South Korea's impeached president, Park Geun-hye, is due to find out whether she will be permanently removed from office. In a letter to the court, she apologized for her "carelessness" but said she never sought personal gain. "This is a very symbolic moment for us".
Park's lawyers say she was staying in her "residence cum office", receiving situation reports by phone and issuing directives on rescue operations. As long as she remains president, she is immune from prosecution.
Park has declined to appear at any of her trial hearings and has so far resisted being interrogated over wide-ranging allegations of power abuse that have led to 30 other suspects being indicted, including Samsung chief Lee Jae-yong.
Choi is accused of extracting bribes from big business - Samsung alone is accused of giving her $37 million - in return for using her relationship with the president to ensure favorable treatment for the companies. 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.
Park allegedly forced several officials who did not co-operate with Choi - who is now on trial for abuse of power, coercion and fraud - to resign or change posts.
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.
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"To truly unify public opinion, it is important that every bit of the truth comes to light", he said. "Will there be violence?" Such a decision will likely take the air out of the investigation into the scandal. "How polarizing will the campaign be?" Park's term was originally set to end in February 2018. Calling themselves "Parksamo" or "people who love Park", a group of mainly older conservatives have set up camp in the central plaza in front of Seoul City Hall, flying a USA flag above their tents.
The Constitutional Court has been racing against the clock to make its decision. The court has been trying with only eight justices since the departure of ex-Chief Justice Park Han-chul on January 31. The agreement of six judges is required for a ruling.
Around 90 percent of liberal and moderate voters favored Park's impeachment, while the conservative voters were divided by half towards whether to oust the president or reinstate her. She lived in the presidential Blue House - where she has been holed up during this scandal - from age 11. While she was still at university, her mother was killed by a bullet meant for her father, shot by a North Korean sympathizer.
According to parliament, Park's friend and secret confidante of 40 years' standing, Choi Soon-Sil, was granted unlawful access to state secrets, actively intervened in state affairs, fiddled with presidential speeches, recommended candidates for key official posts and meddled in government policies.
Park's father, still president, was killed in 1979 by his own spy chief, and she disappeared from public view for nearly two decades.
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.