South Korea's Park Geun Hye impeached by parliament, but political turmoil not over yet

South Korean President Park Geun Hye speaks during an emergency cabinet meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul on Dec 9, 2016.
South Korean President Park Geun Hye speaks during an emergency cabinet meeting at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul on Dec 9, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

Cheers broke out among the thousands of people gathered outside the National Assembly building on Friday (Dec 9) afternoon, when it was revealed that parliament had garnered enough votes to impeach South Korean President Park Geun Hye.

But analysts said that country's political turmoil is far from over, as the ruling and opposition parties remain at loggerheads amid a weakened leadership.

Political scientist Balbina Hwang, a visiting professor at Georgetown University in Washington, said that impeachment neither "closes the chapter on this ugly mess, nor is the country's political future any more clear".

With the passing of the opposition-led impeachment motion with 234 support votes, President Park's powers will be suspended while Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn takes over her duties as acting president.

Ms Park, 64, is accused of allowing her close friend Choi Soon Sil to meddle in state affairs and colluding with her to extort money from conglomerates.

The Constitutional Court will review the motion behind closed doors and make a final decision within 180 days.

Doubts remain over how effectively Mr Hwang, whose Prime Minister role has been largely ceremonial, can run the government in the interim.

Seoul National University's law professor Lee Jae Min said Mr Hwang, a former prosecutor, is well-respected among his peers, but he is merely a caretaker who will not be able to make any key decisions in foreign policy or economic matters.

"I hope the situation will go back to normal, but I think chaos will continue for the time being because it's a question mark who will run the country over the next few months," added Prof Lee.

Experts said there are also uncertainties ahead stemming from the divided opinion between the ruling and opposition parties.

 

The opposition bloc is expected to push for the entire Park administration to resign immediately.

"Impeachment is just the beginning. Park should give up everything and accept the voice of the parliament and the people," said opposition leader Moon Jae In, a potential candidate for the next presidential election.

The ruling Saenuri party, however, will want to wait for the Constitutional Court's decision, as there is a chance it can rule in Ms Park's favour and restore her to power.

Saturday rallies are expected to continue in the meantime, with hundreds of thousands of people demanding for Ms Park's immediate resignation.