A look at S.Korea's looming presidential impeachment verdict

The court has been trying with only eight justices since the departure of ex-Chief Justice Park Han-chul on January 31. The sentencing in Park's impeachment trial will be broadcast live on television.

Park's lawyers say she was staying in her "residence cum office", receiving situation reports by phone and issuing directives on rescue operations. According to the investigator, South Korean President Park Geun-hye colluded with a confidant to get $37 million from Samsung in return for special treatment of the corporate giant.

If the court rules against her, she would be the first democratically elected South Korean leader to be ousted from office.That would also trigger an election for a new president within 60 days. She could be interrogated by prosecutors seeking to indict her on criminal charges. Otherwise, Park will be immediately reinstated to serve out her term and the election will be held in December as scheduled. The National Assembly accuses Park of 13 offenses, and prosecutors turned over 20,000 pages of records from their investigation into the massive influence-peddling and corruption scandal.

Firms involved include Samsung Group, whose heir Lee Jae-Yong has denied any wrongdoing. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency on Thursday put its forces on high alert and deployed thousands of officers and hundreds of buses in the streets surrounding the court.

The court restoring Park's powers would be a huge victory for tens of thousands of her conservative supporters who rallied passionately near the court in recent weeks.

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"The core goal of this investigation was to shed light on longstanding collusion between private interests and the government, and to expose cases of abuse of state power for personal gain", said Park Young-soo, the head of the special prosecution team.

"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.

"We will calmly wait for the court's decision", the official said.

After months of political wrangling, legal drama and historic protests, a decision on the fate of scandal-plagued President Park Geun-hye is expected Friday.

Park also became close to Choi's daughter, Choi Soon-sil, the confidante at the center of this scandal, and their friendship continued after both their fathers died.

  • Megan Austin