Friday, December 9, 2016

President Park Geun-hye has been Impeached!

200 votes were needed to impeach President Park Geun-hye. 234 members of the National Assembly voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye.

For the second time in South Korea’s short history, the National Assembly has moved to impeach a sitting president. Until the Constitutional Court gives its voice on whether or not to approve the motion, the Prime Minister will serve as acting president.

If the Constitutional Court approves the motion, it would be the beginning of a new day in South Korea’s democracy. It would be the first time that a sitting president has been lawfully and democratically removed from office - the first peaceful and legal revocation of power. Considering the mounting evidence that are being stacked against President Park Geun-hye, Choi Soon-sil, and corporate leaders, there is a very good chance that the Constitutional Court will agree that impeachment is warranted.

However, this was never just about Park Geun-hye or Choi Soon-sil. This scandal, this impeachment - everything that we have seen for the past month and a half has been far more than just the removal of a president and shadow president. It has been about government power and the corruption that surrounds it. It has been a popular movement to bring about accountability. This is a new day for South Korea
’s democracy.

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that rhetoric about justice is where this story will end. Politics will rear its ugly head before too long. In fact, I’ll give it less than a day before it does.

The people’s mood has soured against anyone who has ever been associated with the Saenuri Party. It wouldn’t matter if there was anyone competent or intelligent or who possessed integrity from that party. For now, no one from that party is going to fare well with the people. As a result, the party will be dissolved and be replaced with something else. For now, it’s the Minjoo Party’s time to shine.

When they take over the reins of government, the Park administration’s decision to deploy THAAD missile batteries might be overturned. Relations with Japan may worsen by revisiting the comfort women agreement and canceling the military intelligence-sharing deal. Decisions may be made to once again pour aid toward North Korea. No effort must be spared to fight the next government’s foolish decisions.

But politics can resume tomorrow. For now, we can all catch a breath and celebrate democracy.

대한민국 만세!

Image Source


  1. Great post, as always. I asked a history buff/political junkie friend of mine whether Bill Clinton also automatically stepped away from office when he was impeached (because I honestly couldn't remember him doing so); my friend said Clinton never stepped away. This makes me wonder about the differences between the US and the ROK when it comes to their respective constitutions and impeachment procedures. Is it enshrined in the ROK Constitution that the sitting president must step down when impeached? That part of the process seems to have occurred automatically to me, with no resistance from Park. Might be nice if the US had a similar set of rules and procedures for presidential impeachment.

    1. It would appear that the wording in South Korea's Constitution is less open to interpretation than the U.S. Constitution.

      Article 65, Section 3 of the ROK Constitution says:

      "Any person against whom a motion for impeachment has been passed shall be suspended from exercising his
      power until the impeachment has been adjudicated."

      There's not a lot of room for interpretation there.

      On the other hand, Article 1, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution says:

      "Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law."

      Further, Section 4 says:

      "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

      There is no explicit mention of "suspension of power" in Section 3. Further, Section 4's inclusion of "high Crimes and Misdemeanors" is open to interpretation. Is committing perjury a high crime? Also, is it fair to compare lying about having an extramarital affair - no threat to national security - to lying about disclosing Top Secret information?

      I think that in this case, particularly in the case of Bill Clinton, the U.S. Constitution gives American elected officials more leeway than the South Korean Constitution.