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The South Korean Constitutional Court’s Impeachment Timeline

By Juni Kim

The revelations of Choi Soon-sil’s involvement in the administration of President Park Geun-hye and the subsequent scandal late last year have led to record low public approval ratings for President Park and her impeachment by the South Korean National Assembly on December 9th. This is only the second instance of a South Korean president being impeached, after President Roh Moo-hyun’s impeachment in 2004. The Constitutional Court, which began hearings for her impeachment last December, must either uphold or disapprove of the National Assembly’s impeachment motion.

The below graphic outlines the impeachment timeline and what are the next steps for the Constitutional Court.

Impeachment Timeline

The impeachment process requires six votes from the nine-member court for the impeachment to be upheld. Obtaining the necessary six votes is complicated by the end of Chief Justice Park Han-chul’s term on January 31st and Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi’s retirement on March 13th. Even with court vacancies, an approved impeachment still requires six votes. This means that only three votes are required to overturn the impeachment motion before March 13th, and only two votes are needed after that date.

Before stepping down from the court, Chief Justice Park implored the Court to reach a verdict before Justice Lee’s term ends. However, the Constitutional Court has scheduled additional hearings through February 22, and it is highly unlikely that a decision will be made before hearings are over. A decision could be reached after the date and before March 13th, but the Court technically has until June to make a final decision. If the impeachment motion is approved, the new presidential election must occur within 60 days.

Juni Kim is the Program Manager and Executive Assistant at the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI). The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Robert Heese’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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