By: Savannah Smith | 12-09-2016 | News
Photo credit: The Goldwater

South Korea's President Has Been Impeached Following Political Unrest

South Korean President Park Geun-hye was impeached today by the country's National Assembly, effectively ending a term that was marked by corruption scandals that triggered six weeks of massive street protests.

It was an overwhelming vote against Park. The impeachment vote required only at least 28 of the president's fellow Saemuri Party lawmakers to cross the aisle to complete the majority two-thirds of the 300-seat legislature. In the end, the final vote stood at 234 to 56 in favor of the impeachment.

The impeachment vote mirrors the public sentiments against Park. The corruption charges and scandals have pushed her approval rating to plunge to a mere 4%. A recent survey also reveals that 78% of respondents supported her impeachment.

Massive crowds numbering between 500,000 to 1.5 million have been protesting the past weeks in Central Seoul strongly demanding Park's ouster. Banner-waving crowds outside the chamber likewise greeted the impeachment vote with wild cheers.

With the affirmative impeachment vote, Park is immediately suspended. The vote, however, needs to be ratified by the nation's Constitutional Court within 100 days to become permanent.

South Korea's Prime Minister will take over Park's duties in the interim, although Park had earlier offered to resign if lawmakers voted against her. If Park makes her resignation, new elections for the nation's President must be held within 60 days.

Park has yet to issue a statement regarding her impeachment. She has not been officially seen since Tuesday, preferring to hole up in the presidential Blue House, while fervent demonstrations were ongoing only a mile away.

While presenting the impeachment bill, opposition lawmaker Kim Kwan-young said that Park has violated the Constitution and other laws concerning her public duties, as well as forgetting her duty as the nation's leader and administrative chief.

Park has been accused of sharing classified documents with her friend and long-time confidante, Choi-Soon-sil. Choi was charged with using her influence over Park to get almost $70 million " donations" from the country's biggest companies including LG, Hyundai and Samsung.

Park, 64, is the daughter of former South Korea's military dictator Park Chung-hee, mainly credited for spearheading the nation's rapid economic growth of the 1970s and 80s.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn is also unpopular among the opposition and protesters due to his perceived closeness with the scandal-hit Park administration. South Korea now faces an uncertain political time.

South Korea's political affairs remain relevant for Washington as the country is a close ally of the U.S. in East Asia along with Japan. Washington and Seoul also have shared interests in curbing the nuclear ambitions of rogue state North Korea.

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