SEOUL: The rival crowds outside South Korea’s constitutional court Friday for the verdict on impeached president Park Geun-Hye epitomized the opposing passions and generational splits over the country’s sweeping political scandal.
Around 3,000 anti-Park demonstrators, mostly in their 20s to 40s, erupted with joy as the verdict was read out in a live television broadcast.
“We won, we won,” they chanted, waving banners.
“This is a victory of democracy,” 27-year-old student Ahn Yo-Wool told Agence France-Presse, wiping tears from her cheek.
Another student, Lim Na-kyung, added: “The impeachment of the president is truly a day that will go down in history. My heart is full of emotion and I am very happy.”
Millions of South Koreans, increasingly frustrated over broad economic and social challenges, have gathered for weekly protests demanding Park’s removal over a wide-ranging corruption scandal.
The South is Asia’s fourth-largest economy but growth is slowing and many complain of a lack of opportunity in a country dominated by large companies with close ties to the political establishment.
But some of Park’s diehard supporters, mostly older conservatives with fond memories of the rule of her late father, dictator Park Chung-Hee, still stand by her.
Several thousand flag-waving backers gathered a few hundred metres away from the anti-Park crowds Friday, separated by a huge police presence—more than 20,000 were deployed.
They were left stunned by the ruling, many of them open-mouthed.
“We don’t accept this decision,” said Cho Bong-Am, 60, a kindergarten operator. “We will take to the street to fight to the end.”
Park has maintained a hardline stance on North Korea and many of her heartland voters blame her removal on machinations by Pyongyang.
“Justice is dead. I think the government must now declare a martial law and wipe out these pro-Pyongyang leftists”, said Ahn Moon-Yung, a 71-year-old shopkeeper.
A few minor scuffles broke out as the largely older pro-Park crowd swarmed towards the police blockade, wielding sticks and chanting “Destroy Constitutional Court!”
Some attempted to pull away police buses blocking their way.
Two died, including one who was hit on the head by a speaker falling from a vehicle roof, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
“Nullify impeachment, dissolve parliament,” they chanted, singing to military marches and waving both South Korean and US flags.
“The United States is our ally and we need their assistance in destroying these pro-Pyongyang leftists,” said Cheon Young-Soo, 71. “There is no reason for the president to be impeached.”
The front-runner in polls for the presidential race, due within 60 days, is leftist Moon Jae-In of the Democratic Party.
If he wins, said Bae Soo-Rok, 58, who wore a military uniform and said he was a retired marine, “We will all rise up and oust him from power within a year.” AFP