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Court formally ousted South Korea's president

Court formally ousted South Korea's presidentSouth Korea's Constitutional Court in a historic, unanimous ruling on Friday formally removed impeached President Park Geun-hye from office over a corruption scandal that has plunged the country into political turmoil and worsened an already-serious national divide, Associated Press reported.

The ruling by the eight-member panel opens Park up to possible criminal proceedings — prosecutors have already named her a criminal suspect — and makes her South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be removed from office since democracy replaced dictatorship in the late 1980s.

It also deepens South Korea's political and security uncertainty as the country faces existential threats from perennial rival North Korea, reported economic retaliation from a China furious about Seoul's cooperation with the U.S. on an anti-missile system, and questions in Seoul about the new Trump administration's commitment to the countries' decades-long security alliance.

Park's "acts of violating the constitution and law are a betrayal of the public trust," acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi said.

"The benefits of protecting the constitution that can be earned by dismissing the defendant are overwhelmingly big. Hereupon, in a unanimous decision by the court panel, we issue a verdict: We dismiss the defendant, President Park Geun-hye," the Justice added.

Lee accused Park of colluding with her longtime confidante and private citizen Choi Soon-sil to extort tens of millions of dollars from businesses and letting Choi meddle in state affairs and receive and look at documents with state secrets. Those are the allegations that prosecutors have already raised, but Park has refused to undergo any questioning, citing a law that gives a sitting leader immunity from prosecution.

It is not clear when prosecutors will try to interview with her.

Park won't vacate the presidential Blue House on Friday as her aides are preparing for her return to her private home in southern Seoul, according to the Blue House. Park wasn't planning any statement on Friday, it said.

Park's lawyer, Seo Seok-gu, who had previously compared Park's impeachment to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, called the verdict a "tragic decision" made under popular pressure and questioned the fairness of what he called a "kangaroo court."

South Korea must now hold an election within two months to choose Park's successor. Liberal Moon Jae-in, who lost to Park in the 2012 election, currently enjoys a comfortable lead in opinion surveys.
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