South Korean President Park Geun-hye has been removed from office following a decision from the Constitutional Court. The country’s parliament had impeached Park in December, but the court had to rule on the matter. The court had the option of either upholding the impeachment or reinstating Park.
The court announcement was televised. All eight justices counted in favor of upholding the decision. As a result, an election will be held within 60 days.
During the court’s deliberations, Park was stripped of her powers, leading her an unpopular figurehead. Park’s approval rating has hovered around the low single digits, as low as 4%, and has hit 0% in some regions.
In the capital city of Seoul, all members of the police force were deployed in anticipation of protests. The city was under the Gabho emergency order, the highest emergency level.
“Those who try to hamper the court’s ruling or use violence to disobey the decision should be dealt with strictly,” Lee Cheol-seong, chief of the National Policy Agency, said.
Park had previously offered to resign, but only if the National Assembly approved.
Park has been involved in an extortion and corruption scandal that involves her close friend, Choi Soon-sil. Choi, who is at the center of the controversy, also serves as Park’s spiritual advisor, but has also been accused of being heavily involved with all of Park’s decisions, from wardrobe to North Korean policy.
Park was elected on a platform of limiting the influence of chaebol, the term for large multinational corporations like Samsung. Instead, Choi, with Park as an accomplice according to authorities, extorted millions of dollars from the chaebol. Choi also used her position of influence to secure donations for a non-profit she ran. Prosecutors allege that Choi got $66 million donated to two of her non-profits by two members of the chaebol in exchange for the government approving their controversial merger. The prosecutors also say that Choi took some of that money for herself.
Choi and Park’s friendship dates back decades. Park is the daughter of the former president and dictator of South Korea, Park Chung-hee. Choi is the daughter of the late religious cult leader Choi Tae-min. Park’s mother was killed in an assassination attempt meant for her father and the elder Choi said that he could communicate with the mother from the grave. Since then, the younger Choi has served as a spiritual leader to the younger Park. Choi is currently on trial for her involvement.