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South Korean president sacked by top court

Published Mar 10, 2017 11:00am


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South Korean acting Constitutional Court's Chief Judge Lee Jung-mi, top centre, speaks during the final ruling of South Korean President Park Geun-hye's impeachment at the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea Friday, March 10.
South Korean acting Constitutional Court's Chief Judge Lee Jung-mi, top centre, speaks during the final ruling of South Korean President Park Geun-hye's impeachment at the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea Friday, March 10.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye was fired by the country's top court on Friday, as it upheld her impeachment by parliament over a wide-ranging corruption scandal.

The unanimous decision brought to a climax months of political turmoil that brought millions of people onto the streets in weekly protests, and triggers a new presidential election to be held within 60 days. That will offer South Korea a chance to draw a line under the scandal, which has occupied its attention for months, even as North Korea has unleashed new missile launches and threats that have raised international alarm.

Park, the country's first female president, also becomes its first leader to be removed by impeachment. She is obliged to leave the Blue House and loses her executive immunity from prosecution.

Her actions “seriously impaired the spirit of representative democracy and the rule of law,” constitutional court chief justice Lee Jung-Mi said.

“President Park Geun-Hye... has been dismissed.”

Rival groups of supporters and opponents watched as the verdict was read out live on television.

Anti-Park demonstrators erupted with joy when the verdict was read out, cheering and hugging each other, some shedding tears. “We won, we won,” they chanted.

“I am so pleased that I cannot hold back tears,” said Shin Seo-Young, 43, clasping her friend.

“This is a sweet revenge.”

A few hundred metres away, and separated by a huge police presence, the president's flag-waving supporters were stunned.

“We don't accept this decision,” said Cho Bong-Am, 60, a kindergarten operator.

“We will take to the streets to fight to the end.”

A few minor scuffles broke out as the largely older pro-Park crowd sought to register their dissent, but were rapidly brought under control.

Rule of law

Park was found to have broken the law by allowing her friend Choi Soon-Sil — who is already on trial for abuse of power — to meddle in state affairs, and breached rules on public servants' activities.

“Park's breaching of the constitution and the laws betrayed the trust of the people,” said judge Lee, describing her actions as “a serious and unacceptable violation of the laws”.

The president “completely concealed Choi's meddling in state affairs and denied it whenever suspicions over the act emerged and even criticised those who raised the suspicions.”

One of Park's lawyers expressed “strong regrets” over the verdict.

But Kwon Seong-Dong, a lawmaker and a member of the parliamentary indictment committee, said the verdict confirmed the rule of law and that “all people including the president are equal in front of the law”.

And Park's own Liberty Korea party apologised, with its interim leader saying it “failed to protect the dignity and pride of South Korea”.

'Wise decision'

Park, the daughter of a late army-backed dictator, secured the highest vote share of any candidate in the democratic era when she was elected in 2012.

But her aloof style and a series of controversies, coupled with mounting economic and social frustrations, saw her ratings plunge and millions take to the streets to demand her removal.

She was impeached by parliament in December on charges including bribery and abuse of power, and an overwhelming majority of South Koreans — around 77 per cent — supported Park's removal in opinion polls.

She repeatedly apologised for the impact of the scandal, but rejected all allegations of wrongdoing when she submitted a written statement to the court's last hearing in February.

“I've never sought private gains or abused power as president... I plead with the court to make a wise decision,” she said.

With the corruption crisis resolved, South Korea must now turn its attention to the troublesome North, whose recent provocations pose a challenge to US President Donald Trump who has vowed to reign in the regime.

China, concerned over an American missile-defence system being rolled out in the South, has urged compromise including the scrapping of annual US-South Korean military exercises that infuriate Pyongyang.

Thousands of US troops are stationed in the South, and State Department spokesman Mark Toner said it would “continue to meet all our alliance commitments, especially with respect to defending against the threat from North Korea.”

The impeachment, he added, was a “domestic issue” and the US had no position on it. “It is up to the Korean people and their democratic institutions to determine the future of their country, and we respect their decisions.”

Washington looked forward to a “productive relationship with whomever the people of South Korea elect to be their next president”, he said.

The presidential election is expected to be held on May 9. The front-runner is Moon Jae-In, former leader of the opposition Democratic Party, who had the support of 36.1 per cent in a Realmeter poll released on Thursday.


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Comments (17) Closed

Junaid anwar Mar 10, 2017 10:59am

Well well well , its high time that our elders also take the same step.

Loyal Citizen Mar 10, 2017 11:18am

When this will happen in Pakistan?

K SHESHU BABU Mar 10, 2017 11:25am

She might have become a scapegoat for the wrongs done by the government politicians indulging in rampant corruption. The US might have a hand in the ongoing imbroglio in South Korea.

IMTIAZ ALI KHAN Mar 10, 2017 12:04pm

@Loyal Citizen we are all waiting these billionaires can't run our land forever. People will wake up one day, though they to try to put money to win the minds of poor and come in power again.

KT Mar 10, 2017 12:07pm

Others country should take lesson from this and uphold justice against corruption in their respective country.

Sajjad kamran Mar 10, 2017 01:02pm

Justice delivered !

Let Pakistan be purged of the corrupt leaders in the same fashion.

Saad saeed Mar 10, 2017 01:07pm

May I live to see such a day in Pakistan!

sajjad Mar 10, 2017 01:33pm

Looking forward towards our Supreme Court....

M.Saeed Mar 10, 2017 01:55pm

@Loyal Citizen, wait a few days for your answer.

Sc reponsible Mar 10, 2017 02:17pm

why cannot our SC also deliver the justice QUICKLY to Pakistani nation

sherryaar Mar 10, 2017 02:27pm

SC should really learn from this !!

Skeptic Mar 10, 2017 02:37pm

In Pakistan, something like this will require a miracle.

Don't expect any institution to challenge the Emperor. He has absolute powers.

Poor Pakistani Mar 10, 2017 03:22pm

@Loyal Citizen . Never

GHUNCHA GUL KHAN Mar 10, 2017 11:32pm

In Pakistan running the government is always a family affair... case in point Maryam Safdar Nawaz, Hamza Sharif, etc.

ADIl Mar 11, 2017 12:54am

We will see the same result soon in our country. Only the SC is taking too long for simple verdict.

Sameer Mar 11, 2017 10:08am

This is what true democracy is all about. Power to the S.Korean people. The Top courts for S.Korea have done their duty...will Supreme Court note?!

Junaid Mar 12, 2017 07:54pm

That can only happen when masses are educated and aware.