Impeachment of Park Geun-hye

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Impeached President Park Geun-hye, 2016

The impeachment of Park Geun-hye, former President of South Korea, was the culmination of a political scandal involving interventions to the presidency from her aide. The impeachment vote took place on December 9, 2016, with 234 members of the 300-member National Assembly voting in favor of impeachment and the temporary suspension of Park Geun-hye's presidential powers and duties.[1] Thus, Hwang Kyo-ahn, the then prime minister, became acting president while the Constitutional Court of Korea was deciding whether to accept or reject the impeachment. The court upheld the impeachment on 10 March 2017 in a unanimous 8–0 decision, removing Park from office. A fresh election will be held on 9 May 2017 to elect the next president.[2]

Background

South Korean Constitution and Constitutional Court Act

The National Assembly, where impeachment vote began.

The procedure for impeachment is set out in the South Korean Constitution.

According to Article 65 Clause 1, if the President, Prime Minister, or other state council members violate the Constitution or other laws of official duty, the National Assembly can impeach them.

Clause 2 states the impeachment bill must be proposed by one third, and approved by the majority of the total members of the National Assembly for passage. In the case of the President, the motion must be proposed by a majority and approved by two thirds or more of the total members of the National Assembly, meaning that 200 of 300 members of the parliament must approve the bill. This article also states that any person against whom a motion for impeachment has been passed shall be suspended from exercising his/her power until the impeachment has been adjudicated, and a decision on impeachment shall not extend further than removal from public office. However, impeachment shall not exempt the person impeached from civil or criminal liability for such violations.[3]

By the Constitutional Court Act of 1988, the Constitutional Court must make a final decision within 180 days after it receives any case for adjudication, including impeachment cases. If the respondent has already left office before the pronouncement of the decision, the case is dismissed.[4]

The last South Korean president to be subject to impeachment was Roh Moo-hyun, who was impeached by parliament in 2004 and was suspended from duties for two months. In that case, the Constitutional Court of Korea acquitted Roh and restored him to power.[5] However, the South Korean public was by and large in support of Roh.[6]

Choi Soon-sil scandal

Protest against Park Geun-hye in Seoul, October 29, 2016

Revelations were made in late October 2016, that President Park Geun-hye's aide, Choi Soon-sil, who did not have an official position in the government, had used her position to seek donations of money from several business conglomerates (known as chaebol), including Samsung, Hyundai, SK Group and Lotte, to two foundations she controlled.[7][8] Allegations also surfaced about Choi's access to Park's personal and work life, where it was said to have directly influenced, and interfered with the policy of, the state council. It was also suspected that she had sought political power to win past elections.[9]

Choi was arrested and Park eventually apologized three times to both the country and her cabinet, beginning in October, but protests against her continued. The protests lasted six weeks with Park's approval rating dropping to 4%, and according to an opinion poll, as of December 9, 78% of South Koreans supported her impeachment.[10]

The response to the Sewol ferry sinking accident that occurred on April 16, 2014, also contributed to Park's declining presidential ratings.[11]

Political developments

On December 3, 2016, at 4:10 am, Woo Sang-ho of the Democratic Party, Park Jie-won of the People's Party, and Roh Hoe-chan of the Justice Party moved the "President (Park Geun-hye) impeachment proposal" in the National Assembly on behalf of 171 members of their respective parties and other independent representatives, on the grounds that Geun-hye had violated the Constitution and the law.[12] Park's Saenuri Party initially preferred Park to voluntarily step down in late April, but with mounting protests, the ruling party became divided on whether Park should step down voluntarily or be impeached. On December 4, members of Saenuri's "non-mainstream" factions declared that they would vote in favor of Park's impeachment.[13]

The 300-member National Assembly was scheduled to vote on an impeachment bill on December 9, when the legislative session ended. As impeachment requires a two-thirds majority, if at least 200 members voted to impeach, Park would have been impeached and immediately suspended from her office. There were up to 172 opposition and independent lawmakers, which meant at a minimum 28 of the 128 MPs from the ruling Saenuri party needed to cross the floor and join the opposition in supporting the impeachment measure for the vote to pass.[10]

