The countdown to the ruling on the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye has begun, as the Constitutional Court heard the final arguments of Park and the parliament on Monday.
The court reviewing the legality of Park's impeachment held its first closed-door session Tuesday to deliberate on whether Park has broken the law and the Constitution and whether the violations are serious enough to impeach her.
Q. What process do the justices go through to reach a verdict?
The eight justices are expected to hold a closed-door session to review all the evidence, statements, more than 50,000 pages of investigation reports and testimony made by 25 witnesses through the 17 hearings and exchange their opinions every day.
Through the discussion the justices will write up of two versions of the verdict -- for and against the impeachment.
For security reasons, they are expected to vote on whether to uphold or reject the impeachment at the last minute, right before making a ruling.
The sessions will take place in a conference room on the third floor at the Constitutional Court, which will strictly deny entrance to anyone other than the eight justices and go through security checks on a daily basis to prevent wiretapping.
Q. When will the verdict come?
"We will inform both sides of the date of the ruling," said the acting chief justice during the final hearing.
The court usually announces the date of the ruling three or four days in advance.
It is expected to take two weeks for the bench to deliberate on the case and write up a verdict after the final hearing, as based on the case of former President Roh Moo-hyun.
In the Roh case, the final hearing was held on April 30 and the verdict was delivered on May 14.
There is a general expectation that the ruling will be made on March 9 or 10 or even 13, the day acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi steps down.
Q. Why before March 13?
The originally nine-judge court, which now has eight justices following the end of the term of ex-Chief Justice Park Han-chul on Jan. 31, will have another vacancy, as acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi's term is set to expire March 13.
The Constitutional Court has accelerated the proceedings to avoid the worst scenario -- the seven justices, the minimum required to make a ruling, deciding on whether to unseat or reinstate Park.
The ruling to confirm the impeachment of Park needs approval from at least six justices.
Former Chief Justice Park stressed the need for a fair and prompt ruling on Park's impeachment, saying an additional vacancy on the bench could lead to a "distorted ruling."
Q. What about the security of the justices?
As the ruling on President Park's impeachment is approaching, tensions have heightened inside and outside the courtroom in recent days among pro-Park and anti-Park factions.
During the final hearing held Monday, some of Park's supporters, mostly senior citizens, created a ruckus, demanding the court dismiss Park's impeachment.
Police stepped up security around the court and dispatched officers to guard the eight justices.
A 24-year-old man was recently booked after hinting at his willingness to kill acting Chief Justice Lee.
He said on a fan site for Park: "Lee Jung-mi should be removed before the ruling. I will have no regret even though I die now if I can save this country."
Q. What will happen after the verdict?
If the court upholds Park's impeachment, President Park will be removed from office immediately.
Under the Constitution, the country would be required to hold a presidential election within 60 days.
If the court rejects the impeachment, Park will be reinstated as president.
The presidential election then would be held in December as originally scheduled.
Q. What are the charges against Park?
The justices will review the 13 charges leveled against Park to see whether her alleged violations of the law and the Constitution are serious enough to throw her out of office.
The charges include that Park let her close friend Choi Soon-sil, who holds no government post, meddle in state affairs to help her pursue personal gains and that Park colluded with Choi to extort donations from local conglomerates for the K-Sports and Mir foundations.
She is also accused of failing to protect citizens during the Sewol ferry disaster in 2014, which left more than 300 dead or missing.