10 Mar 2017

South Korea's president forced from office

4:52 pm on 10 March 2017

South Korea's Constitutional Court has upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye - removing her from office over a graft scandal involving big business that has gripped the country for months.

Park Geun-hye

Park Geun-hye Photo: AFP

She was impeached by Parliament in December over a case involving her close friend Choi Soon-sil.

Ms Choi has been charged with bribery and corruption for allegedly pressuring big companies to give money in return for government favours.

Ms Park has been accused of colluding with her.

The scandal has also led to the heir-apparent of the technology giant Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, being formally indicted on multiple charges including bribery and embezzlement.

Ms Park's dismissal from office means South Korea must now elect a new president by early May.

She also loses her presidential immunity and can be prosecuted. She and Ms Choi have denied wrongdoing.

Ms Park had been suspended from presidential duties since December, with the country's prime minister taking over her responsibilities.

She is the country's first democratically elected leader to be forced from office.

'Impaired spirit of democracy'

A panel of eight judges had been deliberating on Ms Park's impeachment, before deciding there was sound reason for her dismissal.

The court said she leaked many documents in breach of a rule on securing official secrets and violated the law by allowing Ms Choi to meddle in state affairs, according to news agency Yonhap.

Her action had "seriously impaired the spirit of ... democracy and the rule of law," chief justice Lee Jung-Mi said.

"President Park Geun-Hye... has been dismissed."

Timeline

2012: Ms Park wins her party's primary to become presidential candidate and defeats liberal candidate Moon Jae-in.

25 Feb, 2013: Ms Park is sworn in as the first female president of South Korea.

25 Oct, 2016: Ms Park makes her first public apology for giving Ms Choi access to draft speeches during the first months of her presidency.

31 Oct, 2016: State prosecutors arrest Ms Choi on suspicion of exerting inappropriate influence over state affairs.

4 Nov, 2016: Ms Park makes her second televised apology, saying she would take responsibility if found guilty.

20 Nov, 2016: Prosecutors indict Ms Choi on charges of abuse of power and attempted fraud.

29 Nov, 2016: In her third televised apology, Ms Park asks Parliament to decide how and when she can give up power over the scandal.

9 Dec, 2016: Parliament votes to impeach Ms Park. She is stripped of powers while awaiting a court decision on the vote. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn becomes acting president.

1 Jan, 2017: Ms Park denies wrongdoing, calling accusations "fabrication and falsehood".

6 March: The special prosecutor says Ms Park colluded with Ms Choi to take bribes from the Samsung Group, paving the way for her to be prosecuted if she is ousted from office.

9 March: Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong's trial begins on charges of bribery and embezzlement. He is indicted on charges including pledging $US37.24 million in payments to Ms Choi.

10 March: Constitutional Court upholds Parliament's vote to impeach Ms Park, removing her from office.

- BBC / Reuters

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