SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 29:  South Korean President Park Geun-Hye makes a speech during an address to the nation, at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on November 29, 2016. South Korea's scandal-hit President Park Geun-Hye said Tuesday she was willing to stand down early and would let parliament decide on her fate.  (Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun-Pool/Getty Images)
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SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 29: Thousands of South Koreans took to the streets in the city center to demand President Park Geun-hye to step down on October 29, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea. The protest stems from allegations that President Park let her friend Choi Soon-Sil interfere in important state affairs. (Photo by Woohae Cho/Getty Images)
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(CNN) —  

South Korea has been plunged into a period of political uncertainty after the President, Park Geun-hye, was forced out of office by a corruption scandal.

The country’s Constitutional Court upheld a parliamentary vote to impeach Park over allegations of corruption and cronyism. She becomes the country’s first democratically elected leader to be forcibly removed.

Three people have died amid chaotic protests in the capital, Seoul. Seoul police spokesman Kim Tae-won told CNN Saturday that one protestor died in a local hospital where he was being treated. Two others were confirmed dead Friday by firefighters overseeing emergency medical services on the scene of the protests. Dozens of people were injured.

Thousands demonstrated after the unanimous decision by eight judges was read out down in a live broadcast that gripped the nation.

The decision brings the career of South Korea’s first female president to an inglorious end. It also comes at a pivotal moment for the region, as North Korea ramps up its nuclear weapons testing program.

Here are the main developments:

  • Stripped of her immunity, Park is liable to prosecution.
  • A snap presidential election will be held within 60 days.
  • Turmoil comes as tensions rise with North Korea and China.
  • Acting president warns North Korea may take advantage the uncertainty.
  • The scandal has also entangled the acting head of Samsung.

What happened?

Park was brought down by a corruption scandal that has dominated South Korean politics for months.

The President was accused of being unduly influenced by her longtime friend and adviser, Choi Soon-sil, who is on trial for abuse of power and fraud.

A supporter of South Korean President Park Geun-hye cries during a rally opposing her impeachment.
PHOTO: Ahn Young-joon/AP
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The Constitutional Court agreed with accusations that Park had abused her authority in helping Choi raise donations from companies for foundations she had set up.

“We announce the decision as the unanimous opinion of all judges. We dismiss the defendant President Park,” said Justice Lee Jung-mi.

READ MORE: What happens next?

An election for Park’s replacement must be held within 60 days, and an ad-hoc cabinet meeting will be held soon, a government official told CNN.

With Park’s ruling conservatives looking out of favor, it seems likely the country will turn to the left-wing opposition, which has signaled it would be likely to pursue a policy of engagement with the North. A left-wing government would also place into question the continued deployment in South Korea of a US missile defense system, which is bitterly opposed by China.

Liberal candidate Moon Jae-in, of the opposition Democratic United Party, currently leads the opinion polls. Moon was defeated narrowly by Park in 2012.

Chaos on the streets

Soon after the court’s ruling, acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn appealed for unity, acknowledging that the conflict had polarized the nation. South Koreans on opposing sides saw each other as “enemies,” he said in a televised address. “Now is the time, however, for acceptance,” he said.

Supporters of South Korean President Park Geun-hye are blocked by police officers as they march toward the Constitutional Court.
PHOTO: Ahn Young-joon/AP
Supporters of South Korean President Park Geun-hye are blocked by police officers as they march toward the Constitutional Court.

As the court’s decision was delivered, a group of around 100 Park supporters tried to break through police lines near the court, and a number fell and were injured. “We lost our liberty. We lost our Korea,” one protestor told CNN.

READ MORE: What you need to know about the South Korea corruption scandal

Anti-Park demonstrators also took the streets, some crying tears of joy and pumping fists in celebration, as applause rang out from the crowd. Many had camped out in the streets overnight in the cold.

02:46 - Source: CNN
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