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South Korea lawmakers pass impeachment motion against Park

9 December 2016 14:02

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South Korean lawmakers have approved an impeachment motion against President Park Geun-hye, stripping her of sweeping executive powers over a corruption scandal that has rattled her administration.

The motion was passed in a secret balloting in South Korea’s National Assembly during a Friday session by 234 votes to 56, easily winning the required two-thirds majority in the 300-seat parliament.

“I declare that the bill to impeach President Park Geun-hye has just been approved,” said speaker Chung Se-kyun.

“Whether you support or oppose it, all lawmakers and South Korean people who are watching this grave situation unfold must feel so miserable and heavy at heart,” he added.

It was widely anticipated that the parliament would vote in favor of the impeachment measure with support from some members of Park’s conservative Saenuri Party.

It is now up to the Constitutional Court to decide whether to uphold the motion, a process that may take as long as 180 days.

During the period, Park will be suspended as president but not removed, with her duties temporarily transferred to Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn until the court reaches a decision on the legal legitimacy of her impeachment.

The anonymous paper ballot came as hundreds of protesters outside the parliament building shouted “Impeach Park.” Opposition legislators had also sat on the floor chanting “Impeach” with raised fists.

If the motion is confirmed, Park officially becomes the first democratically-elected South Korean president not to complete a full, five-year term.

Protesters wearing prison uniforms and masks of South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye march during a rally against Park in central Seoul on December 3, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The impeachment came amid polls released on Thursday and Friday reflecting overwhelming public support for the move.

A survey released by Gallup Korea on Friday indicated her approval rating stood at only five percent. It further showed that 81 percent of respondents favored her impeachment.

Park, whose term was to expire in early 2018, tried to fend off impeachment by saying she would stand down if parliament arranges a stable power transfer.

Opposition MPs, however, called the overture a stalling tactic to buy time and find ways to survive the scandal.

The 64-year-old Park stands accused of colluding with an old friend, who has been formally indicted for attempted fraud and abuse of power.

Korean prosecutors say they have evidence that Park colluded with Choi Soon-sil in her efforts from the shadows to intimidate firms into “donating” tens of millions of dollars to two dubious foundations she controlled.

Park has faced massive street protests in recent weeks.

She is the daughter of a military ruler who led the country for 18 years before being assassinated by his disgruntled spy chief in 1979.

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