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South Korean lawmakers impeach president, handing power to prime minister

On Friday, South Korea's National Assembly overwhelmingly voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye, with dozens of members of Park's own conservative Saenuri Party joining the opposition in a lopsided 234-56 vote. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn will immediately take over for Park while the Constitutional Court decides if the impeachment is valid, a process expected to take no more than 180 days. If the court sides with parliament, Park will be permanently removed from office and new elections will be held within 60 days.

Park, South Korea's first female leader, was elected in 2012 and scheduled to serve through February 2018. Calls for her resignation or removal have grown since prosecutors indicted a close friend, Choi Soon-sil, and two former presidential aides last month on suspicion of using presidential influence to accrue power and shake down companies to donate to foundations controlled by Choi. At the time, prosecutors say they believe Park was "collusively involved" with the suspects' criminal activities, though Park denies all legal wrongdoing. Her offer to resign two weeks ago was widely seen as a stalling tactic. Park's approval rating on Friday stood at 5 percent, according to Gallup Korea, and 81 percent of Koreans supported her impeachment.

Park, 64, is the daughter of former South Korean military dictator Park Chung-hee, who was assassinated in 1979. Her four years in office have been marred by an authoritarian governing style and a 2014 ferry disaster, which many Koreans blamed on government corruption and incompetence. The National Assembly impeached President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004 for incompetence and small election law violations but the Constitutional Court put him back in office. Park is not expected to be so lucky.