South Korea's Constitutional Court on Friday (March 10) formally removed the impeached President Park Geun-hye from office over a corruption scandal that has pushed the country into a political turmoil.
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An impeachment vote was held last December where the parliament went heavily against Park, including members of her own party who voted against her in a National Assembly motion. There have been massive protests against Park with thousands taking to the streets demanding her ouster. Her relationship with close friend Choi Soon-sil reportedly led to the latter's increase in influence and financial benefits.
Friday's ruling by an eight-member panel now opens her up to possible criminal proceedings. Park, who is the country's first female leader, has also become South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be removed from office ever since democracy was introduced in the country in the late 1980s.
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Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi said Park's "acts of violating the constitution and law are a betrayal of the public trust. The benefits of protecting the constitution that can be earned by dismissing the defendant are overwhelmingly big. Hereupon, in a unanimous decision by the court panel, we issue a verdict: We dismiss the defendant, President Park Geun-hye", the Associated Press reported.
South Korea now must hold an election within two months to choose another President. According to opinion surveys, Liberal Moon Jae-in, who lost to Park in the 2012 election, currently enjoys a comfortable lead for the presidential position. The next South Korean leader will have to face grave challenges including a stagnant economy and a looming threat of attack from the hostile neighbour, North Korea.
According to pre-verdict surveys, around 70 to 80 per cent of the South Koreans wanted the top court to approve Park's impeachment.