Supporters of the ousted South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, have held another large protest rally against a recent Constitutional Court ruling upholding her impeachment, following a day of deadly clashes in Seoul.
The South Korean capital is bracing for even more protest rallies for and against Park on Saturday, with the demonstrators expected to fill the streets around the presidential Blue House in Seoul.
On Friday, violent clashes broke out between pro-Park protesters and riot police near the Constitutional Court, which confirmed in a historic ruling the South Korean leader’s impeachment and dismissed her over a wide-ranging corruption scandal rattling the nation’s top corporations.
Two protesters were killed during the skirmishes, while a third one later died of the wounds he had sustained during the violent confrontations on Saturday.
Under the constitution, an election must be held within 60 days to pick a successor.
In a televised address on Saturday, Head of South Korea’s National Election Commission (NEC) Kim Yong-deok said, “We are in a very serious situation where we must elect the next president by May 9 the latest.”
The official further expressed concerns over existing political disparities, which, he said, could generate an “overheated” atmosphere, pleading with the public to overcome “conflicts” and participate in the transition process.
The NEC “acknowledges the significance of this election taking place amid grave circumstances and will fulfill our duties given by the Constitution to manage the election strictly and impartially,” Kim added.
Liberal presidential candidate Moon Jae-in, who lost to Park in the 2012 election, is reportedly enjoying a comfortable lead in the country’s opinion surveys.
This is while the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency was planning to deploy some 20,000 officers and hundreds of buses to separate the opposing sides of the protesters, whose passionate rallies have divided the streets near the presidential palace in the past several weekends as the scandal worsened.
Meanwhile, the high court’s ruling allows potential criminal proceedings against 65-year-old Park as prosecutors have already named her a criminal suspect, making her South Korea’s first democratically-elected president to be removed from office.
Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi described Park’s “acts of violating the constitution and law” as a “betrayal of the public trust.”
Lee further insisted that Park had colluded with longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil to extort tens of millions of dollars from businesses and allowed Choi -- a private citizen – to interfere in state affairs and have access to confidential state documents.
However, Park’s lawyer Seo Seok-gu had previously compared her impeachment to the “crucifixion of Jesus Christ.” He had called the verdict a “tragic decision” and questioned the fairness of what he called a “kangaroo court.”