South Korea's President is Impeached, Celebrations, Protests Abrupt
On Friday, the South Korean court officially removed president Park Geun-hye from office. The top court unanimously ruled to fire her following her corruption scandal.
“We announce the decision as the unanimous opinion of all judges. We dismiss the defendant President Park,” said Justice Lee Jung-mi.
Her acts “betrayed the trust of the people and were of the kind that cannot be tolerated for the sake of protecting the Constitution,” according to Lee.
This is the first time in history that a democratically elected leader has been forcibly removed and immediately after the decision, the country entered into a state of chaos. But, this has been the norm for months.
“In December, lawmakers voted to impeach Park by a vote of 234 to 56, stripping away her executive powers. Since then she has remained in the presidential palace, known as the Blue House, but has remained largely out of public view,” writes CNN.
Prior to her official impeachment, thousands of Koreans gathered for weeks in protest of Park.
Now tens of thousands of those protesters are celebrating, but a much smaller crowd of 100 took their place. Park’s supporters violently protested the court’s decision. Two protestors died following the clash with police officers and dozens were wounded during the incident.
But, the majority of the country saw Park’s impeachment as the justice she deserved after being exposed for being a corrupt politician.
“The President was accused of being unduly influenced by her longtime friend and adviser, Choi Soon-sil, who is on trial for abuse of power and fraud,” said CNN. “The Constitutional Court agreed with accusations that Park had abused her authority in helping Choi raise donations from companies for foundations she had set up.”
Now she has been stripped of her immunity and is liable to prosecution. She could be charged with bribery, extortion and abuse of power.
The country will hold an election in 60 days and a government official said an ad-hoc cabinet meeting is expected to be held soon, reported CNN. Liberal candidate Moon Jae-in, who was defeated by Park in 2012, is leading in the polls.
Being without a leader and in such political chaos puts the country in a compromising situation, especially considering North Korea has recently been testing nuclear weapons.
“Now, her downfall is expected to shift South Korean politics to the opposition, whose leaders want more engagement with North Korea and are wary of a major confrontation in the region. They say they will re-examine the country’s joint strategy on North Korea with the United States and defuse tensions with China, which has sounded alarms about the growing American military footprint in Asia,” writes The New York Times.
So how did the U.S. government respond to this?
“We will continue to work with Prime Minister Hwang for the remainder of his tenure as acting President, and we look forward to a productive relationship with whomever the people of South Korea elect to be their next president,” said acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
Author’s note: Although, we are glad to see a corrupt politician be forced to face the consequences for her actions (too bad Clinton wasn’t proper reprimanded…) This leaves a U.S. ally in a vulnerable position.