South Korean lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Friday to impeach President Park Geun-hye over an influence-peddling scandal, setting the stage for her to become the country’s first elected leader to be expelled from office in disgrace.The Constitutional Court must now decide whether to uphold the impeachment, a process that could take up to 180 days.
Park apologized on national TV following the vote, saying she was careless and had caused a “big national chaos” — an apparent reference to her sharing classified information with a confidante lacking security clearance.
“I solemnly accept the voices of the National Assembly and the people and sincerely hope that the current confusion will come to an end in an orderly manner,” said Park, the country’s first female leader.
“… I will respond to the impeachment judgment of the constitutional court and the investigation of the special prosecutors, following the procedures set by the constitution and the law with (a) calm mind-set and then will accept its decision.”
Park, whose approval rating stands at just 5 percent, has resisted demands that she step down immediately.
Thousands took to the streets to celebrate the news. National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun made the announcement, saying lawmakers had an obligation to restore order and to execute the functions of the government.
Choi Jung-hoon, a 46-year high school teacher, joined the rally outside parliament with his wife and daughters, age 7 and 18 months.
“I wanted my kids to be here, making history, at a historic moment, and show we people can win,” he said.
Park, who is serving a single five-year term that was set to end in February 2018, has denied wrongdoing but apologized for carelessness in her ties with her friend, Choi Soon-sil.
Choi is accused of using her relationship with Park to accumulate millions of dollars in donations to her foundations and has been detained after being charged with abuse of power, fraud and coercion.
If Park leaves office early, an election must be held within 60 days.