Pro-, anti-Park rallies to reach peak after impeachment ruling

Students hold signs that read “Arrest Park Geun-hye” and “No spring without Park Geun-hye’s impeachment” at Dongguk University in Seoul, Thursday, on the eve of a historic Constitutional Court impeachment ruling on whether to remove or reinstate Park as president. /

Police raise public alert level to highest

By Lee Kyung-min

Supporters and critics of President Park Geun-hye are gearing up their rallies to the greatest intensity possible to express their opinions, with the Constitutional Court set to deliver its ruling on her impeachment at 11 a.m. today.

The National Police Agency raised the public alert level to the highest today, dispatching about 20,000 police officers to guard against possible violent clashes near the court, Gwanghwamun Square and Cheong Wa Dae, including all adjacent areas in downtown Seoul.

Both groups began to stage rallies near Gwanghwamun late Thursday, vowing to continue their efforts until Saturday.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the second-largest umbrella union here and the organizer of the anti-Park Geun-hye candlelit vigil rallies, said they will gather near the square at 7 p.m. Thursday before marching toward the court.

“The Constitutional Court was established to protect the public against abuses of power under authoritarian regimes,” a KCTU official said.

“We expect the court will deliver an 8-0 ruling to uphold the impeachment.”

Now that the ruling is imminent, the group added, the future course of action should focus on the “post-impeachment roadmap,” by increasing their demands on the state prosecution to put Park behind bars.

“Immediately after the ruling upholding the impeachment, as we believe the court should announce, we will keep raising our voices for a district court to issue an arrest warrant for Park and for the prosecution to conduct the investigation in a no-holds-barred manner,” the official said.

“Unless our demands are met, we will keep holding candlelit vigils, peacefully but steadfastly.”

The group plans to hold a rally today, with statements prepared for both scenarios in which impeachment is upheld or overturned.

On Saturday evening, the group plans to hold a candlelit vigil with musical performances scheduled to celebrate the court ruling, on the premise Park is removed from office.

“We know our plans on Friday and Saturday are based on the results we want, but we warn that the court justices should beware of the consequences before they decide to overturn the impeachment. We will then respond with full-fledged civil disobedience,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Park Geun-hye supporters continued to stage overnight sit-ins, Thursday, outside Gyeongbokgung Station near Cheong Wa Dae.

The group posted messages on its online community encouraging members to participate in the rally today and Saturday, in celebration of what they expect will be a “glorious future of this country,” as they expect the court to rule against impeachment.

“We should mobilize to the greatest extent possible to behold the fate of the glorious future of Korea. Please, everyone, come to the rally to proudly witness the historic day together,” the post read.

Meanwhile, groups of university students also issued statements urging the court to uphold the ruling.

“The Park Geun-hye administration left indelible scars on us the university students,” a student of Seoul National University said during a press conference in front of the university headquarters.

“Park pushed ahead with the state-sponsored university subsidy project, resulting in a business-oriented approach trumping fundamental education principles. The university was forced to become a commercial entity, rather than an educational institution.”

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