South Korea: PM takes over as leader after suspension of Park’s presidential powers
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South Korea: PM takes over as leader after suspension of Park’s presidential powers

SOUTH KOREAN President Park Geun-hye’s powers were suspended at 7:03 p.m. on Friday (1003 GMT) after parliament voted to impeach her, her office said.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn took over as acting president and told a cabinet meeting he would do his best to ensure stable government continued to function.

He said financial authorities should take preemptive steps to prevent volatility in financial markets.

The Constitutional Court will review the impeachment motion, a process that is expected to take at least two months.

South Korea’s finance ministry said on Friday it would make an all out effort to stabilize the economy after parliament voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye.

“We will closely monitor financial markets and economic situation across exports, investment and job market 24 hours a day and respond in swift and decisive manner if needed,” Finance Minister Yoo il-ho said in a meeting.

SEE ALSO: South Korea: President Park hopes impeachment vote will end confusion

South Korean lawmakers voted overwhelmingly earlier on Friday to impeach Park over an influence-peddling scandal, setting the stage for her to become the country’s first elected leader to be expelled from office in disgrace.

Jubilant South Koreans celebrated with cheers, hugs and selfies on Friday following weekly protests demanding Park step down.

The impeachment motion, passed by 234 lawmakers with 56 opposed, suspends Park‘s powers and leaves the Constitutional Court to decide whether to uphold the motion and remove Park from office or reject it and reinstate her.

A large crowd of demonstrators gathered outside parliament in anticipation of the outcome greeted the news with cheers.

“I feel great!” said 54-year-old rice farmer Im Chae-jum. “I thought it was going to pass but, either way, whatever happens in parliament, we’ll take Park Geun-hye down with people power.

“The people won!”

Park‘s approval rating stood at just 5 percent in a poll released earlier on Friday.

Protesters waved banners and flags as they climbed on a tractor that some farmers had used to block a road outside parliament.

Others took selfies before a large banner reading, “Congratulations on the impeachment ofPark Geun-hye; Now let’s lock her up.”

Several people blew horns or held up signs that read, “Victory for the people!”

Choi Ji-young, the mother of a child who died in the 2014 Sewol ferry tragedy, watched the vote from a gallery in the assembly. She was among a group of victims’ relatives, who danced and chanted as they left the building.

“I screamed ‘Hooray!'” said Choi. “This’ll be a chance to get to the bottom of the disaster and hold Park and her close aides accountable.”

SEE ALSO: BREAKING: South Korean President Park loses impeachment vote

The events around the ferry sinking, which killed more than 300 people, mostly schoolchildren, have loomed over Park‘s presidency.

Protesters have staged massive demonstrations in central Seoul every Saturday for the last six weeks of the political crisis that rocked Park‘s presidency.

The protests have remained festive and peaceful, centred on large, candle-lit rallies that have drawn up to a million people, by some estimates. Another was planned for Saturday.

Park, 64, is accused of colluding with a friend and a former aide, both of whom have been indicted by prosecutors, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back her policy initiatives.

“Now I feel good,” said Choi, holding a red rose wrapped in a yellow ribbon, a symbol of the protests against Park. “She should go to jail.” – Reuters