NATIONAL

[From the Scene] Radical conservatives call for Park’s release, condemn Moon

By Ock Hyun-ju
  • Published : Mar 10, 2019 - 16:38
  • Updated : Mar 11, 2019 - 16:24

Marking two years since former President Park Geun-hye was removed from office over a corruption scandal, thousands of radical conservative protesters held rallies on Sunday to demand her release and condemn the incumbent liberal president. 

Some 20,000 protestors, as estimated by the rally organizers, from several radical conservative groups demanded “an invalidation of the impeachment” and her “immediate release” in front of the Constitutional Court, Seoul Station and Daehanmun Gate near City Hall.

Members of organizations calling for the acquittal and release of former President Park Geun-hye hold a rally outside Seoul Station on Sunday. (Yonhap)

The protesters -- mostly male and elderly -- said impeachment of the disgraced leader had been “illegal” because everything she had done was for the sake of the country and she had been unfairly ousted after a politically charged trial. 

“The impeachment of President Park was a lie, illegal and fraud,” said Cho Won-jin, leader of the one-seat Patriotic Party of Korea near Seoul Station. 

She was impeached by the parliament in December 2016 over corruption allegations involving her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil, as well as business tycoons and high-profile government officials. Her impeachment was upheld on March 10, 2017, by the Constitutional Court. 

Park, who is now behind bars, is facing 33 years in prison on charges including bribery, abuse of power and coercion, if her convictions are upheld in the Supreme Court. The top court is now deliberating her appeal.

Members of organizations calling for the acquittal and release of former President Park Geun-hye hold a rally outside Seoul Station on Sunday. (Yonhap)

“The impeachment is invalid. Park did nothing wrong. She should be released immediately,” said Lee Hee-soo, 59, who was speaking to foreign tourists in English about how wrong her impeachment was in front of Seoul Station. 

“The media is responsible for her impeachment. They lied a lot (to falsely accuse Park of corruption,)” said Lee, who said he came to know about the rally through YouTube. 

The protestors even put up photos of the Constitutional Court’s justices, who upheld Park’s ouster, on large screens in front of Seoul Station and labeled them “enemies.” Some were live-streaming the protest scene on YouTube. 

Holding up the national flags of South Korea and the US, the pro-Park protesters also blasted President Moon Jae-in, saying he is leaning too much toward North Korea and that the South Korea-US alliance is growing weaker. 

“I am very worried about the country’s future. I am worried that this country might become communist under the Moon administration. He has to step down,” said Shin Young-kyo, 69, from Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province.

Lee Hee-soo, 59, holds up a placard saying “Fake President (Mr. Moon) right now in Korea. Rigged presidential election!” during a pro-Park Geun-hye rally in front of Seoul Station on Sunday. (Ock Hyun-ju/The Korea Herald)

The protesters, most of whom were born during and in the aftermath of the 1950-53 Korean War and fought for the liberal democracy alongside the US, have taken to the streets since the liberal president took office. 

Two years on since her ouster, the topic of Park is a source of deep division in Korean society and the political arena, with the main opposition Liberty Korea Party calling for her release and the liberal bloc calling their attitude regressive. 

The main opposition party’s newly minted chief Hwang Kyo-ahn, who served as Prime Minister under the Park administration, and Na Kyung-won, the party’s floor leader, hinted at the need to release her, though they did not directly address it. 

The Liberty Korea Party, which Park was affiliated with, said it will “never forget the pain, wounds and lesson of the day (of Park’s impeachment)” through its spokesperson Kim Hyun-ah.

The ruling Democratic Party, on the other hand, reminded Koreans of the meaning of the impeachment. 

“The impeachment of former President Park was a chance for people and the parliament to confirm the constitutional value that all power stems from people,” Kwon Mi-hyuk, the party spokesperson said. She added the Liberty Korea Party’s denial of the impeachment and demand of Park’s release is “shocking and worrying.”

Trials involving Park, Choi and others implicated in the corruption scandal are ongoing.
Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to 2 1/2 years imprisonment, suspended for four years, for bribery, while Choi Soon-sil received a 20-year jail term. Both are awaiting a final decision by the Supreme Court.

By Ock Hyun-joo (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)