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The audience in the Constitutional court gasp

Posted March. 11, 2017 07:03,   

Updated March. 11, 2017 07:08


“The accused President Park Geun-hye shall be dismissed”

The audience in the gallery of the session gasped when Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi read the verdict. There was no exclamation and loud yelling. It took only 21 minutes for the acting chief justice to finish the ruling.

It was a historic moment for Korea that will determine the resignation of the incumbent president. Pro, Anti-impeachment protests were held outside the court. However, there was a lot of tension in the court before the justice read the verdict. About 150 domestic and foreign journalists were in the gallery. Also, 24 people who were selected by lot through the Internet were watching the session in the gallery. Those who came through a competition of 796 to 1 to have their seats in the court also had a flushed look to their face.

The National Impeachment Committee and Ms. Park’s legal agents appeared the court in order from 10:40 a.m. The Acting Chief Justice Lee and Justice Kang Il-won and six other justices entered the court at 11:00 a.m. The audience all got up from their seats. When justices were seated, the acting chief justice said, “The court will read the verdict for the president impeachment, case number 2016 heona1.”


Before she read the verdict, Lee explained the process of deliberations and the position of the Constitutional Court whose ruling will be remained in history. “The Constitution is the ground for existence of all government institutions including president and the people is the foundation that such Constitution is based upon… The court will solemnly declare the decision by keeping in mind that we are here at a court of history.”

At 11:03 a.m. “Here I will read the verdict.” Lee began to read out the verdict. All eyes were on Lee. With regard to the argument of Ms. Park’s legal agents that there were flaws on the process of impeachment voting of lawmakers, Lee said that there was nothing wrong with that. When she said, Justice Seo Ki-seok turned his head and stared at her for a while and Son Beom-kyu, one of Park’s attorneys, also gazed at the acting chief justice. In the meantime, Hwang Jeong-geun, an attorney of the National Assembly, had a faint smile.

At 11:08 a.m. The tension reached its peak when the decision on grounds for the impeachment motion was read. In matters of abuse of authority in sacking officials, crackdown on press freedom, and the Sewol ferry disaster, the court ruled that President Park did not violate the Constitution and other laws. When Lee read the part, Attorney Hwang and participants from the National Assembly hardened their faces. Kwon Seong-dong, the chairman of the parliamentary legislation and judiciary committee, looked straight at justices. Faces of audiences were subtly changed and that were hard to interpret.

However, the mood soon began to change. It was when Lee pointed out issues related to Choi Soon-sil who brought us all to this situation. At 11:12 a.m. Lee stressed that documents of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae were often delivered to Choi. At that moment, Justice Cho Yong-ho and Justice Kang Il-won, who was sitting next to him, stared at each other. They seemed to know that President Park would be dismissed.

Lee continued to read the deliberation on Ms. Park’s actions with regard to Mir, K-Sports foundations. “Park abused her power and authority as the president for the interest of Choi Soon-sil and it is violation of the Constitution and public official law. Her action also violates the property rights of corporations,” Lee said, When she said that Rep. Kwon smiled and Lee Dong-heub, Park’s attorney, closed his eyes.

Lee's voice did not change much during her presentation. However, her voice began to be raised when she read the final verdict. “President Park thoroughly hid and strongly denied Choi Soon-sil’s meddling in state affairs. Rather, she criticized allegations of such affairs. She also did not cooperate to the investigations of prosecutors and special prosecutors and did not accept the seizure and search of Cheong Wa Dae. She did not show the willingness to support and protect the Constitution that will disallow repeated violations of law.” It seemed to scold the president severely. “President Park’s violation of the Constitution is against public trust and such actions severely violate the law that should not be condoned to protect the Constitution,” Lee clearly stated. After the acting chief justice read the verdict to oust Park Geun-hye, she and seven other justices left the court.

Seok-Jun Bae eulius@donga.com · Kyu-Jin Shin newjin@donga.com