SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Park Geun-hye faces the political fight of her life as lawmakers attempt to force her from office over prosecution claims that she helped a confidante extort money and favors from companies and manipulate state affairs.
Lawmakers look set to vote on the impeachment bill Friday. If it goes through, Park will be suspended as president pending a court review, with the prime minister taking over for her.
It would be a stunning fall for a leader who convincingly beat her liberal opponent in 2012 to become South Korea's first female president.
Here's a look at key developments in the explosive saga:
July 27: Cable news channel TV Chosun reports on suspicions that Ahn Jong-beom, Park's former senior secretary for policy coordination, pressured large companies into donating to K-Sports, a non-profit organization aimed at internationally promoting South Korean sports.
Sept. 20: Newspaper Hankyoreh reports that Choi Soon-sil, Park's friend and the daughter of Park's late longtime mentor, was involved in establishing and running K-Sports.
Oct. 24: Cable news channel JTBC, citing files found from a tablet computer said to have been used by Choi, reports that Choi, who has no official government role, received classified government information, such as advance drafts of presidential speeches.
Oct. 25: Park publicly acknowledges her close ties with Choi, and says Choi helped her on speeches and public relations issues during her 2012 presidential campaign and after her 2013 inauguration.
Oct. 27: State prosecutors launch a special investigation team to look into the scandal.
Oct. 29: First anti-Park rally in Seoul.
Oct. 30: Choi returns to South Korea from Germany. Two days later, she tells reporters she "committed a sin that deserves death" while being rushed into a Seoul prosecutors' office for questioning.
Nov. 4: Park in her second apology over the scandal expresses remorse and reaches out for sympathy, but denies that she was involved in any legal wrongdoing. Park says she will accept a direct investigation into her actions.
Nov. 12: Hundreds of thousands of people rally in Seoul in the biggest demonstration to date calling for Park's removal.
Nov. 20: In indicting Choi and Park's two former aides, state prosecutors say they believe the president was "collusively involved" in criminal activities by the suspects, who allegedly bullied companies into giving tens of millions of dollars to foundations and businesses Choi controlled, and enabled Choi to interfere with state affairs. Park's lawyer calls the accusations groundless. He says Park will refuse questioning by state prosecutors and only cooperate with an independent probe led by a special prosecutor.
Nov. 29: Park, without providing a timeline, says she will leave office if parliament comes up with a stable power-transfer plan. Opposition lawmakers criticize the overture as a stalling ploy aimed at luring back members of her party who supported impeachment.
Dec. 3: Opposition lawmakers formally launch an attempt to impeach Park, setting up a floor vote as early as Friday. Hours later, massive crowds rally in Seoul calling for Park's ouster in what might be the biggest protest in the country's history. Police estimate the turnout at 320,000, while protest organizers size the crowd at 1.7 million. More than 2 million are said to protest across the nation.