The ouster of South Korean President Park Geun-hye by the country’s Constitutional Court on Friday ends a power struggle that consumed the nation for months.
Her removal from office over a corruption scandal has the potential to reshape a country whose politics have long been marred by fraud and ideological bickering. The changes may begin with a presidential by-election expected in early May.
It’s a stunning downfall for Park, a conservative who convincingly beat her liberal opponent in 2012. No longer immune from prosecution, she may soon find herself in a criminal court defending charges that she colluded with a confidante to extort money and favors from companies and allowed the friend to secretly manipulate state affairs.
Here’s a look at key developments in a memorable, tumultuous stretch in South Korean politics:
July 27, 2016: A TV news channel reports on suspicions that one of Park’s former senior secretaries pressured large companies into donating to K-Sports, a nonprofit organization aimed at internationally promoting South Korean sports.
Sept. 20: A newspaper reports that Choi (pronounced Chwey) Soon-sil, Park’s longtime friend, was involved in establishing and running K-Sports.
Oct. 24: Another TV station, citing files found from a tablet computer, reports that Choi, who has no official government role, received classified government information such as advance drafts of presidential speeches.
Oct. 25: Park publicly acknowledges her close ties with Choi, and says Choi helped her on speeches and public relations issues during her 2012 presidential campaign and after her 2013 inauguration.
Oct. 27: State prosecutors launch a special investigation team to look into the scandal.
Oct. 29: First of what becomes a series of large anti-Park rallies is held in Seoul.
Oct. 30: Choi returns to South Korea from Germany. Two days later, while being rushed into a Seoul prosecutors’ office, she tells reporters she “committed a sin that deserves death.”
Nov. 4: Park in her second apology over the scandal expresses remorse, but denies that she was involved in any legal wrongdoing.
Nov. 20: In indicting two former Park aides and Choi, state prosecutors say they believe the president was “collusively involved” in criminal activities by the suspects, who allegedly bullied companies into giving tens of millions of dollars to foundations and businesses Choi controlled, and enabled Choi to interfere with state affairs. Park’s lawyer calls the accusations groundless.
Dec. 3: Opposition lawmakers formally launch an attempt to impeach Park, setting up a floor vote. Massive crowds said to be more than 2 million demonstrate across the nation calling for Park’s ouster.
Dec. 9: Lawmakers pass the impeachment bill on Park by a vote of 234 for and 56 opposed. The Constitutional Court begins preparations for Park’s impeachment trial.
Jan. 1, 2017: In a surprise New Year’s meeting with reporters, Park accuses her opponents of framing her.
Jan. 5: The Constitutional Court begins hearing arguments in Park’s trial. One of Park’s lawyers compares her impeachment to the “unjust” deaths of Jesus Christ and ancient Greek thinker Socrates.
Jan. 16: Choi, Park’s jailed friend, appears in the impeachment trial and denies accusations related to her.
Jan. 25: A former culture minister tells court Park’s office blacklisted thousands of artists deemed as unfriendly to her government with an intention to deny them state support.
Feb. 17: Lee Jae-yong, the billionaire scion of Samsung, South Korea’s largest business group, is arrested over suspicions that he bribed Park and Choi in exchange for business favors.
Feb. 22: One of Park’s lawyers tells court there will be a “rebellion and blood will drench the asphalt” if the court unseats Park and she is later acquitted of her charges through a criminal proceeding. Court closes arguments five days later.
March 10: The eight-member Constitutional Court votes unanimously to remove Park from office.