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South Korean Parliament Impeaches President

South Korean Flag

The President of South Korea has been impeached by that country’s Parliament after nearly a year of corruption allegations came to a head:

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s Parliament voted on Friday to impeach President Park Geun-hye, an aloof conservative who took a hard line against North Korea and rose to power with strong support from those who revered her father, the military dictator Park Chung-hee.

The vote against Ms. Park, the nation’s first female leader, followed weeks of damaging disclosures in a corruption scandal that has all but paralyzed the government and produced the largest street protests in the nation’s history. Her powers are suspended while the Constitutional Court considers whether to remove her from office.

Ms. Park suggested that she intended to fight her impeachment, telling cabinet members hours later that she would “calmly” prepare for the court trial and giving no hint that she would resign.

“I am gravely accepting the voices of the people and the National Assembly, and I sincerely hope that the confusion will come to a satisfactory end,” she said at the presidential Blue House in a meeting broadcast on national television.

She also apologized — her fourth public apology in less than seven weeks — for “my lack of discretion and my carelessness,” but she did not acknowledge any legal wrongdoing.

Ms. Park has been accused of allowing a shadowy confidante, the daughter of a religious sect leader, to exercise remarkable influence on matters ranging from choosing top government officials to her wardrobe, and of helping her extort tens of millions of dollars from South Korean companies. The scandal, which gained national attention less than two months ago, has cast a harsh light on collusion between the presidency and big business in one of Asia’s most dynamic economies.

Thousands of people who had gathered outside the Parliament building in the frigid cold danced, cheered and blew on horns when the news was announced.

“My heart is beating so fast,” said Han Joo-young, 47, an executive at a nonprofit organization who had come from Paju, north of the capital. “I am so touched that people who are usually powerless can have so much power when they come together.”

The impeachment motion, accusing Ms. Park of “extensive and serious violations of the Constitution and the law,” will now be taken up by the Constitutional Court, which has six months to decide whether the charges are true and merit her ouster.

A total of 234 lawmakers voted for impeachment, well over the required two-thirds threshold in the 300-seat National Assembly, the lone house of Parliament in South Korea. The vote was by secret ballot, but the results indicated that nearly half of the 128 lawmakers in Ms. Park’s party, Saenuri, had joined the opposition in moving to oust her.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, a former prosecutor and staunch defender of Ms. Park, will serve as acting president in the meantime. If the court votes to remove Ms. Park, South Korea will hold an election for a new president in 60 days.

The New York Times has a fairly good summary of the process from here going forward. As noted above unlike the United States, where impeachments of Judges and Executive Branch officials would be tried in the Senate, the actual trial on the charges against Park will be heard by the nine Justices who sit on South Korea’s Constitutional Court, the Court of last resort in the Republic of Korea. If she is found guilty by at least six of the Court’s nine members, she will be removed from office and there will be new elections for the office of President. In that regard, the Times lists potential successors. If acquitted, she will, of course, continue in office until the end of her current term. Until the matter is resolved, the Presidency will be held by the current Prime Minister who is a member of the same party as Ms. Park so there should not be much of a change in policy. It’s unclear from the reports I’ve read whether the Prime Minister will be required to hand over his post to a deputy during this period. South Korean law also requires the Constitutional Court to act take up the impeachment motion within 180 days, which is important because timing is important here. As the linked article notes, two of the Justices on the Constitutional Court are set to step down in March. If the Court has not ruled by then, it’s unclear if the Acting President would have the authority to replace them, meaning that Park could only be removed if six of the seven remaining Justices vote to convict. This is important because six of the Justices on the Court right now were appointed by Park, although it’s worth noting that the impeachment vote included many members of Park’s own party so that may not be an indication of how the Justices might vote.

Given its location in the world, and the fact that one of the most unstable and potentially dangerous regimes in the world is located just on the other side of a Demilitarized Zone that remains a global hotspot sixty-four years after the Korean War ended in a still unfinalized armistice, any political instability in South Korea is worth paying attention to, but it is worth noting that there’s much about the process that has unfolded there to be optimistic about. In the past, a crisis such as this might have led to a military coup or increases in the authoritarian rule that has been a part of the history of South Korea since the Korean Peninsula was divided. We now seem to have reached a point where the system can deal with a problem like this the way the country’s Constitution intended with relatively little instability. Despite that happy note, the present question of Park’s position will hopefully be resolved in short order so that there isn’t an opportunity for the Kim regime to exploit instability in the south to get away with more adventurism and military provocation.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    The incoming POTUS is already – before even taking office – more corrupt than President Park.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  2. Jack says:

    @michael reynolds: Says the man who supported “I remember landing under sniper fire” Clinton.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9

  3. Jack says:

    @michael reynolds: Says the man who supported the woman who claimed in a speech at Andrews Air Force Base three days after the Benghazi attack – when she specifically and intentionally lied to the American people and blamed an internet video for the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Chris Smith, Ty Wood and Glenn Doherty.

