Protesters Celebrate President Park's Impeachment Vote, Continue Call for Immediate Resignation

Protesters Celebrate President Park's Impeachment Vote, Continue Call for Immediate Resignation

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans held a candlelight vigil in a celebrative mood on Saturday as parliament has voted to impeach President Park Geun-hye over a massive political scandal.

Braving cold weather, protesters took to the streets demanding Park's imminent resignation for the seventh week, but this time, a more festive mood was felt as the National Assembly approved a motion to impeach Park a day earlier.

"Unlike a previous rally that I joined, I came here today with delight to celebrate the impeachment," said Choi Hee-tae.

On Friday, parliament passed the motion to impeach Park in a 234-56 vote over a scandal involving the president and her long-time confidante Choi Soon-sil.

Prosecutors accused Park of being an accomplice in the scandal in which Choi allegedly meddled in state affairs and pressured conglomerates into making donations to two foundations controlled by her by using her close ties to Park.

Now the ball is passed to the Constitutional Court which will review the legitimacy of the motion within 180 days.'

Since late October, Park has made three public apologies over the scandal. But public anger has not eased, making hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets for weeks.

On Saturday, organizers estimated about 800,000 protesters gathered in central Seoul, smaller than some 1.7 million tallied for last week, in what could have been the biggest rally ever.

They also put the turnout at over 1 million in nationwide protests while police estimated it at around 170,000.

In recent weeks, South Koreans staged protests in a peaceful and orderly manner, without major clashes with police.

Most demonstrators called on Park to immediately step down from her post, saying that the Constitutional Court should also approved the impeachment.

"All power comes from the public," said one protester. "Parliamentary approval of the impeachment motion is a victory for the people, but this is just the beginning as there is a long way to go."

Activist Chung Kang-ja cast a similar view, saying it is too early to drink a toast as the impeachment is just the start.

Chanting "Arrest Park," or "Remove her from Cheong Wa Dae," protesters also marched near the presidential office.

At Gwanghwamun Plaza, a main venue for the rally, 304 life vests were placed to commemorate the death of the victims in the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April 2014.

Park has been under fire for failing to properly respond to the deadly sinking. She has yet to clarify why she made her first appearance seven hours after the first report on the tragedy was made.

Citizens vowed to continue to sternly stage candlelight vigils until the president steps down, but they also expressed their enjoyment over the impeachment.

A group of middle and high school students played music with lyrics calling for Park's resignation and danced in celebration in central Seoul. Demonstrators also set off fireworks in a festive mood.

"I am giving free coffees to celebrate Park's impeachment and call for her arrest," said Kim In-sook, a cafeteria owner. "I want to share joy with the citizens," she said.

Conservative civic groups, meanwhile, held a separate rally earlier in the day to demand the nullification of the impeachment.

The latest parliamentary move marks the first since 2004 when lawmakers voted to impeach late former President Roh Moo-hyun. He was later reinstated by the Constitutional Court.

Park's five-year single term is supposed to end in February 2018 with the next presidential election originally slated for December next year. But if the court endorses the impeachment, a presidential election should be held within 60 days by law.'

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