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The clock is ticking for Park Guen-hye

South Korea

The clock is ticking for Park Guen-hye

South Korea’s Constitutional Court has up to 180 days to decide whether to uphold the impeachment of President Park Guen-hye.

It comes after the country’s lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to impeach her over an influence-peddling scandal.

“I feel deep responsibility” -interim president

Under the constitution, Park’s duties are assumed by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn.

This will be on an interim basis until the court rules.

“I stand here with a heavy-hearted sadness,” Hwang said in a televised address.

“As an aide to the president, I feel deep responsibility about the situation we have come to face.”

An emergency cabinet meeting was held on Friday.

The impeachment vote

The impeachment motion was carried by a wider-than-expected 234-56 margin in a secret ballot in parliament.

This means more than 60 of Park’s own conservative Saenuri Party backed removing her.

Scuffles outside parliament

Anti-Park protesters scuffled with police as they tried to drive two tractors up to the main gate of South Korea’s parliament in the run-up to the vote.

“I wanted my kids to be here, making history, at an historic moment, and show we people can win,” said Choi Jung-hoon, a 46-year-old high school teacher.

Mass rallies have been held in the capital, Seoul, every Saturday for the past six weeks to press Park to quit.

Opinion polls showed overwhelming support for her impeachment.

Jubilant South Koreans celebrated with cheers and dances on Friday after news of the impeachment vote came through.

What has Park Guen-hye said?

Park has resisted demands that she stand down immediately.

Her approval rating, however, stands at just five percent.

“I solemnly accept the voice of the parliament and the people and sincerely hope this confusion is soundly resolved,” Park said at a meeting with her cabinet.

She added that she would comply with the court’s proceedings as well as an investigation by a special prosecutor.

South Korea’s political crisis in five

  • 64-year-old Park is accused of colluding with a friend and former aide to pressure businesses to donate to two of her foundations
  • She has denied wrongdoing but admitted “carelessness”
  • Her five-year-term was due to end in 2018
  • If she leaves office early, an election must be held within 60 days
  • UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon and ex-lawmaker Moon Jae-in are poll frontrunners to replace Park

Will Ban Ki-moon run?

The current UN secretary general has not said whether he will seek his country’s presidency when his UN tenure finishes at the end of the year.

“The Secretary General is confident that the people will overcome the present diffculties through unity and resilience, as well as a strong commitment to democratic institutions and principles,” Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.