Friday, May 20, 2022

South Korea impeached ex-president leaves Blue House

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South Korea’s impeached ex-president Park Geun-Hye (C) arrives at her private residence in Seoul on March 12, 2017. South Korea’s impeached ex-president Park Geun-Hye left the presidential Blue House on March 12, two days after the Constitutional Court’s verdict removing her from office over a massive corruption scandal. PHOTO: STR / YONHAP / AFP

South Korea’s impeached ex-president Park Geun-Hye left the Blue House Sunday, two days after the Constitutional Court’s verdict removing her from office over a massive corruption scandal.

The court upheld a parliamentary vote to impeach Park, effectively removing her from office over a corruption scandal involving her close friend.

But she had remained at the presidential Blue House since the verdict, citing the need to repair her private residence in southern Seoul before moving in.

“President Park Geun-Hye has just left the Blue House and headed for her private home. No statement was released on her departure,” said presidential spokesman Kim Dong-Jo Sunday.

Kim added her departure was delayed as she had to say farewell to her aides.

Live television footage followed her motorcade as it drove from the Blue House to Park’s private residence in southern Seoul.

A smiling Park was seen waving to her supporters from inside her black vehicle as it pulled up to her home in the glitzy Gangnam district.

Hundreds of Park’s flag-waving supporters had gathered outside her home, with some 2,000 police officers deployed to prevent disturbances, according to reports.

Park, wearing a dark jacket and her hair neatly pulled back, waved to her supporters after arriving at her home and greeted former aides and lawmakers who were waiting to greet her, before entering her property.

Park was found to have broken the law by allowing her friend Choi Soon-Sil to meddle in state affairs, and breached rules on public servants’ activities.

A presidential election is to be held within 60 days of the ruling, with local media suggesting May 9 as the most likely date.

The likely winner — by a distance — is the liberal former Democratic Party leader Moon Jae-In who enjoys 36 percent popular support.

“If the power of candlelight has brought us this far, we now have to work together for a complete victory,” Moon told a news conference on Sunday, referring to weekly candlelit vigils that called for Park’s ouster.

“South Korea will make new history through a regime change.”

The court ruling removed her presidential immunity to criminal indictment.

She has already been named a criminal suspect, accused of bribery for offering policy favours to firms that benefited Choi.

For months she has refused to make herself available for questioning by prosecutors probing the scandal.

But she could now face formal arrest if she refuses a summons, with local reports saying prosecutors were mulling a travel ban on Park.

Tens of thousands of anti-Park protesters took to the streets to celebrate the court’s ruling on Saturday while some 20,000 angry pro-Park flag-waving protesters rallied nearby, demanding a review of the one-off decision.

Police arrested several protesters for violent behaviour, with a third person confirmed dead Saturday in hospital after losing consciousness the day before in a clash between pro-Park supporters and riot police.

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