The South Korean Parliament has endorsed an impeachment motion against President Park Guen-hye with overwhelming support from lawmakers due to allegations of corruption. Members of Park’s own Saenuri Party voted for her removal from office. The motion passed by a vote of 234 to 56. She will be replaced by the country’s prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, who will act as the interim president.
Park’s presidency was formally suspended at 7:03 p.m. local time. Her suspension will last for up to 180 days. During this time, the Constitutional Court will review the impeachment motion and determine whether the impeachment was justified. The Constitutional Court is made up of nine members. Six of these members must rule the impeachment justifiable for Park to be removed permanently. If fewer than six judges find the impeachment justifiable, she will be immediately returned to power.
Thousands of South Korean citizens have been taking to the streets to demand Park’s impeachment for weeks. Park is accused of using her powers to allow a close friend, Choi Soon-sil, to gain political influence and financial benefits from her connection to Park. Park and Soon-sil have been accused of using their political power to pressure corporations into donating to two foundations owned by Soon-sil. She would then allegedly embezzle money from those donations for personal use. Park has also been accused of granting Soon-sil, her close personal friend, access to confidential government documents and even letting her have say in government decisions.
In 2004, South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun was impeached and suspended for two months before being reinstated. If approved by at least six Constitutional Court judges, Park will become the first sitting President of South Korea to be impeached during the country’s democratic era. The country will then have 60 days to elect a new leader.