SEOUL South Korea's Constitutional Court will hold its first hearing in the impeachment case of President Park Geun-hye on Thursday with initial opinions from both sides, an official said on Tuesday.
The court is reviewing the impeachment vote passed by parliament on Dec. 9. Park is accused of colluding with a friend to pressure big businesses into making financial contributions to non-profit foundations and violating her constitutional duty.
The court's nine judges are entrusted with ruling on the vote to impeach Park, whose powers have been suspended. A majority opinion of six judges will uphold the parliament's motion and oust Park or overturn it and reinstate her.
The court has up to 180 days from the day of the impeachment vote to decide if Park becomes South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be ousted from office.
If she is removed, a new election has to be held in 60 days to pick a new president who will serve a full five-year term.
Park's lawyers submitted legal opinion last week saying the impeachment had no legal basis and was also procedurally flawed and therefore should be thrown out.
Park has described the friend, Choi Soon-sil, as someone she had turned to at difficult times and apologised for carelessness in her ties, but denied any legal wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Jack Kim and Ju-min Park; Editing by Paul Tait)