China hopes for a rethink on missiles from South Korea's next leader

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 to uphold parliament's December 9 vote to impeach her marks a dramatic fall from grace of South Korea's first woman president and daughter of Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee. When the court announced its ruling on Friday, it was unanimous, making her the country's first democratically elected leader to be forced from office.

If the court were to force her to leave, Park might also face criminal charges because she would lose the immunity from criminal prosecution that comes with the presidency.

Her friend Ms Choi is already on trial for a string of corruption offences, as is the de facto head of Samsung, one of the companies alleged to have funnelled money through Ms Choi's charitable foundations to win political favour.

A presidential spokesman yesterday said Ms Park would continue to reside in the presidential Blue House and no date has been fixed for her to move to her private residence in the upscale Gangnam district.

Hwang spoke following clashes with police that broke out outside the nation's highest court after a panel of judges voted unanimously to uphold a legislative impeachment of Park.

"These violations undermine the rule of law and a representative democracy", said the acting chief justice.

Thousands of people celebrated the historic decision on the streets of the capital Seoul, with polls showing that between 70 and 80 pre cent of South Koreans had wanted the court to throw Ms Park out of office. An Hee-jung, Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party, acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and liberal Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung. President Park signed up to this deal of THAAD deployment.

Her lawyer, Seo Seok-Gu, who had previously compared Ms Park's impeachment to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, condemned the verdict as a "tragic decision" made under popular pressure.

Such activities have led to the arrests of her close aides on charges of corruption and other offenses.

Park's loss of power is expected to shift South Korean politics to the opposition in a major way.

6 March: The special prosecutor says Ms Park colluded with Ms Choi to take bribes from the Samsung Group, paving the way for her to be prosecuted if she is ousted from office.

Park allegedly forced several officials who did not co-operate with Choi - who is now on trial for abuse of power, coercion and fraud - to resign or change posts.

  • Leroy Wright