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South Korean court to rule on president's impeachment over corruption charges

10 March 2017

Police officers in front of a board counting down until the Constitutional Court ruling on the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye (to be made March 10 at 11am), outside the court in Seoul's Jongno district, March 8. Park was impeached by parliament in December and stripped of her powers pending the court's ruling. Park Geun-hye was suspended from his presidential duties for three months. In a letter to the court, she apologized for her "carelessness" but said she never sought personal gain.

The court restoring Park's powers would be a huge victory for tens of thousands of her conservative supporters who rallied passionately near the court in recent weeks. At least six of the eight judges on the bench have to vote to uphold the impeachment.

Park's lawyers say she was staying in her "residence cum office", receiving situation reports by phone and issuing directives on rescue operations. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency on Thursday put its forces on high alert and deployed thousands of officers and hundreds of buses in the streets surrounding the court.

Park has also steadfastly denied any wrongdoing through the whole process, but special counsel investigating the case have paved the way for laying charges against her once she leaves office and loses her immunity from prosecution. Such a decision will likely take the air out of the investigation into the scandal.

Expected to last about an hour, the verdict hearing on the president's impeachment trial will start at 11 a.m. on Friday and is to be broadcast live to the nation.

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Huge but peaceful demonstrations against Park - topping a million protesters, according to organizers - helped bring the issue to a head at the end of past year.

If the court upholds the impeachment, Park would become the country's first democratically-elected president to be thrown out of office.

The Constitutional Court has been racing against the clock to make its decision.

If a presidential election is triggered, opinion polls favour liberal opposition politician Moon Jae-in, who lost the 2012 race to Park, to succeed her.

But the scandal involving her secret confidante Choi Soon-Sil has triggered a dramatic downfall of the leader who once was dubbed the "queen of elections" due to staunch support from conservative voters.

South Korean court to rule on president's impeachment over corruption charges