On Friday morning, South Korea's Constitutional Court voted to remove President Park Geun-hye from office, upholding her impeachment by the National Assembly in December. Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi read the unanimous ruling from the eight-member panel on national TV, saying Park committed "acts that violated the Constitution and laws" and that "betrayed the trust of the people and were of the kind that cannot be tolerated for the sake of protecting the Constitution."
The judicial and legislative ouster, a first for South Korea, caps a scandal involving Park, her childhood friend and adult confidante Choi Soon-sil, and some of the country's biggest business executives. Choi, two former presidential aides, and several business executives — notably Samsung acting chairman and heir apparent Lee Jae-yong — have already been indicted in the sprawling scandal. Park, 65, not only lost the presidency Friday but also her legal immunity, opening her up to prosecution for bribery, extortion, and abuse of power. South Korea will hold new elections within 60 days, and the liberal opposition Democratic Party is expected to take power for the first time in a decade. Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn will stay in office in the interim.
Park, South Korea's first female president, is the daughter of former Cold War-era dictator Park Chung-hee, who ruled from 1961 until his assassination in 1979. Much of Park's support came from older, more conservative South Koreans who remember the economic leap forward ushered in by her father. Younger and more liberal Koreans had protested for months calling for Park's ouster amid the growing scandal. As the verdict was read on Friday, Park's critics cheered in the streets while some of her supporters wept.