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Posted : 2016-12-09 16:25
Updated : 2016-12-09 21:34
 

Park Geun-hye: from grace to scandal-tarnished shame

Park makes a third public apology on Nov.29, with a conditional offer to resign if the parliament arranges a stable power transfer. / Korea Times file

By Hong Dam-young


It was an explosive saga. And it ended up throwing scandal-rocked President Park Geun-hye into a state of vegetation on Friday with the National Assembly endorsing an impeachment motion against her.

Here are major events, in chronological order, demonstrating how the President fell from grace to scandal-tarnished disgrace.

July 26: Cable news channel TV Chosun reports that the presidential office forced conglomerates to donate almost 80 billion won ($71.8 million) to Mir Foundation, a newly founded non-profit organization aimed at promoting Korean culture to the world.

The report says An Chong-bum, Park's former senior secretary for policy coordination, used his power in the fundraising.

Local media raises suspicion about why such a dubious foundation was established and who ran the organization.

Sept. 20: Newspaper Hankyoreh reports that Park's longtime friend Choi-Soon-sil established and ran Mir and another non-profit organization called K-Sports that also received donation from the businesses.

The report raises suspicions about whether Choi used her ties with Park to extort donations from the businesses to establish the two foundations she controlled.

The presidential office immediately denies Choi's alleged involvement in the coercive fundraising.

Oct. 19: The president of Ewha Womans University resigns, alleging that the university gave special treatment to Choi's daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, in admission and grading.

Oct. 20: Choi's close aide Ko Young-tae reportedly exposes Choi and Park's close relationship, saying, "Choi's favorite hobby is changing Park's speech drafts."

Cable TV channel JTBC reported on Oct. 24 that advance drafts of the President's speeches have been found on Choi's tablet computer. / Screencaptured from the Internet

Oct. 24: Cable TV channel JTBC reports that advance drafts of the President's speeches have been found on Choi's tablet computer.


The report adds that Choi also had access to classified material about national security and foreign affairs.

This decisive incident proves Choi's link to Park, increasing suspicion that Choi held undue influence on Park and meddled in state affairs.

Oct. 25: Park, who had initially denied the allegations surrounding Choi, makes a public apology and admits her ties with Choi.

Park says she had merely sought advice from her longtime friend about speeches and public relations issues.

Oct. 27: The special investigation probe team on the scandal is launched.

Oct. 29: The first massive anti-president rally is held in central Seoul, calling for Park's resignation.

Choi Soon-sil walks into the Seoul District Prosecutors' Office in southern Seoul covering her mouth with a hand on Oct. 31. / Korea Times file

Oct. 30: Choi returns to Korea from Europe and is arrested without warrant at Incheon International Airport.


Nov. 4: Park makes a second public apology, but denies any wrongdoing in the scandal. Park says she will accept prosecutors' investigation into her action. Park's support rate drops to record-low 5 percent.

Nov. 6: Two of Park's aides An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong, a former secretary for presidential affairs, are arrested on charges including extortion, power abuse, and leaking classified information to Choi.

Nov. 11: Police arrest Choi's close aide Cha Eun-taek a well-known company director on charges of using his ties with Choi and other senior government officials to win lucrative projects.

Nov. 12: Hundreds of thousands of people protest in a third anti-president rally in central Seoul calling for Park's removal.

Nov. 20: Prosecutors cite Park as an "accomplice" to Choi, saying they believe Park was involved in bullying businesses into donating billions of won to Choi's two foundations.

It is the first time the prosecution has named an incumbent President as a "criminal suspect".

Nov. 29: Under increasing pressure to resign, Park makes a third public apology, with a conditional offer to resign if the parliament arranges a stable power transfer.

Opposition lawmakers criticize the offer as a stalling tactic to win back dissenters from her ruling party who support impeachment.

More than 2 million people protest across the nation on Dec. 3 for the sixth straight weekend of demonstrations. It is the biggest protest in the country's history. / Yonhap

Dec. 3: More than 2 million people protest across the nation for the sixth straight weekend of demonstrations. It is the biggest protest in the country's history.


Also on the same day, opposition lawmakers vow to vote for Park's impeachment on Dec. 9.

Dec. 6: Lawmakers question the leaders of the country's biggest businesses in a rare televised hearing about their alleged behind-the-scenes deals with Choi, and to learn whether the presidential office forced them to donate to Choi's two foundations.

Attendees include the chiefs of Samsung, Hyundai Motor, Lotte, and LG.

Dec. 7: The National Assembly hearing questions key witnesses and suspects related to the scandal, including Choi's two aides Cha Eun-taek, and Ko Young-tae and Choi's niece, Jang Si-ho. But Choi and Choi's daughter do not attend.

Dec. 9: The impeachment bill is passed with more than 200 lawmakers voting on her impeachment, fulfilling the required two-thirds of the 300-member Assembly.

Park's Presidency is suspended and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn takes over as interim leader.

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