SOUTH Korea’s election commission chairman announced today that an election will take place by May 9 to replace the now-impeached Park Geun-hye, following a day filled with protests against her removal from office.
The South Korean Constitutional Court ruled yesterday uphold Park’s impeachment, and she now faces the possibility of detention pending trial. Her removal from office is the climax of months of investigations into alleged bribery, extortion and abuse of power in relation to Park’s relationship with Choi Soon-sil, who was summoned for questioning last December.
Park is South Korea’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office. Her ouster followed months of political paralysis and turmoil over a corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung conglomerate in jail and facing trial.
Critics are now calling for Park’s immediate arrest, and announced they would rally in Seoul, where her supporters have also organised protests. These plans elevate the risk of potentially violent confrontation – yesterday’s protests already resulted in the deaths of two supporters, with six injured.
Protesters were setting up a stage beside a major avenue in central Seoul early on Saturday, and groups of police were on the streets, but the situation was calm.
“We demand the arrest of Park Geun-hye and the resignation of acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn,” said Choi In-sook, a spokeswoman for protesters opposed to Park, told Reuters.
Prime Minister Hwang, took over as acting president in Park’s absence on December 9. Hwang urged for calm on Friday and promised that the snap elections will be smooth.
The chairman of the National Election Commission, Kim Yong-deok, said in a televised address that the upcoming elections to choose her successor will be free and fair, but expressed worry that political differences could lead to an “overheated” atmosphere in the run-up to the vote and he called on the public to overcome “conflict” and take part.
Additional reporting by Reuters