Loyalists to former President Park Geun-hye flocked nearby her private residence in southern Seoul late Sunday, seeking to bid farewell to the state chief who faced an earlier-than-expected end of her tenure upon impeachment.
The residential neighborhood in Samseong-dong was crammed with hundreds awaiting the retreat of the former president to her home.
In addition to some 800 police officers who kept guard at the scene, a considerable number of Park supporters, including ranking pro-Park lawmakers, former secretariat chiefs and members of the anti-impeachment civic group, were present. Police said over 1,000 gathered.
A smiling Park shook hands and exchanged greetings with her former aides and political allies in front of her home, as her followers shouted messages of encouragement.
From Park‘s home camp, Liberty Korea Party, were Rep. Suh Chung-won, an eighth-term lawmaker and longtime chief of the pro-Park faction. Other symbolic figures such as former Deputy Prime Minister Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan and former Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Rep. Min Kyung-wook also made appearances.
Park’s three former presidential chiefs of staff, including her first secretariat chief Huh Tae-yeol, kept a position at Park’s doorway.
Rep. Cho Won-jin, a former public affairs strategist of the party and ranking Park aide, was the first to arrive at the scene earlier in the afternoon. Reps. Yoon Sang-hyun, Kim Jin-tae and Park Dae-chul, who have participated in the Taegeukgi rallies to oppose Park‘s impeachment, were also there.
“The intention is not so much to offer consolation, but to bid farewell,” said one of the pro-Park lawmakers.
While lawmakers and former secretariat officials retained composure, preparing for Park’s arrival, members of Parksamo -- the official group of Park’s supporters -- let out enraged responses.
After Cheong Wa Dae confirmed Park’s departure at 7:16 p.m., some 800 Park supporters became restless, shouting out the former president’s name and cursing the Constitutional Court for its impeachment ruling.
“The communist opposition manipulated the media and bribed the court so that they kicked out President Park and grasped power,” was one of the comments heard from among the Park loyalists, most of whom were well advanced in age.
Blocked by iron fences set up by police, the protesters waved the Taegeukgi national flag, a symbol of their self-proclaimed title as “conservative patriots.” Some also hoisted the US flag, as they had in a number of anti-impeachment rallies over the past months.
While some attempted to cross the police line, shouting, ”We love you, President Park Geun-hye, don’t lose courage!,” others held up banners reading “Welcome President Park.” A member of Parksamo was even reported to have fainted.
A number of the excited protesters scuffled with police officials and reporters at the scene, reviving the violent protests over the weekend that left three dead.
Also, a group of women in their 20s had to quickly withdraw with a police escort after their lighting of candles, a symbol of the movement against Park, nearby Park’s house triggered the fury of Park supporters.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org
) and Ock Hyun-ju (email@example.com