South Korean lawmakers on Friday impeached President Park Geun-hye, a stunning and swift fall for the country's first female leader amid protests that drew millions into the streets in united fury. Once formal documents are handed over to the presidential Blue House later Friday, Park will be stripped of her power and her No. 2, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, will assume leadership until the country's Constitutional Court rules on whether Park must permanently step down, the AP reports. Park later apologized to the nation for "negligence" in a scandal that led to her fall. She said Friday at a meeting of her Cabinet that she takes seriously the voices of protesters and Parliament's actions to impeach her.
The Constitutional Court has up to 180 days to decide on Park's fate. She will be formally removed from office if at least six of the court's nine justices support her impeachment, and the country would then hold a presidential election within 60 days. National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun said the bill on Park's impeachment was passed by a vote of 234 for and 56 opposed, with seven invalid votes and two abstentions. That well surpassed the necessary two-thirds vote needed in the 300-seat assembly, with the opposition getting strong support from members of Park's party. The handover of power prompted the prime minister to order South Korea's defense minister to put the military in a state of heightened readiness to brace for any potential provocation by North Korea. (Read more Park Geun-hye stories.)