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Park Geun-hye, the First Democratically Elected President Removed from Office

     The Constitutional Court formally dismissed Park from office on Friday, March 10, after uphelding a parliamentary impeachment vote in December last year. After the court announced its decision, the flag showing two phoenixes, the presidential symbol of South Korea, was lowered from a Blue House flagpole. This decision has made Park Geun-hye as the first democratically elected president to be removed from office in South Korea. Ms. Park left the Blue House two days later and returned to her private residence in southern Seoul. Since South Korea’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to impeach her in December, Park’s power had been sharply reduced since then.

     A special prosecution team accused Ms. Park of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, to pressure big businesses into contributing to foundations set up to support her policies and allowing Choi to influence state affairs. Although the prosecutors have identified her as a criminal suspect accused of bribery, extortion, and abuse of power in recent months, they could not indict her or even summon her by force while she was president. Now that she has become an ordinary citizen, prosecutors moved swiftly.

15korea-1-superJumbo     By law, the country must elect a new president within 60 days which means that the acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, an ally of Ms. Park’s, will remain in office in the interim. The Minister of the Interior, Hong Yun-sik, stated that South Korea will hold an election on May 9 to choose a successor and promised the vote would be the most clean and transparent ever. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn himself said he would not run in the election.

     Ms. Park has remained in the presidential palace after her removal from power. However, she did give a brief statement read by one of her aides reporters outside her home, saying “I am sorry that I could not finish the presidential duty that was entrusted to me, I will bear with me all the consequences.” In Myung-jin, the leader of Ms. Park’s conservative Liberty Korea Party, also said that he “humbly respected” the ruling. Remembering young South Korea’s democracy is, Park Geun-was’ removal was done without any violence, after large, peaceful protests in recent months demanding that she step down. Kang Won-taek, a political scientist at Seoul National University, said that it is a new milestone in the strengthening and institutionalizing of democracy in South Korea.





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