South Korea votes to impeach president over corruption scandal

The vote to remove Park Geun-hye, the country's first female president, was supported by many members of her own party

Harry Cockburn
Friday 09 December 2016 08:15 GMT
The South Korean parliament has overwhelmingly voted to impeach president Park Geun-hye
The South Korean parliament has overwhelmingly voted to impeach president Park Geun-hye (EPA)

South Korea has voted to impeach its president Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal involving some of the country’s largest companies.

The vote means Ms Park, the country’s first female president, will also become the country’s first democratically elected leader to be impeached.

The vote in the National Assembly was passed by 234 votes to 56, indicating many members of the president’s ruling Saenuri party supported the motion.

“I declare that the bill to impeach President Park Geun-Hye has just been approved,” speaker Chung Se-Kyun announced in parliament.

“Whether you support or oppose it, all lawmakers and South Korean people who are watching this grave situation unfold must feel so miserable and heavy at heart.”

“I deeply wish that such tragedy in our constitutional history will not be repeated ever again,” he added.

South Korea’s constitutional court will decide whether to uphold or reject the vote – a process which could take up to six months.

Ms Park is suspended with immediate effect, bringing an end to her term in office which became mired in a bizarre corruption scandal that saw millions take to the streets in protest.

The prime minister will become the acting president until the court returns its verdict.

The vote followed recent opinion polls which showed 78 per cent of Koreans supported her impeachment.

The scandal erupted after it emerged a close friend and mentor of the president, named Choi Soon-sil, allegedly used her relationship with Ms Park to extort over $70m from firms including Samsung, LG and Hyundai.

Vast crowds took to the streets of Seoul as the scandal unfolded, demanding an end to Ms Park’s presidency.

Prior to the impeachment bill’s introduction, Ms Park said she was willing to resign voluntarily if parliament shortened her term.

The corruption scandal had paralysed the South Korean government in recent weeks. The vote to impeach Ms Park leaves a power vacuum amid chaos in the country that faces a slowdown in growth and heightened tensions with its unpredictable neighbour, North Korea.

Ms Park is yet to comment on the results of the vote, but she is due to attend a meeting with her cabinet and the prime minister who will assume the role of interim president.

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