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Ruling sparks fierce resistance

Police officers and former President Park Geun-hye’s supporters clash near the Constitutional Court in Seoul after an impeachment ruling ousted her Friday. Some Officers stand on top of police vehicles to monitor the situation. /Yonhap


By Kim Se-jeong

The Constitutional Court’s unanimous impeachment ruling was met with fierce opposition from conservative supporters of former President Park Geun-hye on Friday, with two dead and a couple of dozen injured.

Police confirmed the deaths, saying one fell inside Anguk Station and that they were investigating the cause of the other one. In addition, five demonstrators had been detained as of 5 p.m.

Their identities were not disclosed.

Opposition from Park supporters was anticipated but the extent of violence and casualties took many by surprise.

A crowd of pro-Park supporters was gathering near the Seoul court when the ruling came. After a moment of silence in shock, the group began condemning justices for their decisions and the prosecution and demanding the police clear the way for them to march toward the court. Facing police resistance, some climbed on the police buses that were surrounding them _ one reportedly fell from a bus and was taken to a nearby hospital.

Others fought with fellow demonstrators and with the police force. They were also hostile to journalists who were there trying to take photos and speak to them.

The confrontation with the police continued through the evening with chants, such as “We’ll fight for President Park,” “Korea is a communist country,” “We need to stay together to fight” and “It’s time to have bloodshed to bring justice.”

On the other side of the street, anti-Park demonstrators welcomed the decision.

As the ruling was announced through a television set up in the middle of the street, the crowd quickly went into ecstasy. They jumped up and down, hugged and shook hands. Some cried out. “I am so happy,” Lee Chae-hyun from Ilsan said in tears. “We have fought so hard to get common sense back and we won.”

The anti-Park crowd marched in excitement toward Cheong Wa Dae where Park was staying. People were chanting “It’s time to go,” “Your destination is a prison cell,” “Candle lights have won,” among others. They gathered again in the evening at the Gwanghwamun Square in celebration of the impeachment.

Kim Kwang-bae, who lost a son to the Sewol ferry incident on April 16, 2014, said he finally felt a sense of relief.

“Nothing happened after he died,” Kim said. “What happened today will be the beginning of finding the culprits behind the incident and bringing them to justice.”

Former President Park’s corruption scandal involving her confidant Choi Soon-sil took anti-Park demonstrators to the streets since the end of October, demanding her resignation and the decision by the court. They gathered with candle lights, which have become the symbol of their protest.

However, protests began showing a stark divide. For the last couple of weeks, tensions between Pro- and Anti-Park factions were extremely high at each protest.

Today will be the final weekly protest of anti-Park demonstrators, according to the organizer.

Pro-Park protests are likely to continue, as the demonstrators have vowed to carry on. Many worry about a brutal confrontation between the two groups Saturday.

The National Police Agency which mobilized 216,000 officers near the court and protest sites, Friday, is expected to maintain these numbers Saturday.


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