Saturday, 31 July 2021

South Korean court throws president out of office; two die in protests

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SEOUL: South Korea’s Constitutional Court removed President Park Geun-hye from office over a graft scandal involving the country’s conglomerates at a time of rising tensions with North Korea and China. The ruling sparked protests from hundreds of her supporters, two of whom were killed in clashes with police outside the court, and a s k 1festive rally by those who had demanded her ouster who celebrated justice being served. “We did it. We the citizens, the sovereign of this country, opened a new chapter in history,” Lee Tae-ho, who leads a movement to oust Park that has held mostly peaceful rallies in downtown involving millions, told a large gathering in Seoul. Park becomes South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office, capping months of paralysis and turmoil over the corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung conglomerate in detention and on trial. A snap presidential election will be held within 60 days. She did not appear in court and a spokesman said she would not be making any comment. Nor would she leave the presidential Blue House residence. “Park is not leaving the Blue House today,” Blue House spokesman Kim Dong Jo told. Park was stripped of her powers after parliament voted to impeach her but has remained in the president’s official compound. 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 media, she had concealed the truth and cracked down on critics. Park has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing. The ruling to uphold parliament’s Dec 9 vote to impeach her marks a dramatic fall from grace of South Korea’s first woman president and daughter of Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee. Both her parents were assassinated. Park, 65, no longer has immunity 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. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn was appointed acting president and will remain in that post until the election. He called on Park’s supporters and opponents to put their differences aside to prevent deeper division. “It is time to accept, and close the conflict and confrontation we have suffered,” Hwang said in a televised speech.

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