The front-runner to succeed South Korea’s impeached president Park Geun-Hye on Sunday called for unity as the country writes a “new history”, while hundreds gathered outside the home of the ousted leader in a show of support.
The Constitutional Court on Friday upheld a parliamentary vote to impeach Park, effectively removing her from office over a corruption scandal involving her close friend.
A presidential election is to be held within 60 days of the ruling, with local media suggesting May 9 as the most likely date.
The likely winner — by a distance — is the liberal former Democratic Party leader Moon Jae-In who enjoys 36 percent of popular support.
“If the power of candlelight has brought us this far, we now have to work together for a complete victory,” Moon told a news conference on Sunday, referring to weekly candlelit vigils that called for Park’s ouster.
“South Korea will make new history through a regime change.”
Park, who is South Korea’s first democratically-elected president to be ousted from office, remains holed up at the presidential Blue House as workers repair and clean her private residence.
Television footage showed hundreds of Park’s flag-waving supporters gathered outside her home in prosperous southern Seoul with reports saying she is likely to leave the presidential office on Monday.
Moon said it would be “heartless” to kick Park out of the Blue House while her home was being prepared but warned against possible attempts to destroy or remove state documents before she left.
Park was found to have broken the law by allowing her friend Choi Soon-Sil to meddle in state affairs, and breaching rules on public servants’ activities.
The court ruling removed her presidential immunity to criminal indictment.
She has already been named a criminal suspect, accused of bribery for offering policy favours to firms that benefited Choi.
For months she has refused to make herself available for questioning by prosecutors probing the scandal.
But that may no longer be an option once she leaves the Blue House, when she could face formal arrest if she refuses a summons, with local reports saying that the prosecutors were mulling imposing a travel ban on Park.
Tens of thousands of anti-Park protesters took to the streets to celebrate the court’s ruling on Saturday while some 20,000 angry pro-Park flag-waving protesters rallied nearby demanding a review of the one-off decision.
Police have arrested several protesters for violent behaviour, with a third person confirmed dead Saturday in hospital after losing consciousness the day before in a clash between pro-Park supporters and riot police.