President Park Impeachment Vote PASSES National Assembly, Constitutional Court Next
SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's parliament on Friday passed a motion to impeach President Park Geun-hye over her alleged link to a corruption scandal involving her confidante that has paralyzed the government for the past several weeks.
The motion was passed with the approval of 234 lawmakers from the 300-seat National Assembly, meeting the minimum requirement of 200. The passage suspends all the president's authority as the head of state before the Constitutional Court announces its review.
While 299 lawmakers joined the anonymous vote, 56 lawmakers voted against the impeachment, while two abstained. Seven votes were considered invalid.
The Constitutional Court will review the legitimacy of the motion, which will take up to 180 days. It took 63 days for the court to dismiss the impeachment motion against late former President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004.
Before a ruling is made, the country's prime minister will take on the responsibility of president.
With the next presidential election originally slated for December 2017, if the court rules against Park, the country will have to re-schedule the race to an earlier date. By law, a general election must take place within 60 days of a president stepping down or being removed from office.
The impeachment was proposed by South Korea's three opposition parties, claiming Park violated the Constitution and other rules in relation to the influence-peddling scandal of her confidante Choi Soon-sil. Choi is suspected of exerting influence on state affairs and enjoyed unlawful benefits.
Park, who has consistently argued that the charges leveled against her are untrue and politically motivated, earlier clarified she will wait for the Constitutional Courts review and stated she contests all accusations to prove her innocence. The remarks indicate she will not step down from her post voluntarily.
The motion said Park violated the Constitution as well as other laws, adding she took advantage of her authority granted by the people.
The opposition parties said the president broke the country's supreme law by allowing Choi to exert influence on state affairs. Park also disrupted the free market system by forcing conglomerates to donate funds to the Mir and K-Sports foundations, which could be considered a form of extortion.
Investigators have claimed that Choi may have tried to siphon off money to enrich herself from these entities. Lawmakers said Park provided conglomerates with favors in return for their donations, adding the actions could be considered a form of bribery.
The motion added that Park failed to protect the safety of the people as stipulated by the Constitution by failing to properly cope with the deadly sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014, which claimed more than 300 lives.
The parties also claimed Park exerted influence on personnel issues of local firms and media, which also violated rights stipulated in the Constitution. The leak of presidential documents to Choi was also cited as one of the main grounds.
Lawmakers added that Park refused to faithfully cooperate with the prosecutors' investigation. While prosecutors earlier said the president was an accomplice of Choi, Park's attorney said the investigation was only based on "imagination and conjecture," and refused the request for face-to-face questioning on her role in the scandal.