North Korea jumps on South Korean president's ouster, calling her a 'criminal'

Cheryl Sanders
March 11, 2017

There have been ugly scenes in South Korea's capital Seoul after the country's highest court formally removed President Park Geun-hye from office.

Yesterday, hundreds of Park Geun-hye's supporters, many of them older, tried to break through police barricades at the courthouse.

South Korea's Park Geun-hye was the country's first female president. The move also triggers a presidential election within 60 days, with opposition figures leading in polls.

A spokesman said on Friday she would leave and return to her private home in Seoul.

Park is suspected of allowing her longtime confident Choi Soon-sil - who had no government post or security clearance - to meddle in important state affairs, as well as colluding with Choi to extort money and favors from local conglomerates such as Samsung Group. The trial for Lee, who has denied any wrongdoing, started on Thursday.

"Thus, the judges with a unanimous opinion will sentence (Park's impeachment)", Lee Jung-mi, acting president of the South Korean Constitutional Court said, after reading a 20-minute long final judgment on why Park's impeachment was upheld unanimously by the court.

Park did not appear in court on Friday and did not make any comment after the ruling.

Ms Park was accused of soliciting bribes from the head of the Samsung Group for government favours, including backing a merger of two Samsung units in 2015 that was seen as supporting the succession of control over the country's largest "chaebol". Prosecutors have indicted about 40 people so far, including Samsung Electronics Co. heir-apparent Jay Y. Lee.

The ruling marks a dramatic fall from power for the daughter of Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee. An official from the Seoul National University Hospital said that a man in his 70s, believed to be a Park supporter, died from head wounds after falling from the top of a police bus. It has coincided with a resurgence in the North's nuclear program and an escalation in regional tensions over an advanced U.S. antimissile system being deployed south of Seoul.

Ms Park had initially promised to cooperate in an investigation, but she then refused to undergo questioning by prosecutors and let authorities search her presidential compound. While she was in office, she was immune from prosecution.

"That's been one of the uncertainties today because we are in unchartered territory", Al Jazeera's Rob McBride, reporting from Seoul, said.

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