|President Park Geun-hye was ousted Friday, but she refused to leave Cheong Wa Dae immediately, saying it will take time to repair her long-vacated private residence in southern Seoul and move her belongings. / Yonhap|
By Kim Rahn
Park Geun-hye, the ousted leader of the country, has not left Cheong Wa Dae or made any comments on the Constitutional Court’s ruling to unseat her Friday amid subsequent violent rallies by her supporters.
Her silence is feared to aggravate protests from her loyalists and throw the nation into more confusion, while all political parties called for steps to overcome the trauma of her impeachment and move the nation forward.
After the court unanimously upheld her ouster over a major influence-peddling and corruption scandal, Park was expected to speak to the nation in the form of a message or a press conference. Some politicians urged her to announce she would accept the ruling, because it would be the former president’s last moral duty to soothe her angry supporters and mend the national division between liberals and conservatives.
However, she opted for silence, as she has always done when facing trouble. Sources at the presidential office said she would not issue any message.
The silence, which was again against public expectations, is interpreted as her refusal to accept the court decision. Some of her defense attorneys have already said they would reject the ruling. This may cause further political and social confusion and instigate more protests from her supporters, who are getting violent, with two people dying during a rally right after the court ruling.
Instead of Park, acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn issued a statement to call for national unity. “Even now some refuse to accept the ruling, but it is time to accept it and end conflicts,” Hwang said in a televised address.
Park did not vacate Cheong Wa Dae immediately. Her aides said earlier that if she was ousted, Park would return to her private residence in Samseong-dong, southern Seoul, where she lived for 23 years before she became president in 2013.
But sources said it will take time to repair the long-vacated house and move her belongings.
There is no rule or precedent about when an ousted president should vacate the presidential office, so there has been an argument over when Park should leave.
Although the former president is still eligible to receive the presidential security office’s service for five years, it has yet prepared security measures around her house.
Usually when a president decides where to live after retirement, the office starts preparing security measures months beforehand, including buying a nearby house to be used by security staff or constructing a new one if there is no adequate building available. But such preparatory measures have not been started for Park since she was impeached and suspended from duty.
It will also take time to sort out her materials to be possibly categorized as presidential records. Some of them may be classified as state secrets and others may be sent to the Presidential Archives in Sejong.
It is not known yet who will help Park move and belong to her entourage. Speculation is that some former aides will accompany her to the private residence and assist her.
Investigation ahead, privileges gone
The former head of the state will have to brace herself for a prosecution investigation, as she is no longer immune from this. Park earlier took advantage of the presidential privilege to escape the prosecution’s and the independent counsel team’s questioning ― an escape which the Constitutional Court viewed as betraying the public trust and showing her lack of will not to repent her illegal actions.
Although she has denied all allegations raised against her, the counsel team concluded Park was an accomplice of Choi, so she will face intensive questioning by investigators and could be put behind bars if found guilty in a trial.
Park will also be stripped of many privileges given to former presidents. They usually receive a lifetime pension amounting to 70 percent of their annual salary, which is about 12 million won for Park. They also get assistance from three staff members and a driver as well as free medical service and fees for transportation and communication.
The presidential security office provides guards for 10 years to normally retired presidents, and after that period, police take charge of security. For Park, however, it will be halved to five years.
Park will not be buried at a national cemetery after her death, as the law states public officials dismissed through impeachment or disciplinary action cannot be interred there.
She cannot hold a public post for five years as well according to the Civil Service Act. It is unlikely for her to be granted a pardon.