What now for Park Geun-hye's impeachment trial?

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.

Photo: The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

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."

Read Also: Investigators name Park Geun-hye as bribery suspect; indict 17 more suspects

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.

Tens of thousands of South Koreans stage protest in Seoul calling for President Park Geun Hye to resign

  • Tens of thousands of unionized workers staged a general strike and students boycotted classes Wednesday, upping pressure on President Park Geun-hye to resign.
  • Demanding the president's immediate resignation, civic groups, the workers and students vowed to hold a large-scale rally Saturday.
  • An association of 500 civic groups declared Wednesday as "a day of citizens' resistance," staging rallies in front of City Hall in central Seoul and in major cities from 3 p.m. More universities also joined a boycott of classes to ramp up pressure on Park.
  • "Ignoring people's calls for an immediate resignation, Park shifted responsibility (for her resignation) to the parliament," Choi Jong-jin, acting chief of the nation's second-largest umbrella labour union KCTU, said during the rally in central Seoul.
  • Some 220,000 workers from the public transport, public service, construction and education industries under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions joined the partial strike by taking a day off or leaving work early.
  • Students from 17 universities, including Sookmyung Women's University, Sogang University and Korea University, began to boycott their classes Friday. A few more schools including Seoul National University and Kookmin University joined the boycott Wednesday. Incheon University, Inha University and Pusan National University will join the move from Thursday.
  • Starting at 4 p.m., some 20,000 laborers marched across central Seoul and stopped at the headquarters of major conglomerates including Samsung, SK, Lotte, GS and Hanhwa, which are suspected of contributing money to the K-Sports and Mir foundations set up and run by Park's close confidante Choi Soon-sil.
  • The rally organizers initially planned to march to a fountain only 100 meters away from the presidential office, but the police blocked their plan, citing traffic disruption.
  • The sixth anti-Park rally will be held Saturday at Gwanghwamun Square. As with last Saturday's rally, organizers said some 100,000 participants will completely surround the presidential office from several locations starting from 4 pm.
  • Tens of thousands of South Koreans protested in central Seoul on Saturday (Nov 5) in one the largest demonstrations in the country's capital for years, calling on embattled President Park Geun Hye to resign over a growing influence-peddling scandal.
  • Roughly 43,000 people were at the candle-lit rally early on Saturday (Nov 5) evening, according to police. Organisers said a growing crowd of 100,000 had assembled, making the protest one of the biggest since demonstrations in 2008 against US beef imports.
  • Park Geun Hye has been rocked by a scandal involving an old friend who is alleged to have used her closeness to the president to meddle in state affairs. Ms Park has pledged to cooperate with prosecutors in an investigation.
  • Koreans have been angered by the revelations and say Ms Park, the latest South Korean leader to be embroiled in a scandal involving family or friends, has betrayed public trust and mismanaged her government.
  • Her approval rating has slipped to just 5 per cent according to a Gallup poll released on Friday (Nov 4), the lowest number for a South Korean president since such polling began in 1988.
  • Police said they had deployed 17,600 officers and 220 units including buses and mobile barriers to Saturday's protest. Police in riot gear lined the alleys and streets leading to the presidential Blue House as the main body of the demonstration began the march through central Seoul.
  • Ms Park has sacked many of her immediate advisers over the crisis. A former aide, Jeong Ho Seong, was arrested on Thursday (Nov 3) on suspicion of leaking classified information, a prosecution official told Reuters.
  • No South Korean president has ever failed to finish their five-year term, but Ms Park has faced growing pressure from the public and political opponents to quit.
  • "Even though we're just students, we feel like we can't put up with this unreasonable society anymore so we're participating in this protest with like-minded friends," said Mr Byun Woo Hyuk, an 18-year-old high school student holding a banner calling on the president to resign.