ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
An historic ruling in South Korea has led to the removal of its first female president and to the end of an era. We begin our coverage with NPR's Elise Hu in Seoul. She reports on the reaction after judges upheld the impeachment, immediately ousting the president.
ELISE HU, BYLINE: Outside South Korea's constitutional court, thousands crammed onto the streets. On giant screens usually reserved for concerts, they watched a decision the country's waited months for.
LEE JUNG-MI: (Through interpreter) The respondent, President Park Geun-hye is expelled.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Yelling).
HU: South Korea's highest court voted unanimously to uphold the legislature's impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye. Some 70 percent of South Koreans in a recent poll got what they wished for. We found Jeong Inha in the celebratory crowd.
JEONG INHA: I feel very proud right now. I love this country.
HU: Park Geun-hye now makes history twice - not only as the nation's first female president, but also in the way she's going out.
J JAMES KIM: We have never had a president that was removed forcefully by an impeachment proceeding like this ever.
HU: James Kim is a researcher at the Korean policy think tank Asan Institute.
KIM: This was an abuse of executive power. That is the basis of her removal.
HU: Investigators say Park abused her power by entrusting government decisions to a secret adviser and taking part in extorting bribes from major conglomerates like Samsung. The corruption scandal led to millions taking the streets in protest and gripped South Korea for months. Again, James Kim.
KIM: There's a sense of relief. Some people, even, very excited and happy about this ruling, suggesting that, you know, democracy in South Korea is functional and is working.
HU: Park has yet to move out of the presidential home, but she's already lost immunity from criminal prosecution and could soon face charges. The country's prime minister - a Park appointee - is serving as acting president for now. He will announce a snap presidential election, which is constitutionally required to happen within 60 days. Those celebrating the ouster, like Jeong Inha, are hopeful.
JEONG: I think there will be better than our last president and think brighter future will be here.
HU: As the Park Geun-hye presidency abruptly ends, election season begins. Elise Hu, NPR News, Seoul.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.