South Korea’s Constitutional Court removed President Park Geun-hye from office on Friday over a graft scandal involving South Korea’s conglomerates at a time of rising tensions with North Korea and China.
Park becomes South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office, capping months of paralysis and turmoil as hundreds of thousands crammed the streets to protest a corruption scandal that has also landed the head of the Samsung conglomerate in a jail cell.
A presidential election will be held in 60 days, according to the constitution.
The court’s acting chief judge, Lee Jung-mi, said Park had violated the constitution and law “throughout her term”, and despite the objections of parliament and the press, she had concealed the truth and cracked down on critics.
“The removal of the claimee from office is overwhelmingly to the benefit of the protection of the constitution. … We remove President Park Geun-hye from office,” Lee told the hearing.
Park denied any wrongdoing.
The ruling to uphold parliament’s Dec. 9 vote to impeach her over the scandal marks a dramatic fall from grace of South Korea’s first woman president and daughter of Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee. Both of her parents were assassinated.
She did not appear in court on Friday.
Park, 65, no longer has immunity as president, and could now face criminal charges over bribery, extortion and abuse of power in connection with allegations of conspiring with her friend, Choi Soon-sil.