S Korea’s Park sup­port­ers clash with de­mon­stra­tors

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

SEOUL: Sup­port­ers of im­peached South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye clashed with anti-Park pro­test­ers yes­ter­day, as large crowds of de­mon­stra­tors again gath­ered in Seoul to de­mand the scan­dal-rid­den leader’s im­me­di­ate ouster. The his­tor­i­cally large week­end protests over an ex­plo­sive cor­rup­tion scan­dal pushed South Korea’s op­po­si­tion-con­trolled par­lia­ment to vote this month to im­peach Park. The im­peach­ment sus­pended Park’s pow­ers un­til the Con­sti­tu­tional Court de­cides whether she should per­ma­nently step down or be re­in­stated.

While polls mea­sure Park’s pop­u­lar­ity in the low sin­gle dig­its, her im­peach­ment has be­come a ral­ly­ing point for her con­ser­va­tive sup­port­ers, who turned out in the tens of thou­sands yes­ter­day. They waved the coun­try’s na­tional flag and shouted for Park’s “il­le­gal” im­peach­ment to be “nul­li­fied,” and the “rot­ten” par­lia­ment to be dis­solved. The ten­sion was tan­gi­ble as an­tiPark pro­test­ers, whose num­bers were much big­ger, gath­ered on a boule­vard across the street from where Park’s sup­port­ers were ral­ly­ing. Protest or­ga­niz­ers es­ti­mated that about 600,000 anti-Park pro­test­ers turned out.

Yelling and shov­ing

De­spite thick lines of po­lice of­fi­cers sep­a­rat­ing them, there was some yelling and shov­ing be­tween the two groups, with one Park sup­porter hit­ting an anti-Park pro­tester with the pole of her flag. There were no im­me­di­ate re­ports of se­ri­ous vi­o­lence or in­juries. Huge throngs of anti-Park pro­test­ers later walked to­ward the pres­i­den­tial of­fices and res­i­dence, known as the Blue House, car­ry­ing can­dles and signs and de­mand­ing that Park im­me­di­ately quit.

Other groups marched to­ward the of­fice of Prime Min­is­ter Hwang Kyo-ahn, who as­sumed the role as govern­ment care­taker af­ter Park was im­peached on Dec. 9, and to­ward the Con­sti­tu­tional Court. “I can’t stand Park for even another day. No­body wants her, but she’s stub­bornly stick­ing around, us­ing tax­payer money like it’s her money,” said Kim Eun-young, who par­tic­i­pated in her third week­end protest.

Pros­e­cu­tors ac­cuse Park of col­lud­ing with a long­time con­fi­dante to ex­tort money and fa­vors from com­pa­nies and al­low­ing her to ma­nip­u­late state af­fairs. The court has up to six months to de­cide on Park’s case. If she is for­mally re­moved from of­fice, the coun­try will hold a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion within 60 days. Park has apol­o­gized for putting trust into her jailed friend, Choi Soon­sil, whose crim­i­nal trial be­gins on Mon­day, but has de­nied any le­gal wrong­do­ing.

On Fri­day, law­mak­ers at­tempted to in­spect records at the pres­i­dent’s of­fice, but were de­nied en­try. The law­mak­ers had planned to look into al­le­ga­tions that Blue House se­cu­rity of­fi­cials al­lowed Choi and her key as­so­ci­ates to eas­ily move in and out of the pres­i­den­tial of­fices and res­i­dence. Park’s lawyer, Lee Joong-hwan, said the court should re­store Park’s pow­ers be­cause there is in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to jus­tify her un­seat­ing.

He and other mem­bers of Park’s le­gal team sub­mit­ted a state­ment to the court ex­plain­ing why the case should be de­cided in the pres­i­dent’s fa­vor.

SEOUL: Sup­port­ers of South Korea’s Pres­i­dent Park Geun-Hye march to­ward the pres­i­den­tial house dur­ing a rally against the im­peach­ment of the pres­i­dent. — AFP

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