South Korea impeaches president as two die in protests
by Compiled from Wire Services
ISTANBULMar 11, 2017 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Compiled from Wire Services
Mar 11, 2017 12:00 am
After months of a political scandal that has crippled South Korea, President Park Geun-Hye on Friday was stripped of her powers by the Constitutional Court.
Allegations that Park's long-time friend, and daughter of a cult leader with no official role in the administration, pulled government strings from the shadows has united many in a state of boiling rage.
Other players who were caught in the widening scandal include Park's advisers and the Samsung heir. Here's a breakdown:
While Park's conservative supporters clashed with police outside the court, elsewhere, most people welcomed her ouster. A recent poll showed more than 70 percent supported her impeachment.
Hundreds of thousands of people have for months been gathering at peaceful rallies in Seoul every weekend to call for her to step down.
On Friday, hundreds of Park's supporters outside the court, many of them elderly, who tried to break through police barricades. Police said one 72-year-old man was taken to hospital with a head injury and died. The circumstances of the second death were being investigated.
Six people were injured, protest organizers said.
Police blocked the main thoroughfare running through downtown Seoul in anticipation of bigger protests.
In 1990, Park resigned as chairman of a separate foundation over suspicions that she allowed the Choi family to manipulate it for personal gain. Choi Soon-sil, whose ex-husband is a former close aide of Park's, reportedly, built a fortune during the 1980s and 1990s through real estate investments in affluent neighborhoods in southern Seoul.
After weeks of speculation, Park acknowledged in 2016 that Choi had edited some presidential speeches and helped with "public relations." A raft of media stories, however, portrays a much deeper involvement. The liberal Hankyoreh newspaper, for instance, citing a former Choi associate, reported that a senior presidential aide gave thick stacks of government draft reports to Choi on a daily basis. Choi then allegedly discussed the issues with her friends and sent back recommendations to the president. Choi is also said to have used her relationship with Park to win special favors for Choi's daughter and to pressure businesses to contribute money to two nonprofit foundations that Choi helped create and that she then looted for her own use.
According to prosecutors, Lee Jae-yong, the de-facto Samsung boss, used Samsung corporate funds to buy expensive horses for Choi's daughter. He also allegedly gave or promised 43.3 billion Won ($38 million) to four entities controlled by Choi. Investigators say the money was given to obtain government backing for a contentious merger of two Samsung companies in 2015 that served as a key step in passing corporate control to Lee from his ailing father. Lee has denied the allegations, but was arrested last month on charges including bribery.
Amongst others, the court accused Park of abusing her powers, infringing upon property rights of private businesses and concealing Choi's inference in state affairs.
Park's "acts of violating the constitution and law are a betrayal of public trust. […] The benefits of protecting the constitution that can be earned by dismissing the defendant are overwhelmingly big. Hereupon, in a unanimous decision by the court panel, we issue a verdict: We dismiss the defendant, President Park Geun-hye" read the verdict that the court's eight-judge panel approved unanimously.