Following a saga of scandalous allegations, South Korean president Park Geun-hye has been impeached by the majority of the country’s parliament on Friday afternoon. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn will assume interim presidential powers.
Lawmakers voted 234 in favor of and 56 against Park’s impeachment, Korea JoongAng Daily reported. The move suspends her executive powers as the Constitutional Court decides, within 180 days, whether to remove her from office permanently.
Park responded in a statement (via ABC.net):
“I solemnly accept the voice of the Parliament and the people and sincerely hope this confusion is soundly resolved. I will be responding calmly under the procedures laid out in the constitution and the law to the impeachment review by the Constitutional Court and the investigation by the special prosecutor.”
The motion to impeach Park is grounded on alleged violations of constitution and criminal laws, the most glaring of which saw Choi Soon-sil, a friend and informal adviser, to access secret government documents and interfere with state affairs.
Choi was placed on “emergency detention” by prosecutors last month, CNN noted. She was accused of abusing her relationship with Park and coercing big local conglomerates to donate about 80 billion won ($69 million) to her two foundations.
At this point, Prime Minister Hwang is expected to deal with two countries dubbed the most critical to South Korea’s security. According to the Korea Times, the acting military chief must check on North Korea, which poses threats of nuclear attacks, and the United States, which has protected the South since the Korean War of the 1950s. He said in a statement:
“South Korea will now have to monitor the North more stringently and relay down special mandates through military chains in case of emergencies. There will also be some kind of ‘actions’ between military authorities from South Korea and the U.S.”
Meanwhile, Hwang as chief diplomat eyes “maintaining the status quo,” which means less presidential-level engagements with other countries as the Constitutional Court determines Park’s fate.
Park serves a five-year term that ends in February 2018. With her impeachment, she follows a long list of South Korean presidents who had been disgraced from office. These include Syngman Rhee, Park Chung-hee, Chun Doo-hwan, Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung, Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak.
Feature Image via Ash Carter