South Korea Votes to Impeach Scandal-Plagued President - My FrontPager

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South Korea Votes to Impeach Scandal-Plagued President

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South Korean lawmakers on Friday voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye​, the country’s first female leader who has drawn the anger of millions in her country over an influence-peddling scandal that has left her isolated and loathed.
South Korea's National Assembly passed a bill on Park's impeachment by a vote of 236 for and 56 opposed. There were nine invalid votes and abstentions. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn takes over on an interim basis.


Park will be stripped of her power until the country’s Constitutional Court makes a final decision on whether she must permanently step down. The court has up to 180 days to decide. She will formally removed from office if six of the court’s nine justices support her impeachment. A snap presidential election would then be held.
Prosecutors allege Park colluded with a longtime friend to extort money from companies and to give that confidante extraordinary sway over government decisions. Park has repeatedly apologized in public over the allegations but denies any wrongdoing. Amid the scandal, her public approval ratings have plunged to 4%, the lowest among South Korean leaders since democracy came to the Asian nation, the region's fourth largest economy, in the late 1980s.


Park offered little fresh reaction to the vote, saying only that she takes the outcome seriously and would prepare for the court's review. She also offered another apology for her "negligence" in the scandal that could end her four years in office. Her tenure has been marked by increased tensions with North Korea and criticism of her government's handling of a 2014 ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people, the majority of them teenagers on a school trip. Recently, economic trade has stalled.


"I’d like to say that I’m deeply sorry to the people because the nation has to experience this turmoil because of my negligence and lack of virtue at a time when our security and economy both face difficulties," Park said at government cabinet meeting after the vote. She urged the nation to unite behind Hwang.
If Park is removed from office there is always the risk that her departure could upend the nation's pro-U.S. foreign policy. In line with U.S. efforts she has worked to isolate North Korea and deprive it of foreign sources of income over its nuclear missile tests.


Encouraged by President Obama, Park's administration has also sought improved ties with stalwart U.S. ally Japan, a bitter South Korean enemy in past decades because of Japan's wartime occupation of Korea. But there has been more policy ambivalence from Park in relation to China, in part because trade between the two outweighs trade with the U.S. and Japan combined.


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