Anti-impeachment rallies gather steam in Seoul

by WorldTribune Staff, February 12, 2017

Tens of thousands of South Koreans took to the streets of Seoul on Feb. 11 to protest for – and against – the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye.

Park was impeached by parliament in December and the Constitutional Court in Seoul is now deliberating whether to approve the impeachment, which would trigger new elections, or allow her to finish out her 5-year term.

Pro-government demonstrators hold U.S. and South Korean flags at a rally in Seoul on Feb. 11. /AFP

South Korea has been politically and geopolitically paralyzed by the crisis which comes during an economic downturn in the prosperous nation, exacerbated by heavy pressure from China which has severely punished the South’s decision to deploy the U.S. THAAD missile defense system against the growing North Korean strategic threat.

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Organizers for the pro-Park rally said they will call for her impeachment to be revoked and for the dissolution of the special prosecutors’ team, which they believe were swayed by “false” and “fabricated” charges against the president, UPI reported on Feb. 11.

Park’s supporters resorted to protests after charging that all major South Korean media have ignored evidence that counters the case for impeachment. Saying her impeachment was the work of “pro-North Korea” leftists, they have urged the court to turn it down and bring Park back to power.

Park’s critics blasted calls to renew the investigation, which can be extended by a month with consent from Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ah, who is serving as acting president.

“Park’s supporters are expecting that the impeachment would be nullified if the special probe ends this month and acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi retires next month,” Vice Chairperson of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions Kim Kyung-Ja said. “We should be more united to make our voices heard for Park’s ouster.”

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The court had previously resolved to complete the process before Lee’s retirement on March 13, which would leave only seven members on the traditionally nine-member bench.

Presidential hopefuls including provincial governor An Hee-Jung and the leftist former leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, Moon Jae-In, attended the anti-Park rally.

Park is accused of colluding with a longtime friend, Choi Soon-Sil, to strong-arm donations worth tens of millions of dollars from top firms to dubious foundations controlled by Choi.

The president is also accused of using her influence to ensure the merger of two Samsung units in 2015 to help facilitate a father-to-son power succession of Samsung’s founding family, allegedly in return for bribes given to Choi.

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