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HomeWorldSouth Korea's President Park faces historic impeachment vote

South Korea's President Park faces historic impeachment vote

By Jack Kim and Cynthia Kim
| SEOUL

SEOUL South Korean President Park Geun-hye, engulfed in an influence-peddling scandal, faces a historic impeachment vote in parliament on Friday that could see her become the country’s first democratically elected leader to be ousted from office.

Parliament is expected to vote in favour of impeachment, with support from some members of Park’s conservative Saenuri Party, but the Constitutional Court must decide whether to uphold the motion, a process that could take up to 180 days.

Park is accused of colluding with a friend and a former aide, both of whom have been indicted by prosecutors, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back her policy initiatives.

She has denied wrongdoing but apologised for carelessness in her ties with the friend, Choi Soon-sil.

The 64-year-old president said this week she would await the court’s ruling, signalling that the six-weeks-long political crisis marked by huge Saturday rallies calling for Park’s ouster is set to continue.

Parliament introduced the impeachment bill on Thursday and it must be voted on within 24 to 72 hours. The speaker, Chung Sye-kyun, asked for a vote on Friday.

If the motion passes, the Constitutional Court will determine whether parliament followed due process and whether there are sufficient grounds for impeachment, a process that will involve arguments from the two sides in public hearings.

The court is considered conservative in its makeup but some of its former judges have said the case against Park is strong and was likely to be approved.

The Bank of Korea will hold emergency meetings to review policy measures that may be taken against any fallout from the vote, a central bank official said.

In 2004, parliament impeached then-President Roh Moo-hyun, suspending his powers for 63 days while the court reviewed the decision and the prime minister oversaw state affairs.

The court overturned Roh’s impeachment.

The stakes are high for both sides. The leaders of the two main opposition parties said their 159 members would all resign if the impeachment motion failed, taking responsibility for their inability to follow through on the demands of the public.

Park, the daughter of a former military ruler, is under intense pressure to resign immediately. Her approval rating is at a record low of 4 percent.

A Realmeter poll released on Thursday said 78.2 percent of respondents wanted Park to be impeached.

(Reporting by Jack Kim and Cynthia Kim; Editing by Tony Munroe, Robert Birsel)

-Reuters