South Korea's parliament has voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye, the country's first female leader, over a corruption scandal. Residents welcomed the leader's swift fall from grace amid protests that drew millions into the streets in united fury.

Park Geun-hye
South Korean President Park Geun-hye speaks during an emergency cabinet meeting, following her impeachment at the presidential Blue House in SeoulNews1/ Reuters

Park, 64, is accused of colluding with a friend and a former aide, Choi Soon-Sil, both of whom have been indicted by prosecutors, to pressure big businesses to donate to two foundations set up to back her policy initiatives.

Mass rallies have been held in Seoul, every Saturday for the past six weeks, demanding she quit, while opinion polls show overwhelming public support for her impeachment. She also was heavily criticised over her government's handling of the 2014 ferry sinking, of which most of the victims were school children.

Park Geun-hye
Choi Soon-sil (C), who is involved a political scandal, reacts as she is surrounded by media and protesters upon her arrival at a prosecutor's office in Seoul on 31 OctoberKim Hong-Ji/ Reuters
Choi Soon-sil
(L-R) Sohn Kyung-shik, chairman of CJ Group, Koo Bon-Moo, chairman of LG Group, Kim Seung-Yeon, CEO of Hanhwa Group, Chey Tae-Won, chairman of SK Corporation, Lee Jae-Yong, vice chairman of Samsung, Shin Dong-Bin, chairman of Lotte Group, Cho Yang-Ho, chairman of Hanjin Group and Chung Mong-Koo, chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, take an oath at a parliamentary hearing of the probe in Choi Soon-sil gate at the National Assembly in Seoul on 6 DecemberJeon Heon-Kyun/ Getty Images
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Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun presides over a plenary session to vote on the impeachment bill of South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the National Assembly in Seoul on 9 DecemberKim Hong-Ji/ Reuters

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, has assumed leadership on an interim basis. The court has half a year to decide whether it removes Park and if they impeach, a presidential election would be held within 60 days. Hwang, who is seen by critics as a stiff and uncompromising defender of the fallen leader, was a state prosecutor for almost 30 years before starting a career in politics and policymaking. He was regarded as the staunchest loyalist in Park's cabinet.

"I'd like to say that I'm deeply sorry to the people because the nation has to experience this turmoil because of my negligence and lack of virtue at a time when our security and economy both face difficulties," Park said at a cabinet meeting after the vote.

Hwang Kyo-ahn
South Korean Prime Minister and the acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn speaks during a cabinet meeting, following Park Geun-hye's impeachment at the Goverment Complex in Seoul, South KoreaKim Hong-Ji/ Reuters
Park Geun-hye
South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn arrive to attend an emergency cabinet meeting, following her impeachment at the Presidential Blue House in SeoulNews1/ Reuters

When the National Assembly Speaker, Chung Sye-kyun, announced that the impeachment bill was passed, people at Seoul Station gathered around television broadcasting the vote cheered in approval. "Amazing thing just happened. We still have the constitutional court to review this, but it will happen as people of this country have showed their power and will.

Park Guen-hye
Anti-Park activists react after the South Korean parliament's successful impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye, as huge crowds gathered outside the National Assembly in SeoulEd Jones/ AFP
Park Guen-hye
Anti-Park activists react after the South Korean parliament's successful impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye, as huge crowds gathered outside the National Assembly in SeoulEd Jones/ AFP

South Koreans have been occupying the streets the recent months, demanding that Park be removed from government. Park attempted to avoid impeachment last month by making a conditional offer to step down if parliament could come up with a stable power-transfer plan, but the overture was dismissed by opposition lawmakers as a stalling ploy.

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A leaflet denouncing South Korean President Park Geun-hye lies on the ground after it was torn at a protest calling Park to step down in Seoul on 19 November, 2016Kim Kyung-Hoon/ Reuters
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People march holding flags bearing messages "Step down Park Geun-hye" during a rally calling for President Park Geun-hye to step down in central Seoul on 12 NovemberKim Hong-Ji/ Reuters
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A woman takes part in a protest in the city center for a rally against South Korean President Park Geun-hye on November 26 in SeoulWoohae Cho/ Getty Images
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Members of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions march with an effigy of South Korean President Park Geun-hye during a general strike calling for Park to step down in Seoul on 30 NovemberKim Hong-Ji/ Reuters
Park Geun-hye
Protesters occupy major streets in the city centre, for a rally against South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul on 3 DecemberChung Sung-Jun/ Reuters
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A woman cries while marching toward the Presidential Blue House during a protest calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down in Seoul on 3 DecemberKim Hong-Ji/ Reuters
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Police buses are used as barricades to block access to roads leading to the presidential Blue House, as protesters take to the streets during a rally against South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye in Seoul on 3 DecemberJung Yeon-Je/ AFP