S. Korea MPs Vote to Impeach President

South Korean President Park Geun-hye bows after addressing the nation over the political scandal.South Korean President Park Geun-hye bows after addressing the nation over the political scandal.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye is fighting for her political life after MPs voted to impeach her over a corruption and cronyism scandal that has made her the country’s most unpopular leader since it became a democracy in the late 1980s.

Friday’s vote in favor of impeachment is also being seen as a reflection of public anger over how South Korea, despite decades of economic development and freedoms that contrast dramatically with its neighbor North Korea, remains in the grip of a corrupt political and industrial elite, the Guardian reported.

By the time the votes were tallied, enough members of Park’s own Saenuri party had voted against her to bring about her impeachment–a measure of the damage inflicted on her reputation since the scandal surfaced less than two months ago.

The National assembly speaker, Chung Sye-kyun, said the bill had passed by a vote of 234 to 56, with nine invalid votes and abstentions. The bill needed the support of 200 of the assembly’s 300 members to pass.

As politicians brought Park’s presidency to the brink of destruction, protesters gathered in front of the national assembly in Seoul calling for her to resign. Inside the chamber, opposition MPs sat on the floor, raised their fists and chanted “Impeach!”

Park is expected to wait for the country’s constitutional court to decide whether Friday’s impeachment vote is valid–a process that could take up to six months.

The success of the impeachment bill–on which MPs voted anonymously–means Park will be stripped of her power. Her duties will be temporarily transferred to Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, while the court reviews whether her impeachment is constitutionally sound.

If six of the court’s nine justices support the impeachment, Park will be removed from office and a new presidential election held within 60 days.

The crisis, sparked in late October by Park’s relationship with Choi Soon-sil, an old friend, is by far the most serious of her presidency, which was supposed to run until early 2018.

Revelations that Park abused her position to help Choi secure tens of millions of dollars in funding for her foundations from major South Korean companies, and even allowed her to influence policy, have provoked a wave of anger across the country, sending the president’s approval rating to a record low of 4%.

Choi faces embezzlement charges. Park, who has been named as a formal suspect, has denied seeking any personal gain.

The revelations have led to massive protests in recent weeks, with organizers claiming that as many as 1.5 million people turned out in the capital, Seoul, last weekend to demand that Park step down.

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