‘Ottawa’ 3rd Protester Dies as S. Korea Braces for More Rallies
SEOUL, South Korea – South Korean police on Saturday braced for more violence between opponents and supporters of ousted President Park Geun-hye, who was stripped of her powers by the constitutional Court over a corruption scandal that has plunged the country into a political turmoil.
Three people died and dozens were injured in clashes between police and Park’s supporters after the ruling Friday, according to police, which detained seven protesters for questioning.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency was planning to deploy nearly 20,000 officers and hundreds of buses to separate the two crowds, whose passionate rallies have divided the streets near the presidential palace in the past several weekends as the scandal worsened.
The court’s decision capped a stunning fall for the country’s first female leader. Park rode a wave of lingering conservative nostalgia for her late dictator father to victory in 2012, only to see her presidency crumble as millions of furious protesters filled the nation’s streets.
The ruling allows possible criminal proceedings against the 65-year-old Park — prosecutors have already named her a criminal suspect — and makes her South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be removed from office since democracy replaced dictatorship in the late 1980s.
It also deepens South Korea’s political and security uncertainty as it faces existential threats from North Korea, reported economic retaliation from a China furious about Seoul’s co-operation with the U.S. on an anti-missile system, and questions in Seoul about the new Trump administration’s commitment to the countries’ security alliance.
South Korea must now hold an election within two months to choose Park’s successor. Liberal Moon Jae-in, who lost to Park in the 2012 election, currently enjoys a comfortable lead in opinion surveys.
Kim Yong-deok, the chief of the National Election Commission, said Saturday that the election will be managed “accurately and perfectly” and urged the public to participate in a vote that would “determine the fate of the Republic of Korea,” referring to South Korea’s formal name.
Park’s “acts of violating the constitution and law are a betrayal of the public trust,” Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi said. “The benefits of protecting the constitution that can be earned by dismissing the defendant are overwhelmingly big. Hereupon, in a unanimous decision by the court panel, we issue a verdict: We dismiss the defendant, President Park Geun-hye.”
Lee accused Park of colluding with longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil to extort tens of millions of dollars from businesses and letting Choi, a private citizen, meddle in state affairs and receive and look at documents with state secrets. Those allegations were previously made by prosecutors, but Park has refused to undergo any questioning, citing a law that gives a sitting leader immunity from prosecution.
It is not clear when prosecutors will try to interview her.
Park hasn’t vacated the presidential Blue House yet, as her aides are preparing for her return to her private home in southern Seoul, according to her office. Park has not made a public statement on her removal.
Park’s lawyer, Seo Seok-gu, who had previously compared her impeachment to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, called the verdict a “tragic decision” made under popular pressure and questioned the fairness of what he called a “kangaroo court.”