On Sunday, South Korean prosecutors indicted former senior economic aide Cho Won-dong and former vice culture minister Kim Chong during an ongoing investigation of President Park Geun-hye, according to Reuters.
The indictments follow the South Korean parliament’s decision on Friday to impeach Park, the nation’s first woman president as well as the daughter of the country’s former dictator, Park Chung-hee. Embroiled in a corruption scandal involving her informal adviser and long-time friend Choi Soon-sil, Park has faced mounting political pressure as millions of South Korean citizens took to the streets in protest.
On Friday, 10,000 protesters gathered in front of South Korea’s National Assembly to demand that Parliament impeach Park. Some of the protesters had traveled from other cities and spent the night on the streets, while some anti-Park farmers drove their tractors to the city. When Park’s impeachment was announced, many of the protesters began laughing and cheering, according to the Associated Press.
The bill to impeach Park passed with 234 votes for and 56 votes against, reaching the two-thirds requirement, according to the Associated Press. And the large margin of the vote indicates that more than 60 members of Park’s own conservative party — the Saenuri Party — voted to impeach her, according to Reuters.
“I solemnly accept the voice of the parliament and the people and sincerely hope this confusion is soundly resolved,” Park said in a Cabinet meeting, according to Reuters. “I wholeheartedly offer words of apology to the people as my lack of virtue and carelessness have caused great confusion at a time when the nation faces challenges over national security and the economy.”
The vote means that Park will be stripped of all presidential power and that South Korean prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn will temporarily take on the president’s duties.
The country’s Constitutional Court now has 180 days to rule on whether the parliament reached the decision to impeach Park through due process. This ruling could take up to six months to make, during which Park will remain in the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential palace, according to the Associated Press. If six of the court’s nine justices vote to support Park’s impeachment, Park will be officially removed from the presidency and a presidential election held within 60 days to replace her. However, if six justices vote against her impeachment, then Park will be immediately reinstated and could serve the rest of her five-year term, which was supposed to end in February 2018, according to the Guardian.
The allegations against Park claim that she used her position to help her informal adviser Choi, who is the daughter of a religious sect leader, extort millions of dollars from major South Korean companies to fund Choi’s foundations, and that Park allowed Choi excessive influence over matters such as selecting top government officials, according to The New York Times.
Over the past few months, Park’s approval ratings have plummeted to just 4 percent — a record low, according to the Guardian.
On Saturday, approximately 15,000 people rallied in Seoul in support of Park, waving South Korean national flags and holding up banners that read “President Park, Don’t Cry” and “Nullify Impeachment.” On the same day, a much larger crowd of about 200,000 people celebrated the parliament’s decision to impeach and also demanded that the court officiate Park’s removal from the presidency, according to the BBC.
See more photos of this weekend’s protests below.