Sat, Mar 11, 2017 - Page 1 News List

South Korea court orders Park removed from office

Reuters, SEOUL

An anti-government activist, right, weariung a mask of South Korea`s President Park Geun-Hye march toward the presidential Blue House after the announcement of the Constitutional Court`s decision to uphold the impeachment of Park in Seoul yesterday.

Photo: AFP

The South Korean Constitutional Court yesterday removed impeached president Park Geun-hye from office over a graft scandal involving the country’s conglomerates at a time of rising tensions with North Korea and China.

The ruling sparked protests from hundreds of her supporters, two of whom were killed in clashes with police outside the court.

Park becomes South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office, capping months of paralysis and turmoil over a corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung conglomerate in jail.

A presidential election is to be held within 60 days.

She did not appear in court and a spokesman said she would not be making any comment, nor would she leave the presidential Blue House residence yesterday.

Park was stripped of her powers after the South Korean National Assembly voted to impeach her, but has remained in the official presidential compound.

The court’s acting chief judge, Lee Jung-mi, said Park had violated the constitution and law “throughout her term” and, despite the objections of the legislature and the media, had concealed the truth and cracked down on critics.

The ruling to uphold the vote on Dec. 9 last year to impeach her marks a dramatic fall from grace for South Korea’s first female president and the eldest daughter of former South Korean president Park Chung-hee.

Park Geun-hye, 65, no longer has immunity as president and could face criminal charges over bribery, extortion and abuse of power in connection with allegations of conspiring with her friend, Choi Soon-sil.

South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn was appointed acting president and is to remain in that post until the election.

He called on Park Geun-hye’s supporters and opponents to put aside their differences to prevent deeper division.

“It is time to accept and close the conflict and confrontation we have suffered,” Hwang said in a televised speech.

Relations with China and the US could dominate the coming presidential campaign, after South Korea this month deployed the US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system in response to North Korea’s increased missile and nuclear tests.

Beijing has vigorously protested against the deployment, fearing its radar could see into its missile deployments.

Park Geun-hye was accused of colluding with Choi and a former presidential aide, both of whom have been on trial, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back her policy initiatives.

The court said she had “completely hidden the fact of [Choi’s] interference with state affairs.”

Park Geun-hye has also been accused of soliciting bribes from the head of the Samsung Group for government favors, including backing a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015 that was seen as supporting family succession and control over the country’s largest chaebol, or family-run conglomerate.

Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee has been accused of bribery and embezzlement in connection with the scandal and is in detention. His trial began on Thursday.

Yesterday, hundreds of Park Geun-hye’s supporters, many of them older, tried to break through police barricades at the courthouse.

Police said one 72-year-old man was hospitalized for a head injury and died.

The circumstances of the second death were being investigated.

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