Parliamentary motion

Prime Minister, now Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn at Cabinet meeting in December 2016

On December 8, the South Korean National Assembly announced that the vote of motion to impeach would take place on December 9 at 3:00 pm local time.[14] As planned, on December 9, South Korean MPs approved the impeachment motion by a vote of 234 in favor and 56 against in a secret ballot. The Speaker of the National Assembly (who happens to be unaffiliated with any party) abstained from the vote. Two other MPs abstained from voting and seven votes were declared invalid.[15]

As a result of the impeachment motion passing, President Park's powers and duties were suspended for up to 180 days while the Constitutional Court of Korea decided about the validity of impeachment motion. It was necessary for six of the nine judges on that court to agree with the impeachment for the removal to take effect.[5]

Upon President Park's impeachment on December 9, 2016, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn assumed presidential powers and duties at 19:30 Korean Standard Time, on an interim basis.[16]

Reactions

Protesters congregated outside the National Assembly hall where the voting session was held. Some 40 family members of the victims of the sinking of MV Sewol looked on as lawmakers cast their secret ballots. Citizens who have been rallying in massive numbers against Park rejoiced at the news, while Park’s supporters called the parliamentary impeachment a "witch-hunt" without concrete evidence of Park’s wrongdoings.[17][18]

On December 10, hundreds of thousands gathered for a demonstration in celebration of the events.[19]

On January 1, 2017, Park appeared in front of the public for the first time since the impeachment, saying she denies any allegations of the scandal and wrongdoings.[20][21]

Constitutional Court hearing and removal from office

Constitutional Court building, where the judges made the impeachment decision

The South Korean Constitutional Court had up to 180 days (until early June 2017) to decide on the issue. It held public hearings to hear from both sides on whether the National Assembly had followed due process and the impeachment was justified.[6]

The Constitutional Court has been considered generally conservative, as all nine judges of the Constitutional Court were appointed during the conservative Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations.[22] The Constitutional Court was to start the Preparatory Hearing on December 22, with initial views from both sides.[23][24]

The first trial was about the mystery of the whereabouts of Park Geun-hye seven hours after the Sewol ferry sinking. The administration's delayed response to the disaster led to widespread criticism in South Korea and forced Park to deny various rumors.[25][26] Then, on December 23, the Justice Ministry of South Korea said that it has submitted its views on the recent parliamentary vote to impeach President Park Geun-hye to the Constitutional Court, adding that the process has met all the necessary legal requirements.[27]

The Constitutional Court was to officially start the main hearings on Tuesday, January 3, 2017,[28] and Park would not be required to appear for questioning. Park was absent in the first open hearing and the first session was closed after just nine minutes.[29] The hearings were rescheduled to start on January 5, 2017.[30] The trial heard arguments and evidence until February 27.[31]

Verdict

People who take pictures with holds a sign with messages reading "Candlelight's Victory" in Gwanghwamun immediately after the verdict

On March 10, 2017, the Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment in a unanimous 8–0 decision, terminating Park's presidency,[32][33] and making it the first time that a sitting president was removed from the office since the Sixth Republic of South Korea was set up after the country's democratization.[5] As supporters and opponents of Park gathered outside the building for the verdict, the ensuing clashes between her supporters and police resulted in injuries, three of them later died.[34][35][36]

Upon Park's removal from office, a new presidential election was scheduled to take place within 60 days.[6]

