Following the Constitutional Court’s decision to confirm her opposition-led parliamentary impeachment, Park Geun-hye was immediately stripped of her status as president of South Korea. Now, she must vacate the Blue House as soon as possible.
The court ruling also means no pension or other benefits for Park, the nation’s first president successfully impeached.
Under South Korean law, a former president, after his or her term in office, receives about 95 percent of his or her annual salary in pension benefits, which in Park’s case would translate to about 12 million won ($10,300) per month. On top of that, the ex-leader is entitled to free medical services at national hospitals, full state support of the operating costs of his or her office, three personal assistants and a chauffeur. When the ex-president dies, he or she is buried at the national cemetery alongside some of Korea’s patriots.
Park has been stripped of all these presidential perks, although she will retain security services as stipulated in the Presidential Security Act.
For the next 10 years, the disgraced leader will continue to be under the protection of the Presidential Security Service or police, with an extension of five years possible.
As for relocation, Park, whose term was originally until February next year, had planned to return to her old home in Seoul’s Samseong-dong after retirement. Now with the schedule advanced, her relocation plan appears to up in the air.
Preparations are not yet completed for Park to move into the Samseong-dong residence, as it lacks facilities for security guards, Cheong Wa Dae officials said. The purchase of land or an existing building nearby is being considered.
A local media outlet reported Thursday that the close aides of Park were looking for homes for rent in Gyeonggi Province, possibly searching for a place for Park. Cheong Wa Dae officially denied the report.
Perhaps the most frightening change for Park is that she no longer holds the presidential privilege of criminal immunity. This means that just like any ordinary person, she could face arrest, prosecution, criminal trial and punishment for a crime.
Last month, special counsel Park Young-soo named Park a criminal suspect in a bribery scheme involving the nation’s largest conglomerate Samsung Group. Key figures embroiled in the allegation -- Samsung’s heir apparent Lee Jae-yong and Park’s friend Choi Soon-sil -- are currently under arrest and standing trial.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who has taken over presidential duties since Park’s suspension late last year, will continue as acting president to lead the country into the election for the new state chief.
Hwang must finalize by March 20 the election schedule, which by law must be no later than May 9, 60 days after the president’s incapacitation.
By Kim Da-sol (firstname.lastname@example.org