|After being impeached by the National Assembly, President Park Geun-hye looks down as she convenes her last Cabinet meeting Friday, right before the vote that suspended her from office. She apologized to the nation again, and asked ministers to minimize any vacuum in government, and to work on the economy. / Korea Times photo by Ko Yeong-kwon|
By Kim Hyo-jin
The National Assembly passed the motion to impeach President Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal, Friday.Park was suspended from office at 7:03 p.m. immediately after the result was officially delivered to the presidential office, and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn began working as acting head of state.
The President's fate is now in the hands of the Constitutional Court, which is expected to make a ruling on whether the impeachment was valid in a few months.
Park is the second Korean president to be impeached after the late President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004. Roh was able to return to office thanks to wide public support after the Constitutional Court overturned the Assembly's decision.
The impeachment motion, signed by 171 opposition and independent lawmakers, passed overwhelmingly with 234 in favor, 56 against, two abstentions and seven invalid votes in the 300-member Assembly. Pro-Park lawmaker Choi Kyung-hwan of the ruling Saenuri Party was absent.
This well exceeded the necessary approval of two-thirds of the 300 lawmakers required for its passage.
The overwhelming passage of the impeachment motion came after millions of people took to the streets to hold rallies demanding Park's resignation over the last six weeks.
The President said she humbly accepts the Assembly's decision, but indicated that she will not step down and will await the ruling by the Constitutional Court.
"I will calmly respond to an impeachment trial at the Constitutional Court and an independent counsel investigation in accordance with the procedures stated in the Constitution and the related laws," she said in a statement.
Acting President Hwang held an emergency Cabinet meeting and said, "Under all circumstances, we will maintain the stability of the country. All civil servants must do their utmost to prevent any gaps in the areas of diplomacy, security and the economy."
A verdict by the nine judges on the court could take up to six months. But speculation is high that it will take less than this. Legal experts say their deliberations could be faster, citing the 2004 precedent of former President Roh, and the rising concerns over a vacuum in state affairs.
The court took 63 days to review the case of Roh, who was impeached for alleged breach of political neutrality by the then opposition parties, and exonerate him. However, some pundits say it could take longer than this as there are more legal issues to be deliberated on.
|National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun bangs the gavel to declare the passage of the impeachment motion against President Park Geun-hye during a plenary session of the National Assembly, Friday. |
/ Korea Times photo by Seo Jae-hoon
The opposition submitted a joint motion to impeach Park, Dec. 3, stating her alleged constitutional and law violations including abuse of power, coercion, bribery and dereliction of duty on the day of the Sewol ferry sinking, which claimed more than 300 lives.
The prosecution previously identified Park as an accomplice of her confident Choi Soon-sil in late November, labeling her a criminal suspect. Choi was indicted on charges of abuse of power, extortion and attempted fraud after extorting tens of millions of dollars from conglomerates to set up two foundations she controlled, and interfering with state affairs after gaining access to classified government documents.
The public has shown overwhelming support for Park's impeachment, while she remained reluctant to resign immediately. A Gallup poll conducted Friday showed 81 percent of respondents backing the impeachment with 14 percent opposed to it. Weeks of candlelit rallies against Park have grown larger, with 2.32 million joining the latest nationwide protest.
The motion had been supported by three opposition parties and Park dissenters in the ruling Saenuri Party.
A total of 165 opposition lawmakers earlier vowed to resign if the motion was voted down as a sign of their determination. An anti-Park Saenuri Party faction, consisting of about 40 lawmakers, had expressed their intention to vote for impeachment.
Park loyalists, who failed to stalemate the impeachment, are expected to be quickly incapacitated in the ruling party. The pro-Park leadership of the Saenuri Party had pushed for a timetable for the President's resignation in April and an early presidential election in June, but to no avail amid aggravated public sentiment.
"I'm deeply sorry and I ask forgiveness from the public as the ruling party leader," Saenuri Party Chairman Rep. Lee Jung-hyun, a die-hard ally of Park, said after the vote. Lee said he will resign to take responsibility as soon as the party comes up with plans to fill his vacancy.
Political pundits view it is now inevitable for the ruling party to be reorganized, centering on anti-Park lawmakers. They have vowed to reinvent the conservative bloc by getting rid of Park's supporters in the wake of the corruption scandal.
Rep. Choo Mi-ae, chairwoman of the main opposition Democratic of Korea (DPK), welcomed the result of the vote, saying "It's a victory of the people and history will remember it."
Vowing to stabilize state affairs in the post-impeachment stage, she suggested that the National Assembly form a consultative body with the government and hold a 30-day extraordinary session to review policies implemented by Park.
Choo said she will wait and see how acting President Hwang will fill in the leadership vacuum, taking a step back from her earlier position that he should resign, too, taking responsibility for the botched administration.
Floor leader of the minor opposition People's Party Park Jie-won echoed such a view, saying priority should be put on making the national system function again.
He urged the Constitutional Court to promptly proceed with its review while calling on Park to step down voluntarily beforehand.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo ordered the military to tighten its vigilance against possible North Korean provocations after the impeachment vote.
