South Korea court to rule Friday to remove or reinstate Park

Now there are eights judges left on the court as Chief Justice Park Han-chul stepped down when his term expired in January.

The constitutional court announced its plan to make a final ruling Friday about whether to permanently remove Park from office or reinstate her.

Park's lawyers say she was staying in her "residence cum office", receiving situation reports by phone and issuing directives on rescue operations.

If impeachment is upheld, Park will be formally removed from the presidency and an election will be held in May The question of whether or not Park Geun-hye will be removed from the presidency will be determined on March 10 at 11 am, the Constitutional Court announced on March 8. She will have to vacate the presidential Blue House and perhaps return to her private residence in the upscale Gangnam district. But if more than three justices rule against impeachment, Park will regain her powers until the next regular presidential election on December 20.

Ms Park is still technically president, though she has been stripped of her powers while the court decides her fate.

Samsung's de facto head, Lee Jae-yong, went on trial Thursday on a range of charges including bribery, embezzlement and perjury, and Choi has been on trial for months.

On 20 November, Ms Choi was charged with various offences, including abuse of authority, coercion, attempted coercion and attempted fraud, leading to the wider investigation.

"Expectations are that the court will uphold the impeachment, but how will the public respond?" said Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign relations.

But Ms Park, who has denied all wrongdoing, is not expected to leave the Blue House without a fight. If the impeachment is upheld, the next presidential election is likely to take place on May 9. Park's term was originally set to end in February 2018. In the late 1990s, she became a lawmaker in the conservative party and was elected South Korea's first female president in 2012.

Ms Park is embroiled in a political corruption scandal but maintains her innocence.

But the scandal involving her secret confidante Choi Soon-Sil has triggered a dramatic downfall of the leader who once was dubbed the "queen of elections" due to staunch support from conservative voters.

  • Joey Payne