South Korea President Removed from Office
March 20, 2017
President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, was formally removed from office due to a corruption scandal as reported by the New York Times. The decision brings an end to the career of South Korea’s first female president who was also the daughter of Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee. Back in Dec. 2016 Park was stripped of her power after a legislative impeachment vote, but was still allowed to live in the presidential Blue House while she awaited the Constitutional Court’s decision.
The corruption scandal that cost Park her presidency mainly involved Park’s friend and informal adviser, Choi Soon-sil. Soon-sil was accused of attempting fraud and abusing power after claims came up accusing her of having access to secret government documents and of intervening in state affairs as reported by CNN. Park was accused of being influenced by Choi, who is now on trial for abusing power and fraud. It was agreed by the Constitutional Court that Park abused her authority by helping Choi raise money for foundations set by Choi through donations from companies. The scandal now also includes Lee Jae-yong, head of Samsung, who was charged with bribing Park and Choi and is now going to face jailing as reported by The New York Times.
During the ruling’s national broadcast Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi said the court decided to dismiss Park for committing “acts that violated the Constitution and laws” during her time as president according to The New York Times. Park’s acts “betrayed the trust of the people and were of the kind that cannot be tolerated for the sake of protecting the Constitution,” Justice Lee said. While there was no comment from Park on the ruling, Myung-jin, the leader of Park’s political party said he “humbly respected” the ruling.
The removal of Park is expected to shift South Korea’s politics to the left-wing opposition, who want to have more engagement with North Korea and are cautious about major confrontation in the region. Its reported by The New York Times that they said they will be re-examining the country’s joint strategy with the U.S. on North Korea and defuse tension with China, that emerged because of the growing military presence of America in Asia.
The ruling of Park’s removal caused protests from her supporters which left 30 police officers and protesters injured and a few dead. The three protesters age 60, 72, and 74 died during protests, one was reported by The New York Times as dying due to falling off a police bus. ”We lost our liberty. We lost our Korea,” one supporter said in a report from CNN. But there were also anti Park supporters on the streets who celebrated the announcement. Around 21,000 officers and 270 units were put out before the announcement was made in case protests broke out.
With the removal of Park she will be stripped of her immunity and be legally responsible to face prosecution. There will also be a speedy presidential election in 60 days though South Korea’s temporary president warns that North Korea may take advantage of South Korea during this time of uncertainty as reported by CNN.