S Kore­ans cel­e­brate Park im­peach­ment

Ac­tivists in­tend to keep up the pres­sure

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Tens of thou­sands cel­e­brated the im­peach­ment of South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-Hye at a rally in Seoul on Saturday, but amid the eu­pho­ria there was lin­ger­ing anger, and anx­i­ety at the prospect of an ex­tended pe­riod of po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty. For the sev­enth straight week, pro­test­ers gath­ered en masse in the streets of the cap­i­tal, but the mood was gen­er­ally fes­tive, af­ter law­mak­ers on Fri­day voted over­whelm­ingly to im­peach the deeply un­pop­u­lar Park over a cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

Although the move stripped Park of her sub­stan­tial ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers, ac­tivists said they in­tended to keep up the pres­sure, with the im­peach­ment still re­quir­ing fi­nal ap­proval from the Con­sti­tu­tional Court-a process that could take months. And many were adamant that the pres­i­dent should re­sign im­me­di­ately and face crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion. “We are still hun­gry” the crowd in Seoul’s Gwangh­wa­mun chanted, as they also sang along to the re­vised lyrics of a Christ­mas song that read: “Only af­ter she is out, will it be a Merry Christ­mas.”

Or­gan­is­ers put the turnout at around 600,000 — smaller than pre­vi­ous weeks when the crowds passed the mil­lion mark. Un­til the court rules, Park’s author­ity is only sus­pended and she re­tains the ti­tle of pres­i­dent and the im­mu­nity from pros­e­cu­tion that goes with it. And she still has her sup­port­ers, many of them elderly vot­ers who re­main stead­fast ad­mir­ers of her fa­ther, the late mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor Park Chung-Hee-cred­ited as the ar­chi­tect of the South’s eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion but vil­i­fied as an au­thor­i­tar­ian rights abuser.

Don’t cry

A large por­trait of a young Park with her fa­ther formed the cen­tre­piece of a pro-Park rally in Seoul ear­lier on Saturday that drew around 15,000 peo­ple. Wav­ing na­tional flags, they car­ried ban­ners that read: “Pres­i­dent Park, Don’t Cry” and “Nul­lify im­peach­ment”. Park was impeached on nu­mer­ous counts of con­sti­tu­tional and crim­i­nal vi­o­la­tions rang­ing from a fail­ure to pro­tect peo­ple’s lives to bribery and abuse of power. Most of the charges stemmed from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a scan­dal in­volv­ing the pres­i­dent’s long-time friend, Choi Soon-Sil, who is cur­rently await­ing trial for fraud and em­bez­zle­ment. Pros­e­cu­tors named Park a sus­pect in the case, say­ing she col­luded in Choi’s ef­forts to strong arm do­na­tions from large com­pa­nies worth tens of mil­lions of dol­lars.

The im­peach­ment process was ig­nited and fu­elled by pub­lic out­rage at Park’s be­hav­iour, with the weekly mass demon­stra­tions de­mand­ing that politi­cians take a pro-ac­tive role in re­mov­ing her from the pres­i­den­tial Blue House. The Na­tional As­sem­bly has played its part, but the coun­try now faces a lengthy pe­riod of un­cer­tainty at a time of slow­ing eco­nomic growth and el­e­vated mil­i­tary ten­sions with nu­clear-armed North Korea. “We have only over­come one chal­lenge. The chal­lenges that fol­low will be big­ger,” said Kim Young-Ho who at­tended Saturday’s rally with mem­bers of the Korean Farm­ers’ League.

Un­elected leader

The man charged with steer­ing the coun­try through these dan­ger­ous wa­ters is a for­mer pros­e­cu­tor who has never held elected of­fice. As Park’s prime min­is­ter, Hwang Kyo-Ahn be­came the tem­po­rary guardian of her sweep­ing ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers the mo­ment af­ter she was impeached. A stern and not par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar fig­ure, Hwang is seen as a Park loy­al­ist and there were nu­mer­ous chants at Saturday’s rally for him to re­sign as well.

Flung into a role he had never sought, Hwang sought to strike a re­as­sur­ing tone dur­ing an emer­gency cab­i­net meet­ing on Saturday. “The gov­ern­ment is car­ry­ing out all mea­sures nec­es­sary to pre­vent any gov­ern­ment vac­uum and ease the peo­ple’s anx­i­ety,” Hwang said, adding that he had in­structed the mil­i­tary to be ex­tra vig­i­lant to any move by North Korea to ex­ploit the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion.

North Korea has con­ducted two nu­clear tests this year and mul­ti­ple mis­sile launches, prompt­ing South Korea to agree to host a so­phis­ti­cated US anti-mis­sile sys­tem-de­spite protests from China. Con­tribut­ing to the gen­eral anx­i­ety is the pres­i­den­tial power tran­si­tion in the United States, a key eco­nomic and mil­i­tary ally which has nearly 30,000 troops per­ma­nently sta­tioned in South Korea. — AFP

SEOUL: Pro­test­ers hold can­dles dur­ing a rally against South Korea’s Pres­i­dent Park Geun-Hye in cen­tral Seoul yes­ter­day. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.