Protests continue despite South Korean president's impeachment

  • 11/12/2016

Protesters demanding South Korean President Park Geun-hye step down have marched for a seventh straight weekend, a day after parliament voted overwhelmingly to impeach her.

Organisers estimate around 200,000 people packed a large square in downtown Seoul on Saturday. This crowd was much smaller than in recent weeks but festive, with music between speeches calling for Ms Park's early removal.

"We demand the Constitutional Court make a decision of conscience and justice and do not act against the will of the people," Jung Kang-ja, one of the leaders of a coalition of civic groups backing the rally, said.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who became acting president late on Friday after the impeachment vote, called for rallies to be peaceful and sought to calm anxiety over national security and reassure financial markets

"Financial and foreign exchange markets have been relatively stable and there are no signs of unusual movements by the North but all public servants should bear vigilance in mind as they conduct their duties," Mr Hwang said.

Ms Park's powers were suspended after 234 of parliament's 300 members voted to impeach her, meaning more than 60 members of her own party backed the motion against her.

The impeachment, which has to be reviewed and approved by the Constitutional Court within 180 days to remove Ms Park from office, sets the stage for her to become the country's first elected leader to be ousted in disgrace.

The 64-year-old daughter of a former military ruler, is accused of colluding with a friend and a former aide, both of whom prosecutors have indicted, to pressure businesses to donate to foundations set up to back her policies.

Ms Park, who is serving a single five-year term ending in February 2018, has denied wrongdoing but apologised for carelessness in her ties with her friend, Choi Soon-sil.

For seven consecutive weekends, huge crowds have gathered in central Seoul in demonstrations calling for Ms Park to step down.

The candle-lit rallies have been peaceful, with parents bringing children and many demonstrators using smartphone apps with candlelight images and maps for bathrooms.

If Ms Park leaves office early, an election must be held within 60 days.