After impeachment of South Korean
president, anti-Park rallies resume
Send a link to a friend
[December 10, 2016]
By Jack Kim and Nataly Pak
SEOUL (Reuters) - Protesters demanding that
South Korean President Park Geun-hye step down marched on Saturday for a
seventh straight weekend, a day after parliament voted overwhelmingly to
impeach her and put the fate of her presidency in the hands of a
The crowd estimated by organizers at 200,000 packing a large square in
downtown Seoul was significantly smaller than in recent weeks but
festive, with performances of music between speeches calling for the
early removal of Park.
"We demand that the Constitutional Court make a decision of conscience
and justice and do not act against the will of the people," Jung
Kang-ja, one of the leaders of a coalition of civic groups backing the
rally, said in a speech.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who became acting president late on Friday
after the impeachment vote, called on authorities to ensure that rallies
are peaceful and sought to calm anxiety over national security and to
reassure financial markets
"So far, financial and foreign exchange markets have been relatively
stable and there are no signs of unusual movements by the North, but all
public servants should bear vigilance in mind as they conduct their
duties," Hwang told a meeting.
Park's powers were suspended after 234 of parliament's 300 members voted
to impeach her, meaning more than 60 members of her own party backed the
motion against her.
The impeachment, which has to be reviewed and approved by the
Constitutional Court within 180 days to remove Park from office, sets
the stage for her to become the country's first elected leader to be
ousted in disgrace.
Park, 64, the daughter of a former military ruler, is accused of
colluding with a friend and a former aide, both of whom prosecutors have
indicted, to pressure big businesses to donate to foundations set up to
back her policy initiatives.
Park, who is serving a single five-year term ending in February 2018,
has denied wrongdoing but apologized for carelessness in her ties with
her friend, Choi Soon-sil.
For seven consecutive weekends, huge crowds have gathered in central
Seoul in demonstrations calling for Park to step down. On Saturday, some
restaurants in central Seoul were offering "impeachment discounts,"
according to TV channel YTN.
The candle-lit rallies have been peaceful, with parents bringing
children and many demonstrators using smartphone apps with candlelight
images and maps for bathrooms.
Lee Youl-woo, a 48-year-old office worker, was at a booth giving out
free LED candles.
"The impeachment was passed but this is the beginning, not the end," he
[to top of second column]
An effigy of South Korean President Park Geun-hye is seen behind
people marching towards the Presidential Blue House during a protest
calling for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to step down in
central Seoul, South Korea, December 10, 2016. The signs read,
"Arrest Park Geun-hye". REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
The rally capped a historic week that saw the heads of nine of the
country's biggest conglomerates subjected to a 13-hour grilling by a
parliamentary panel on whether they sought favors by agreeing to pay
into the foundations controlled by Choi.
"Imprison Jay Y. Lee," said a sign held at the rally by Democratic
Party presidential hopeful Lee Jae-myeong, referring to the scion of
the Samsung Group, who was among the nine.
None of the companies has been accused of wrongdoing.
If Park leaves office early, an election must be held within 60
days. She would also lose presidential immunity from prosecution.
Prosecutors have named Park as an accomplice in their investigation.
Park's approval rating is just 5 percent, according to a poll
released before Friday's impeachment vote, but some Koreans turned
out to support her at a march earlier on Saturday.
"Nothing has been proven yet," said Kim Han-gone, a 49-year-old
office worker carrying an "against impeachment" sign.
"After the investigation, after everything's been revealed, it's not
too late to impeach then," he said.
The United States, which has about 28,500 troops stationed in South
Korea, was in close contact with South Korea and remained a strong
ally, the White House said late on Friday.
While North Korean state media has been scathing in its coverage of
South Korea's presidential scandal, which erupted in October, the
official KCNA news agency's first report on the impeachment was a
simple three-sentence item on Saturday.
(Additional reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Tony Munroe,
Robert Birsel and Louise Heavens)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.