References

  1. ^ Choe Sang-hun (December 9, 2016). "South Korea Parliament Votes to Impeach President Park Geun-hye". The New York Times. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  2. ^ CNN, Euan McKirdy. "South Korea presidential election date announced". CNN. Retrieved 2017-03-15. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Umeda, Sayuri (December 2, 2016). "South Korea: President May Be Impeached". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 25, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c "Park Geun-hye: South Korea lawmakers vote to impeach leader". BBC News. December 9, 2016. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c Park, Ju-min; Kim, Jack (December 9, 2016). "South Korean parliament votes overwhelmingly to impeach President Park". Reuters. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  7. ^ "South Korea prosecutors: President conspired with her friend". Associated Press. Retrieved December 10, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Prosecutors raid Lotte, SK, finance ministry over Choi scandal". The Korea Times. November 24, 2016. Retrieved December 10, 2016. 
  9. ^ "South Korea's presidential scandal". BBC News. December 9, 2016. Retrieved December 10, 2016. 
  10. ^ a b Campbell, Charlie (December 9, 2016). "South Korea's Loathed President Park Geun-hye Has Been Impeached". TIME.com. Time. Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  11. ^ "This could be the week that ends Park Geun-hye's presidency in South Korea". Los Angeles Times. December 5, 2016. 
  12. ^ "South Korean opposition parties introduce bill to impeach scandal-hit President Park Geun-hye". The Independent. December 3, 2016. Retrieved December 10, 2016. 
  13. ^ "South Korean President To Wait For Court's Impeachment Verdict". Yahoo. December 6, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Parlemen Korea Selatan tetapkan Pemakzulan Presiden Park besok". Tempo (in Indonesian). December 8, 2016. 
  15. ^ Joo Youngjae; Huh Namseol (December 9, 2016). "[속보] 박근혜 대통령 탄핵소추안 가결···찬성 234·반대 56·무효 7·기권 2". KyungHyang (in Korean). Retrieved December 9, 2016. 
  16. ^ "South Korea's Impeachment Process, Explained". The New York Times. November 28, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Rakyat Korsel Rayakan Pemakzulan Presiden Park Geun-hye". detikcom (in Indonesian). December 9, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Park Geun-hye Impeached". Korea Herald. December 9, 2016. 
  19. ^ "South Koreans rally to celebrate Park ouster". PressTV. Retrieved December 10, 2016. 
  20. ^ "'Totally framed': South Korean President Park Geun-hye denies any wrongdoing, plays down aide's influence". South China Morning Post. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 
  21. ^ "South Korea's Park emerges from seclusion, denies wrongdoing in scandal". Reuters. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 
  22. ^ Ser Myo-Ja; Song Seung-Hwan (December 10, 2016). "Politics and public view may influence justices". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved December 19, 2016. 
  23. ^ Divya Kishore (December 20, 2016). "South Korea court was held first impeachment trial of Park Geun-hye on 22 December". International Business Times. Retrieved December 20, 2016. 
  24. ^ Choe Sang-hun (December 22, 2016). "South Korean Court Begins Hearings on Park Geun-hye's Impeachment". New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2016. 
  25. ^ Kim Bo-eun (December 22, 2016). "President '7 missing Hours' still in mystery". Korea Times. Retrieved December 25, 2016. 
  26. ^ South Korea parliament probes Park's 'missing hours', Al Jazeera (December 14, 2016).
  27. ^ "(LEAD) Justice ministry submits views on impeachment to court". Yonhap News. December 23, 2016. Retrieved December 25, 2016. 
  28. ^ "Court to Start Official Hearings on Park's Impeachment next Tuesday". KBS World. December 27, 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2016. 
  29. ^ "South Korean leader Park absent as impeachment hearing begins". BBC. January 3, 2017. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 
  30. ^ "Park, Choi deny all charges". The Korea Herald. 5 January 2017. Retrieved 5 February 2017. 
  31. ^ "(3rd LD) Court hears final arguments in Park's impeachment trial". Yonhap. 27 February 2017. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  32. ^ "Park Geun-hye: Court ousts South Korea's scandal-hit president". BBC. Retrieved 10 March 2017. 
  33. ^ Hu, Elise (2017-03-09). "South Korean Judges Uphold President Park Geun-hye's Impeachment". NPR. Archived from the original on 2017-03-09. Retrieved 2017-03-09. 
  34. ^ "Two killed in clashes as South Korea ousts President". Press TV. 2017-03-10. Retrieved 2017-03-10. 
  35. ^ "Park Geun-hye fired as court upholds impeachment". 
  36. ^ Herald, The Korea (March 11, 2017). "3rd protester dies as S. Korea braces for more rallies". 

External links

  • Media related to Movement for the resignation of Park Geun-hye at Wikimedia Commons
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