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South Korea's Park vacates Blue House

March 12, 2017

Being stripped of her presidency means that Park no longer has immunity from prosecution and could face criminal charges. Her close friend, as well as the head of Samsung are already facing criminal charges.

Südkorea Präsidentin Park nach ihrer Amtsenthebung
Image: Reuters/Yonhap/S. Myeong-gon

South Korea's ousted president, Park Geun-hye, has left the presidential Blue House and returned to her private home in Seoul, two days after the country's high court upheld her impeachment and stripped her of presidential powers.

In her first public statement since being removed from office in connection with a massive corruption scandal, Park denied any wrongdoing. A representative of her political party read a statement on her behalf maintaining she had done nothing wrong.

"Although it will take time, I believe the truth will certainly come out," Park said. She also expressed gratitude to her supporters and apologized for "failing to fulfill my duty as president."

The statement was read by lawmaker Min Kyungwook after Park arrived at her private home. Thousands took to the streets to demonstrate in support of her impeachment, while other protested in against her ouster.

South Korea's Constitutional Court formally removed Park from office amid suspicions that she conspired with a close friend to extort money and favors from companies, while allowing her friend to secretly manipulate state affairs.

The 65-year-old Park is South Korea's first democratically elected president to be forced from office.

The county's Constitutional Court ruled on Friday to uphold a parliamentary vote to impeach Park. The scandal that engulfed her presidency has shaken the country's political and business elite.

Snap election in May

A snap presidential election is expected to be held by May 9. Her liberal opponent Moon Jae-in, whom Park soundly defeated in the last election is expected to become the next president.

He promised to work for justice and common sense.

"We still have a long way to go. We have to make this a country of justice, of common sense through regime change," Moon told a news conference. "We all have to work together for a complete victory."

Moon has a commanding lead in opinion polls, which show South Koreans have grown tired of a decade of conservative rule and open to liberal leadership. Among other things, Moon advocates reconciliation with North Korea.

Park's dismissal follows months of political paralysis and turmoil over the corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung conglomerate in jail and facing trial.

The crisis also comes at a time of rising tensions with North Korea and anger from China over the deployment in South Korea of a US-made missile-defense system.

Now, having lost presidential immunity, Park could soon face criminal charges connected to bribery, extortion and abuse of power in connection with allegations of conspiring with her friend, Choi Soon-sil. Both women have denied wrongdoing.

On Sunday, television showed a moving van outside Park's private house and men unloading boxes, appliances and furniture - including a television and a bed.

bik/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)