SEOUL: South Korea’s highest court voted unanimously to confirm the impeachment of scandal-hit President Park Geun-hye on Friday (Mar 10).
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn was appointed acting president and will remain in that post until the election to select Park’s replacement, which will be held within 60 days.
“We remove Park Geun-hye from office,” Lee Jung-mi, acting president of the court, told the hearing. “Her actions betrayed the people’s confidence. They are a grave violation of law which cannot be tolerated.”
Park, 65, was impeached by parliament in December on charges including bribery and abuse of power, after accusations that she colluded with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure big businesses into making contributions to foundations set up to support her policy and allowing her to exert influence on state affairs.
The votes of at least six of the eight judges in the Constitutional Court were needed to uphold the impeachment. In the meantime, Park continued to hold the title of president in name only, with her executive powers stripped after her impeachment in parliament.
Park and Choi have consistently denied wrongdoing.
In the lead-up to the court’s decision, tens of thousands of pro- and anti- Park protesters took to the streets in rival mass rallies.
The case has also engulfed South Korea’s biggest business, with the heir to the Samsung empire and four other top executives indicted on multiple charges including bribery and embezzlement.
The Seoul market’s benchmark KOSPI index rose after the ruling.
“As the saga is coming to an end, markets will be relieved that South Korea finally can push forward to press ahead with electing new leadership,” said Trinh Nguyen, senior economist at Natixis in Hong Kong.
“The hope is that this will allow the country to have a new leader that can address long-standing challenges such as labour market reforms and escalated geopolitical tensions.”
The daughter of a late army-backed dictator, Park became South Korea’s first female president when she was elected in 2012, securing the highest vote share of any candidate in the democratic era.