South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye has been impeached Friday after South Korean lawmakers overwhelmingly voted in favor of ousting her over a corruption scandal, Time reports. The parliament vote favoring Park’s impeachment marks the first time the country has unseated an elected leader from office.
Parliament members voted 234 to 56 in favor of impeaching President Park, requiring at least 28 of her fellow Saenuri party lawmakers voting to remove her. The motion to pass the impeachment required a minimum of 200 votes of the 300-seat chamber.
President Park Heon-nyu has been suspended immediately but the vote still requires ratification from the Constitutional Court within 180 days for the impeachment decision to be permanent.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has taken over in place of Park in the interim.
Prior to the parliamentary voting, Park offered to resign from her post if lawmakers voted against her. If she indeed resigns, new elections must be held within 60 days. She, however, would lose presidential immunity if she left her post early, and could be charged for bribery and abuse of power.
Crowds of banner-waving protesters cheered outside the chamber as soon as the motion to impeach President Park was passed.
“President Park Geun-hye has not only forgotten her duty as the nation’s leader and administrative chief but also violated the Constitution and other laws concerning her public duties,” said opposition lawmaker Kim Kwan-young during the presentation of the impeachment bill.
Park has been accused of sharing top-secret documents to long-time friend Choi Soon-sil, the daughter of shaman-like cult leader whose influence held sway over many large corporations in South Korea. Park and Choi have been indicted by prosecutors for using their influence to pressure large corporations to donate to two foundations set up mainly to support the president’s policy initiatives.
Park has been under intense pressure to resign from her post as mass protests were held in Seoul every Saturday for the past six weeks. Opinion polls show that a big majority of the nation’s population favors Park’s impeachment. Protesters, whose numbers ranged between 500,000 to 1.5 million, see Park’s corruption scandal as a prime example of the impunity being faced by Korean society.
Shortly before the voting started, a thousand protesters scuffled with police in front of the parliament’s main gate.
Police had to shut down traffic on a 10-lane highway in the parliament’s grounds and installed a blockade on a bride leading to the area.
President Park Geun-hye is the 64-year-old daughter of South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee, a strongman leader who ruled the East Asian nation from the early 60’s to the late 70’s.
A poll released Friday showed that her approval rating has sunk to five-percent. A survey conducted by Gallup Korea shows that 81-percent of respondents supported impeachment.
After the voting, the Constitutional Court will do checks on whether the parliament went through due process and whether there are substantial grounds for impeachment.
Park Geun-hye apologized for the corruption scandal three times and maintained that she didn’t do anything for personal gain, as reported by The Sydney Morning Herald.
“My heart is crushed when I think I cannot resolve the deep disappointment and anger of the people even if I apologize 100 times,” she said in a televised statement.
The President has not made a formal statement and has not been seen since Tuesday, choosing to stay inside the presidential Blue House in spite of the raging protests occurring less than a mile away.
“She really has been very tone-deaf to what the people want,” said Professor Sean O’Malley, a political scientist at Dongeo University.
South Korea’s economy has been in dire straits on account of heightened tensions within the country’s political ranks, and in part due to fears over U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s policies on trade and foreign affairs.
[Featured Image by Pool/Getty Images]