(Reuters) - South Korea’s Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye on Friday, removing her from office over a graft scandal involving big business that has gripped the country for months.
- Park Geun-hye was impeached by parliament in December and stripped of her powers pending the court’s ruling.
- Park becomes South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office. A presidential election will be held in 60 days, according to the constitution.
- Park, 65, has been accused of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, and a former presidential aide, both of whom have been on trial, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back her policy initiatives.
- She is also accused of soliciting bribes from the head of the Samsung Group for government favours including the backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015 that was seen to support the succession of control over the country’s largest “chaebol” conglomerate.
- Park has denied any wrongdoing.
“South Korea’s political paralysis can now end, as the country will race into a snap election to choose a new leader. Given Park’s spectacular demise and disarray among conservatives, the presidential contest in May is the liberals’ to lose.”
KIM MAN-HEUM, HEAD OF THE KOREA ACADEMY OF POLITICS AND LEADERSHIP:
“South Korea needs to fix its political system; checks and balances are needed to prevent abuse of power by irresponsible politicians. Constitutional amendments need to be considered to stop the President from abusing power, to prevent similar political events in the future.”
“Uncertainties will ease in the stock market. Things will be put in order and head in a positive direction. Even if major conglomerates get legal punishment, they will head in a more positive direction compared to the past now that some uncertainties have been partly removed.”
“Korea deserves great praise for how it handled this crisis. Every democracy has scandals and crises. Through the last 6 months, the Koreans handled this very well. They followed the constitutional provisions. The street protests were peaceful. No one got hurt; there was not property damage. This never became like Arab Spring. The Koreans just showed the world how a peaceful impeachment is completed. Not even the Americans have done that, as Nixon resigned before the process finished.”
“Today’s ruling will help remove market uncertainty. Should the liberal party, which emphasises reform of conglomerates, take power, this will put pressure on heavyweight shares like Samsung Electronics.”
ANDY JI, ASIAN CURRENCY STRATEGIST, COMMONWEALTH BANK OF AUSTRALIA, SINGAPORE:
“The ruling was expected. At the same time, THAAD developments continue to escalate between South Korea and China, its largest trading partner. Even in politics, the uncertainty lingers as a new election is to be held.”
“So it’s a triple whammy for the KRW from here even with one small uncertainty eliminated. We still look for dollar/won to head higher to 1,200, helped also by firm U.S. dollar.”
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.2 percent to 2,091.48 points as of 0227 GMT.
The won stood at 1,159.6 against the dollar, down slightly compared with Thursday’s close of 1,158.1. It briefly touched its lowest intraday level since Jan 31.
Reporting by James Pearson, Jeong-eun Lee, Dahee Kim, Heekyong Yang in SEOUL; Masayuki Kitano in SINGAPORE