By Park Si-soo

Eight justices of the Constitutional Court have unanimously upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye in a historic ruling that will put an end to long-lasting political turmoil and social unrest triggered by a widespread corruption scandal involving Park and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.

Park’s action had “seriously impaired the spirit of democracy and the rule of law,” Constitutional Court Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi said. “President Park Geun-hye has been dismissed.”

Park is South Korea’s first democratically elected president to be ousted by impeachment. The decision has also stripped Park of legal shields that have blocked her prosecution and other legal action against her.

The Chief Justice said Park was found to have broken the law by allowing Choi to meddle in state affairs, and breached rules on public servants’ activities.

“Park’s breaching of the Constitution and the laws betrayed the trust of the people,” Lee said, describing Park’s actions as “a serious and unacceptable violation of the laws.”

The President “completely concealed Choi’s meddling in state affairs and denied it whenever suspicions over the act emerged and even criticized those who raised the suspicions.”

One of Park’s lawyers expressed “strong regrets” over the verdict. But Kwon Seong-dong, a lawmaker and a member of the parliamentary Indictment Committee, said the verdict confirmed “the rule of law that all people, including the president, are equal in front of the law.”

Police issued a “Gabho” emergency order in Seoul before Friday’s announcement, the highest level possible. Officers are on standby for expected protests, with 270 units mobilized — about 21,000 officers in total.

Park’s aides said Friday they are discussing her future action to cope with the ramifications of her departure from office.

“We are in talks now over the future course of action,” an aide told Yonhap News Agency, declining to be named. “We will let you know about it when things are straightened up.”

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