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Impeached Leader Was South Koreas’s First Female President

  • VOA News

FILE - South Korea's presidential candidate Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party attends her election campaign rally in Suwon, about 46 km (29 miles) south of Seoul, Dec. 17, 2012.

Park Geun-hye, the recently ousted president of South Korea, was the country’s first female head of state.

Park was a longstanding member of the nation’s political community. She grew up in the Blue House, the presidential mansion, as the daughter of late dictator Park Chung-hee, who ruled from 1961 to 1979.

Park served as the nation’s first lady for five years after her mother, a popular first lady, was shot to death by a North Korean agent. The assassin was aiming for the president. Park carried out first lady political duties until her father was assassinated by his own spy chief in 1979.

FILE - Park Geun-hye greets children when she served as her father and then-President Park Chung-hee's first lady in the 1970s, after her mother Yuk Young-soo was assassinated by a North Korean-backed gunman.
FILE - Park Geun-hye greets children when she served as her father and then-President Park Chung-hee's first lady in the 1970s, after her mother Yuk Young-soo was assassinated by a North Korean-backed gunman.

Park’s father was widely accused of suppressing dissent and abusing human rights. Park Geun-hye has said she regrets those aspects of her father’s iron-fisted rule.

Before becoming president, Park served five terms as a lawmaker and had an unsuccessful run for president in the campaign before her triumphant turn.

Influence-peddling scandal

The stunning and sudden collapse of Park’s presidency was caused by allegations that a multimillion dollar influence-peddling scandal was being run out of the Blue House.

In December, 234 members of the 300-seat National Assembly voted to impeach Park.

The president’s image as a strong and incorruptible leader crumbled under allegations her longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, secretly exploited her close relationship with Park to force Korean conglomerates to donate some $65 million to two dubious foundations, while at the same time funneling some of the funds and lucrative side contracts to companies owned by herself and her friends.

Park maintained her innocence

Park met with her Cabinet after the impeachment vote and refused to resign. However, she said she would abide by the outcome of the impeachment vote and plead her case before the Constitutional Court.

She has maintained the actions she took were in the national interest and has insisted she never personally benefited during her years of public service. She offered three public apologies for not being aware that some of her close associates may have been involved in some wrongdoing.

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