    Yeah, no corruption there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

  4. michael reynolds says:

    @JackYour Messiah is a crook, a proven fraud, a bankrupt, a rip-off artist, a scumbag and utterly, profoundly, permanently corrupt. He is already the most corrupt president at least since Harding. He’s handing the economy to Goldman Sachs and shoving money into his own pockets. That’s your populist.

    Let’s put a clock on you. Let’s see just how long it takes to penetrate your dim little brain that you’ve been played. It’s like watching a Labrador Retriever chasing a ball you only pretended to throw. How many times till the dog figures it out? How many games of 3-Card Monte are you going to lose before it occurs to you you’re a sucker?

    I’m getting a big tax cut from Cheeto. What are you getting? Oh right: no health insurance.

    I get richer, you get fwck-all, and you’re so dumb you think you’ve won the lottery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  5. Jack says:

    @michael reynolds: Aww, someone is all butthurt. Suck it up, buttercup.

    Or, please, move to New Zealand. We won’t miss your fugly mug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  6. Jack says:

    @michael reynolds: You talk about Goldman Sachs like Hillary didn’t go there once a month with her hands outstretched. You hypocrite. The Clinton Foundation–and thus the Clintons have gotten rich through corruption. They pay out less that 6% to charity and spend the rest on themselves. Bill and Hillary have and will remain the most corrupt people alive since Ferdinand Marcos. Hillary herself rivals Slobodan Milosevic, Jean-Claude Duvalier, and Mohamed Suharto in the amount of money she has stuck under her petticoat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  7. Jack says:

    @michael reynolds: After Brian Williams was caught lying to the American public, Hillary was quoted as saying “Brian Williams is an amateur.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  8. C. Clavin says:

    Trump said Hillary was crooked because she gave speeches at Goldman Sachs.
    Now he has appointed at least three crooks from Goldman Sachs to his cabinet.
    Drain the swamp, indeed.
    Fools like Jack and JKB and Gaurneri and JKB and Jenos got conned so bad by the Cheeto-Boy.
    I wish you idiots lived in my neighborhood so I could sell you a bridge.
    What a bunch of morons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Jack:

    I may well move to NZ once my daughter is out of school. Or the UK. Or Portugal. Or France. We were looking at French properties on-line the other day, and using nothing but the tax cut for the rich your Goldman Sachs president will be giving me over the course of four years, I can buy an honest-to-God castle in the Languedoc. Like with a tower and crenelations.

    But yeah, it looks like I may be stuck here in Marin County for the next two years, rich, prosperous, crime-free Marin, with nothing to do but wake up and watch the sun rise over Angel Island and light up the Bay, then work my exhausting three hours a day, drive my Mercedes to my nearest posh grocery store and load up on Brie and Chablis (actually steak and Blanton’s, but close enough), smoke some legal weed conveniently delivered to my house, and go out on my kid’s balcony for a view of the sun setting over Belvedere before sitting down to eat the aforementioned steak.

    So butthurt. Ouch. The pain! Better roll a fattie of ‘medicine’ and see whether I can calm myself.

    Oh look: Cheeto hired another Goldman Sachs guy. Because it’s all for you, Jack. Because you won! You won! Yay you!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  10. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:

    They pay out less that 6% to charity

    What an amazing display of idiocy.
    From Fact-Check.org

    Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina says that “so little” of the charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation “actually go to charitable works” — a figure CARLY for America later put at about 6 percent of its annual revenues — but Fiorina is simply wrong.
    Fiorina and others are referring only to the amount donated by the Clinton Foundation to outside charities, ignoring the fact that most of the Clinton Foundation’s charitable work is performed in-house. One independent philanthropy watchdog did an analysis of Clinton Foundation funding and concluded that about 89 percent of its funding went to charity.

    I would expect no more from someone like Jack…who worships a pathological liar. After all…you are what you eat.
    What a phucking moron.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  11. Jack says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I may well move to NZ once my daughter is out of school. Or the UK. Or Portugal. Or France.

    Good for you. Like I said, we won’t miss your fugly mug.

    #countingthedays

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  12. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin:

    charitable work is performed in-house

    Chelsea Clinton’s wedding is not a charity. Bill’s birthday party is not a charity.

