President Park Geun-hye holds a meeting with Cabinet ministers at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Dec. 9, 2016
South Korea’s parliament on Friday passed a motion to impeach President Park Geun-hye over her alleged link to a corruption scandal involving her confidante that has paralyzed the government for the past several weeks.
The motion was passed with an approval of 234 lawmakers from the 300-seat National Assembly, meeting the minimum requirement of 200. The passage suspends all the president’s authority as the head of state before the Constitutional Court announces its review.
The Constitutional Court will review the legitimacy of the motion, which will take up to 180 days. It took 63 days for the court to dismiss the impeachment motion against late former President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004.
Before a ruling is made, the country’s prime minister will take on the responsibility of president.
With the next presidential election originally slated for December 2017, if the court rules against Park, the country will have to re-schedule the race to an earlier date. By law, a general election must take place within 60 days of a president stepping down or being removed from office.
The impeachment was proposed by South Korea’s three opposition parties, claiming Park violated the Constitution and other rules in relation to the influence-peddling scandal of her confidante Choi Soon-sil. Choi is suspected of exerting influence on state affairs and enjoyed unlawful benefits.
Park, who has consistently argued that the charges leveled against her are untrue and politically motivated, earlier clarified she will wait for the Constitutional Courts review and stated she contests all accusations to prove her innocence. The remarks indicate she will not step down from her post voluntarily.
President Park Geun-hye called on Cabinet ministers to do their utmost to minimize the government vacuum and stabilize citizens’ livelihoods on Friday, a little over an hour after parliament passed a motion to impeach her over a corruption scandal.
During a meeting with the ministers, the embattled leader renewed her apology over the high-profile case centering on her confidante, saying she “seriously” accepted citizens’ voices and hoped for an end to national confusion sparked by the scandal.
Pointing to security and economic challenges facing the nation, Park also stressed the need for the ministers to make concerted efforts to stabilize state affairs pending an impeachment trial during which she will be suspended from carrying out her duties.
“From now on, I will calmly respond to an impeachment trial at the Constitutional Court and an independent counsel probe in accordance with the procedures laid out in the Constitution and the (related) law,” a solemn-looking Park said.
“I hope that with the prime minister as acting president playing a central role, each minister will do his or her utmost to minimize any government vacuum in the economic and security realms by staying united with the extraordinary determination,” she added.
The president, in addition, expressed her concerns that a series of economic projects the government has been carrying out to forge future growth engines have been impeded by the ongoing scandal.
“I hope that each minister can push for those projects, which are important for the country’s future,” she implored.
The National Assembly passed the motion by a vote of 234 to 56.
Upon receiving the parliamentary document approving the motion, Park will be suspended and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn will serve as acting president.
The Constitutional Court will soon initiate an impeachment trial to determine Park’s fate as head of state, a process that could take up to 180 days.
Park has been mired in the high-profile scandal involving her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.
The president is alleged to have allowed Choi — with no security clearance — to gain unlawful access to advance drafts of presidential speeches and documents, some of which were classified as confidential.
She is also suspected of playing a role in pressuring local conglomerates into donating large sums of money to two nonprofit foundations controlled by Choi.
Cheong Wa Dae has denied all the allegations, saying she would establish her “innocence” through an independent counsel probe that will be launched later this month.