South Korea constitutional court dismisses President

Ruling caps months of paralysis and turmoil over corruption scandal involving Park Geun-hye

Updated - March 10, 2017 11:47 pm IST

Published - March 10, 2017 08:11 am IST - Seoul, South Korea

President Park Geun-hye PHOTO: AFP

President Park Geun-hye PHOTO: AFP

South Korea’s Constitutional Court removed President Park Geun-hye from office on Friday over a graft scandal involving the country’s conglomerates at a time of rising tensions with North Korea and China.

The ruling sparked protests from hundreds of her supporters, two of whom were killed in clashes with the police outside the court.

Ms. Park becomes South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced out of office, capping months of paralysis and turmoil over a corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung conglomerate in jail.

A snap presidential election will be held within 60 days.

Ms. Park did not appear in court and a spokesman said she would not be making any comment nor would she leave the presidential Blue House residence on Friday.

“For now, Park is not leaving the Blue House today,” Blue House spokesman Kim Dong Jo told Reuters.

‘Constitution violated’

Ms. Park was stripped of her powers after Parliament voted to impeach her but has remained in the President’s official compound.

The court’s acting chief judge, Lee Jung-mi, said Ms. Park had violated the constitution and law “throughout her term”, and despite the objections of Parliament and the media, she had concealed the truth and cracked down on critics.

Ms. Park has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

The ruling to uphold Parliament’s December 9 vote to impeach her marks a dramatic fall from grace of South Korea’s first woman president and daughter of Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee, both of whose parents were assassinated.

Ms. Park, 65, no longer has immunity as President, and could now face criminal charges over bribery, extortion and abuse of power in connection with allegations of conspiring with her friend, Choi Soon-sil.

Political realignment

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn was appointed acting President and will remain in that post until the election. He called on Ms. Park’s supporters and opponents to put their differences aside to prevent deeper division. “It is time to accept, and close the conflict and confrontation we have suffered,” he said in a televised speech.

A liberal presidential candidate, Moon Jae-in, is leading in opinion polls to succeed Ms. Park, with 32% in one released on Friday. Mr. Hwang, who has not said whether he will seek the presidency, leads among conservatives, none of whom has more than single-digit poll ratings.

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