A constitutional court on Friday confirmed the impeachment of South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye. Her departure from office follows a series of corruption and cronyism scandals that touched the entertainment industry.
The eight judges of the court unanimously upheld an earlier parliamentary vote to impeach Park. She becomes the first democratically-elected Korean leader to be forced from office.
Park had been suspended from her presidential duties since December. She now loses her presidential immunity and can be prosecuted.
The scandal, that centered on Park and her close personal friend Choi Soon-sil, has involved senior government officials including former culture minister Cho Yoon-sun and presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon. Both were involved in creating and circulating a government-operated blacklist of over 9,000 local artists including some of the country’s top filmmakers Park Chan-wook (“The Handmaiden”) and Bong Joon-ho (“Snowpiercer”.)
Park’s government was also behind the political oppression of the Busan International Film Festival, following its screening of a controversial political documentary “The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol” (a.k.a. “Diving Bell”.)
Also ensnared in the scandal are major business figures including Lee Jae-yong, the vice president of Samsung Electronics. Samsung donated some $36 million (KRW 43 billion) to non-profit foundations, which Choi allegedly used for personal gain and for her daughter’s equestrian training overseas. Both Lee and Samsung have denied allegations that their donations were made in expectation of political favors from Park.
The constitutional court acknowledged that Park had “concealed Choi’s meddling in state affairs,” but the verdict did not directly mention bribery as grounds for Park’s expulsion. Lee’s trial date has yet to be confirmed.
Lee Jung-mi, the court’s chief justice, said that Park’s actions had “seriously damaged the spirit of […] democracy and the rule of law. […] Her actions have betrayed the people’s trust. They are a grave violation of law.”