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South Koreans celebrate Park impeachment

December 10, 2016

Tens of thousands of people have held a celebratory rally after lawmakers voted to remove disgraced President Park Geun-h​ye. A protest against the move drew a far smaller crowd.

Protesters against Park Geun-Hye
Image: Reuters/K. Hong-Ji

Massive crowds took to the streets of the South Korean capital, Seoul, on Saturday to celebrate the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, who was called upon to step down on Friday after being accused of numerous constitutional and criminal violations including bribery and abuse of power.

Organizers of the rally said some 600,000 people turned out - a huge gathering, but smaller than in previous weeks, when crowds of more than a million took to the streets for anti-Park demonstrations.

Protesters, who marched in the wake of an effigy of Park dressed in prison clothes, followed it into an alley near the presidential offices and residence - known as the "Blue House" - chanting "Get out of the house now!" and "Come down and go to jail."

Protest against Park Geun-Hye
Seoul saw weeks of protests against ParkImage: Reuters/K. Hong-Ji

Long court process

However, despite the calls for her to leave office immediately, Park has only had her authority suspended and will retain her title of president and immunity from prosecution until the Constitutional Court rules whether she must step down permanently - a process that could take up to six months.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has been given the job of government caretaker until the impeachment ruling is made. If the impeachment is supported by the court, a presidential election would be held within 60 days.

Park has been accused, among other things, of colluding with a longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, to extort money and favors from the country's biggest companies and of giving Choi undue influence on government decisions.

Still some supporters

Earlier in the day, some 15,000 people held a pro-Park rally in Seoul, waving national flags and carrying banners that read: "President Park, Don't Cry" and "Nullify impeachment."

Some clashed verbally with Park opponents.

Many of Park's supporters are elderly voters who admired the president's father, the late military dictator Park Chung-Hee, who is given credit for engineering South Korea's economic transformation but is also seen as an authoritarian leader who could brook no dissent.

tj/sms (AP, AFP)