The 65-year-old politician’s career has been marked by tragedy, triumph and a scandal that led to her eventual downfall.
What was once seen as a historical triumph, South Korea’s Park Geun-hye’s political career has now been marred by a corruption scandal that led to her eventual downfall.
Elected the country’s first female president four years ago, Park was removed from office on Friday after the Constitutional Court upheld her impeachment following months of widespread protests with, at times, millions of South Koreans calling for her resignation.
While Park’s presidential fate has now been decided, her career was marked by tragedy, triumph and controversy.
No stranger to politics
Park was no stranger to the political scene. Her father, the late President Park Chung-hee, seized power after a military coup in 1961.
Following the assassination of her mother in 1974, Park served as her father’s de facto first lady.
The elder Park, who was killed by his security chief in 1979, won wide respect for transforming the poor war-ravaged nation into an economic powerhouse, but was also reviled in some quarters for his human rights abuses.
Still, many older South Koreans remembered the almost two-decade dictator’s rule with fondness and younger Park partly rode on the coattail of her father to eventually launch her own political career.
Rise to power
After the murder of her father, Park withdrew from public service until 1998 when she was first elected to South Korea’s National Assembly, serving five terms as a representative.
She told US media that the Asia economic crisis of the 1990s drew her back into the political sphere.
In 2007, she lost to Lee Myung-bak in the then-Grand National Party presidential primary. Lee went on to become president, but the country’s leaders are restricted to a single five-year term, giving way to Park’s victory in the 2012 presidential election.
Park’s downfall began last year after a reports surfaced that alleged she and her former senior secretary and confidante, Choi Soon-sil, colluded to pressure big businesses into paying money to foundations Choi controlled.
Park publicly acknowledged her close ties to Choi, and said the long-time friend helped her on speeches and public relations issues during the 2012 presidential campaign and 2013 inauguration.
Park apologised on several occasions, but denied any wrongdoing .
The reports prompted widespread demonstrations in the country’s capital, with, on some occasions, millions of people protesting in the streets to call for her resignation.
Park was impeached in December of last year by a parliamentary vote of 234 to 56.
In the weeks leading to her eventual removal, Park was also accused of soliciting bribes from the head of the Samsung Group for government favours including the backing of a merger of two Samsung affiliates in 2015. She has denied any wrongdoing.
- The South Korean Constitutional Court unanimously upheld the impeachment of Park Geun-hye