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    South Korean President Park Geun-hye (File)

    Park Won't Walk: South Korea's First Female President Impeached

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    South Korea's Constitutional Court on Friday confirmed the decision of the country's parliament to impeach President Park Geun-hye due to her involvement in a corruption scandal.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The political scandal involving the president emerged in October 2017, when local media first reported that Park’s friend and "shadow adviser" Choi Soon-sil allegedly received drafts of Park's speeches before they were publicly delivered, though she had never held a public post. The following day, Park officially admitted asking Choi for advice on speeches and public relations issues, and apologized for "causing public concern."

    Choi is the daughter of Choi Tae-min, the leader of the cult-like Church of Eternal Life Christian sect, who died in 1994. Park became friends with Choi’s family after her mother was tragically killed in an assassination attempt against her father, then-President Park Chung-hee. In 1979, after Park’s father was killed, her friendship with Choi became even closer.

    On October 24, 2016, the JTBC television network reported that Park allowed Choi to edit her speeches, thus giving her opportunity to influence the country’s politics. Choi is also suspected of having used her ties with the president to pressure more than 70 local companies and business groups to donating some $70 billion to non-profit Mir and K-Sports foundations, with the money then having been funneled via paper company set up by Choi.

    Amid the scandal Park has instructed her senior secretaries to resign, and reshuffled the government.

    On November 1, Choi was detained by the prosecutors, and two days later, the court issued an arrest warrant. On November 4, Park, whose disapproval rating skyrocketed to 89 percent, announced that she was ready to give testimony with regard to the scandal.

    Choi was formally indicted on November 20, with the charges including extortion and abuse of power. The prosecution believes she used part of the money to buy property abroad, and to pay for her daughter’s education in Ewha Womans University in Seoul, one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

    The country’s prosecutors questioned several members of the president’s administration and a number of other high-ranking officials, as well as senior executives of Samsung, Hyundai Motor, Hanwha, Hanjin, SK, LG, Lotte and CJ, the eight largest corporations of South Korea.

    The scandal caused massive protests in the country, with millions of people attending the rallies against President Park.

    The country’s opposition announced plans to seek a vote on impeachment against Park Geun-hye in December.

    On November 28, Park canceled the meeting with the prosecutors because of her busy schedule. She was expected to be questioned face-to-face on November 29.

    The bill to impeach President Park was officially introduced in the parliament on December 8. On December 9, the parliament voted in favor of Park’s impeachment. A total of 234 lawmakers voted in favor of the motion and 56 voted against in the 300-seat parliament. Park accepted the results of the vote, and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn assumed office as the country's interim leader.

    According to the South Korean constitution, the impeachment has to be approved or rejected by the country’s Constitutional Court.

    Amid the scandal, the ruling Saenuri Party split, with dozens of its lawmakers creating a new conservative Bareun Party, which officially became a member of the South Korean National Assembly on January 24.

    On February 17, Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong (Jay Y. Lee) was arrested after having been questioned twice amid allegations of being involved in the corruption scandal. He is suspected of having paid millions into Choi’s foundations in return for concessions. In a preliminary hearing for the trial on March 9, Lee denied all charges. The second preliminary hearing is set for March 23, while the date of the verdict's announcement has not been announced so far.

    On February 28, special prosecutors identified Park as a criminal suspect for colluding with Choi in extorting money from the country's largest conglomerate Samsung Group in return for business favors. Park, however, did not face charges due to her immunity from criminal indictment while in presidential office.

    On March 6, the special prosecution team confirmed that Park was an accomplice of Choi. They are believed to have used phones registered under names of other people, which is a violation of the country’s laws, to communicate 573 times between April and October 2016. Park is also said to have been involved in blacklisting 9,473 liberal-leaning cultural figures that were critical of her policy.

    On March 10, the Constitutional Court delivered its final verdict on the parliament's impeachment of the president. This means that the impeached president would be finally excluded from governance and her immunity from criminal indictment would also end. The new presidential election is expected to take place within 60 days.

    The court's ruling has caused mass rallies in the South Korean capital, as both Park's supporters and opponents took to the streets. The protests have already turned violent and at least two people were killed in the clashes.

    Related:

    Unidentified Hackers Attempt to Disrupt Probe Into Park Geun-hye’s Scandal
    Park Geun-hye: President With No Country
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    impeachment, Choi Soon-sil, Park Geun-hye, South Korea
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