South Korea’s national assembly voted Friday to impeach President Park Geun-hye over her alleged links to a corruption scandal.
Backed by overwhelming public support — evident from the millions of South Koreans who have filled the streets in recent weeks demanding her impeachment — the opposition-controlled parliament passed the motion by 234 votes out of 300.
The Constitutional Court now has up to 180 days to determine whether to formally end Park’s presidency. Until then, Park is suspended, not removed, while all duties will be temporarily be relegated to Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn.
At a Cabinet meeting after the vote, Park apologized for her “negligence.”
“I’d like to say that I’m deeply sorry to the people because the nation has to experience this turmoil because of my negligence and lack of virtue at a time when our security and economy both face difficulties,” Park said, adding she’s preparing for the court review of the impeachment.
Also after the vote, thousands of impeachment supporters gathered in front of the National Assembly cheering and congratulating each other, some in tears. Some protesters were spotted dancing in groups playing loud Korean traditional gongs.
“This is a very important historical moment,” shouted impeachment proponent Kim Yoo-jin, 33. “It is the victory for the people.”
Fellow protester Yoon Da-Hye, 32, said, “I was nervous and couldn’t sleep. I am so happy at the result.” And Kim Choon-ho, 44, chimed in, “Finally the politicians have now sensed what the public really wants.”
Park, 64, is South Korea’s first female president and the second to be impeached after late President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004. Roh was accused of incompetence and for violating election law under a parliament controlled by then conservative opposition. After a huge public disapproval of the impeachment, the Constitutional Court reinstated him two months later. Roh completed his five-year term leaving office in early 2008, then killed himself a year later while his family was under investigation for corruption.