    In house charity indeed! No corruption there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    Let’s see…should I listen to…an independent philanthropy watchdog…or a douche-phuck like you???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  14. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: I’m surprised you can even type from the fetal position you’ve been in since the election of President Trump!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  15. dxq says:

    Linda McMahon was the largest donor to the trump foundation. She’s now been given a cabinet position.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  16. Jenos The Deplorable says:

    I wonder how long Our Hosts will put up with the whining crybabies turning every single thread into a piss-and-moan fest about how terrible Trump was.

    Look, you did you best to get the corrupt, brain-damaged, congenital liar across the finish line, and you failed. Get over it, or GTFO.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  17. CB says:

    I thought this was a thread about South Korea..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  18. CSK says:

    As Doug points out, the only really worrisome aspect of this impeachment is the possibility of North Korea somehow exploiting the situation, but the fact that South Korea appears stable (as witness the functioning of this process) seems to mitigate this.

    The contrast between north and south is extreme: Remember when Kim Jong Un ordered that every adult male in the country get the same idiotic haircut as he so that any escapee/refugee/defector would be immediately recognizable (and returnable).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. C. Clavin says:

    @dxq:

    Linda McMahon was the largest donor to the trump foundation. She’s now been given a cabinet position.

    The new motto for the Trump economy???
    LET’S GET READY TO CRUMBLE!!!
    It makes sense, doesn’t it, that a con-man would appoint someone who promoted phony wrestling?
    Oh…Jenos and Jack probably think it’s real.
    Sorry children.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable:

    Get over it, or GTFO.

    Right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    Presented with facts…you have no response.
    What a pu$$y

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. Linda McMahon is being appointed head of the Small Business Administration. To be fair, I do not believe that this is considered a Cabinet-level appointment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. Guys,

    I had a feeling that posting about the impeachment of President Park would lead back into arguments over domestic politics in the United States.

    Per the comment policy let’s try to keep the comments on the topic of the post itself.

    Incidentally, I’ve got a new post up about the conflicts of interests that Trump is refusing to to do anything about to which many of these comments would be apropos.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Surreal American says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable:

    I wonder how long Our Hosts will put up with the whining crybabies turning every single thread into a piss-and-moan fest about how terrible Trump was.

    Using your past and continuing presence here as a basis, I would say 4 to 8 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Jack:

    Yeah, you realize I can still comment here from overseas, right? In fact, if James were to check his log he’d see me originating from half a dozen countries. So, OMG, Jack: you don’t even get that. You get nothing at all. Nothing. So sad. Call Goldman Sachs and ask them where your new high-paying factory job is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  26. Surreal American says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “World” is part of the www acronym? Who knew?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  27. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds: Once the high-paying factory job has been shipped overseas, it will be relatively high paying for the local area. And, I’m sure that he can apply for it, like everyone else.

    A working knowledge of Spanish or Mandarin might help. It’s a pity so few Americans. Know a second language.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @CB: The article was, but the thread becomes the property of whoever hijacks it first Today it was Reynolds and Jack; tomorrow it might be somebody else. Even the John Glenn obit got jacked. Sad. Pathetic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: That might be true if any of the OT comments were thoughtful or based on actual information. As it is, they are merely STFU writ large. Sad. Pathetic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. edmondo says:

    If you ever wondered why some of us stopped coming here on a daily basis, read this comment thread.

    Only Michael Reynolds could make the impeachment of South Korea’s president somehow about him.

    See ya in three months (maybe).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  31. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @edmondo: Feel your pain, dude, and I don’t even particularly like you or agree with you on much of anything. Maybe these guys will shout themselves hoarse soon.

    It was nice when this was a place where intelligent people came to have intelligent discourse. Even allowing for Jenos and the boys, the conversation was refreshing compared to other places. These days, not so much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. wr says:

    @edmondo: “If you ever wondered why some of us stopped coming here on a daily basis, read this comment thread.”

    Never wondered. Never noticed. Never cared.

    Still don’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  33. Paul Hooson says:

    Despite all of the economic economic advances of South Korea, the country just cannot seem to get beyond corrupt politicians and business leaders, with many resignations, removals from office, or indictments. It’s a fine country with hard working intelligent people, but the politicians and business leaders seem to find new ways to disappoint.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Paul Hooson: Despite all of the economic economic advances of South Korea the United States, the country just cannot seem to get beyond corrupt politicians and business leaders, with many resignations, removals from office, or indictments. It’s a fine country with hard working intelligent people, but the politicians and business leaders seem to find new ways to disappoint.

    Fixed that for you. Feel free to replace the US with the name of any other developed (or undeveloped) nation in the world if you prefer a difference place. People tend to be the same everywhere and power tends to corrupt.

    And your statement seems ironic coming from a person living in a country that just elected Trump.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0