first female leader, was stripped of her presidential powers in December by the National Assembly, which kicked off a period of political paralysis for the close US ally.

She is the country's first democratically elected leader to be forced from office.

"This is unprecedented in Korean history - it's like Korea's Watergate", said Robert Kelly, a political science associate professor at South Korea's Pusan National University. Park will now have to forfeit the executive immunity to criminal indictment that she enjoyed as the country's President.

FKI, the country's largest business lobby, helped raise, if not coerce, almost 80 billion won (US$69.2 million) from its member firms, including Samsung Electronics Co. and Hyundai Motor Co., for two sports foundations set up and controlled by the now disgraced former president's longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.

The prosecution's special investigation unit will look into whether Lee permitted the donations with the intent to induce Park's support - or pressure the government - for a controversial merger a year ago between two affiliates, Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries.

In 2004, the National Assembly voted to impeach then President Roh Moo Hyun for alleged breach of political neutrality expected of the president by way of the Constitution, but the Constitutional Court overturned the result, and he resumed his role as president.

South Korea's stocks and currency have remained resilient despite the crisis.

There are also fears Ms Park's sacking could spark violence between her supporters and opponents. She also would not leave the presidential Blue House residence on Friday. Lee, who is facing trial, is another potent sign that the old order is not holding.

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