"North Korea could raise military tension in an attempt to worsen the political crisis in the South and test U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, as Pyongyang has no idea what his policy toward it will be," Han said.
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se also ordered diplomats in overseas missions to stay focused on their duties and not be swayed by instability from the impeachment of the president.
Domestically, top diplomats from the U.S., China, Japan and Russia were invited to the ministry in central Seoul and briefed on the impeachment and related situations.
국회가 9일 국민의 목소리를 수용해 박근혜 대통령을 탄핵했다.
국회는 이날 오후 본회의를 열어 재적의원 300명 가운데 299명이 투표에 참여, 박 대통령 탄핵소추안을 찬성 234명, 반대 56명, 기권 2명, 무효 7명으로 가결 처리했다. 찬성률은 78%이다.
새누리당 친박계 최경환 의원이 유일하게 표결에 불참했다. 특히 야당 및 무소속 의원(172명)이 모두 찬성표를 던졌다고 가정했을 때 새누리당에서만 62명이 찬성한 셈으로, 친박계에서도 상당수 탄핵에 동참한 것으로 추정됐다.
현직 대통령에 대한 탄핵안 가결은 지난 2004년 3월 12일 당시 노무현 대통령에 이어 2번째다.
또 대한민국 68년 헌정사에서 대통령의 권한이 정지되거나 유고 상황이 발생한 것은 4·19 혁명, 5·16 군사쿠데타, 12·12 사태와 노 전 대통령 탄핵 사태에 이어 이번이 5번째다.
탄핵안 통과 이후 새누리당 소속 권성동 국회 법제사법위원장은 '소추위원' 자격으로 탄핵의결서 정본과 사본을 각각 헌법재판소와 박 대통령에게 전달했으며, 즉시 국정운영은 황교안 국무총리의 권한대행 체제로 전환됐다.
박 대통령은 대통령직위를 유지한 채 청와대 관저에 머물게 되며, 직무수행에 필요한 활동비 등을 제외한 월급도 받는다.
황 총리는 권한대행으로서 국군통수권, 계엄선포권, 조약 체결 및 비준권 등 헌법과 법률상의 모든 권리를 위임받아 국정 전반을 총괄하게 된다.
실제로 황 총리는 탄핵안 가결 직후 국방부·외교부·행정자치부 장관에게 차례로 전화를 걸어 경계태세를 확보하도록 긴급 지시하는 것으로 대통령 권한대행의 임무를 사실상 시작했다.
대통령 탄핵에 대한 헌재 결정은 최장 180일 이내에 내려지게 돼 있으나 국정 공백 장기화에 따른 부담, 특검 진행 상황과 내년 1월 31일에 퇴임하는 박한철 헌재소장 임기 등을 감안하면 2~3개월 내에 이뤄질 것이라는 관측이 많다.
지난 2004년 3월 노 전 대통령에 대한 탄핵심판의 경우 소추 내용이 비교적 간단해 63일 만에 결론이 내려진 바 있다.
헌재가 국회의 탄핵 가결 결정을 받아들이면 박 대통령은 헌법에 따라 파면되고 60일 이내에 대선을 치러야 한다. 헌재가 기각할 경우 탄핵안은 즉시 파기되고 박 대통령은 국정에 복귀한다.
다만 박 대통령이 제3차 대국민담화에서 '대통령직 임기단축을 포함한 진퇴문제를 국회의 결정에 맡기겠다'고 밝힌 바 있어 헌재 결정과 무관하게 차기 대선이 이르면 내년 봄, 늦어도 내년 여름에 치러질 것이라는 관측도 있다.
정세균 국회의장은 이날 탄핵안이 가결된 직후 본회의 마무리발언을 통해 '이제 탄핵안이 가결된 이상 더이상의 혼란은 없어야 한다'면서 '공직자들은 한 치의 흔들림 없이 민생을 돌보는 일에 전력을 다해달라'고 당부했다.
또 '지금 이 순간부터 국회도 국정의 한 축으로서 나라가 안정될 수 있도록 함께 힘을 모아야 한다'고 촉구했다.
새누리당은 대변인 공식논평에서 '집권여당으로서 탄핵 정국을 예방하지 못한 데 대해 국민께 다시 한 번 사죄드린다'면서 '결자해지의 자세로 오로지 국민 눈높이에서 환골탈태하겠다'고 강조했다.
민주당은 대변인 논평에서 '오늘은 국민이 승리한 날로 역사에 영원히 기록될 것'이라면서 '탄핵 가결은 끝이 아닌 새로운 시작으로, 이제 국민과 함께 새로운 대한민국의 역사를 열어가겠다'고 밝혔다.
국민의당은 대변인 브리핑에서 '이제 대통령은 국민의 뜻을 수용하고 새로운 대한민국을 위해 스스로 물러나야 한다'며 '국정 공백을 최소화하는 길은 대통령의 결단'이라고 주장했다. (연합뉴스)