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Half a million South Koreans celebrate impeaching of president Park Geun-hye

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Large numbers of protester have taken to the streets marking Fridays suspension of Parks presidential powers with music, chanting and fireworks

Angry protests against the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, have turned into celebrations following her impeachment, with thousands braving freezing temperatures over the weekend to declare a victory for people power.

Large numbers of protesters returned to the streets of Seoul on Saturday, marking Fridays suspension of Parks presidential powers with candlelit vigils, music, chanting and impromptu firework displays.

Some among a crowd organisers estimated at 500,000 played drums and gongs, while other held up an effigy of park dressed in a prison uniform.

Despite the festive mood, people who had gathered just outside the presidential Blue House made it clear they were still not satisfied, calling on Park to resign immediately rather than await a ruling on the legitimacy of her impeachment by the constitutional court.

After MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of impeachment, Park said she would wait for the courts nine judges to confirm whether or not the move was valid a process that could take up to six months.

But at the weekend, protesters demanded that Park vacate the Blue House, where she is expected to remain, shorn of her powers and shunned by much of her own party, while the judges consider their verdict.

She may have been able to hear crowds outside chanting: Park Geun-hye, get out of the house! and Come down and go to jail!

Kim Hye-in, a demonstrator who was attending her sixth anti-Park demonstration, said impeachment was just a first step. It was a day when we all realised how strong we can be collectively, Kim said. But we arent there just yet. We need to keep gathering strength and protest until the court officially removes her from office.

Kim In-sook, a caf owner, handed out free coffee to protesters. I am giving away coffee to celebrate Parks impeachment and to call for her arrest, Yonhap quoted Kim as a saying. I want to share in the peoples joy.

Park has denied any legal wrongdoing in a corruption and cronyism scandal that has left her fighting for her political life, four years after she became South Koreas first female president.

She is accused of helping her longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, coerce South Korean companies into handing over tens of millions of dollars in donations to foundations run by Choi.

Some
Some among a crowd organisers estimated at 500,000 played drums and gongs. Photograph: Xinhua / Barcroft Images

Choi faces embezzlement charges while Park, who has been named as a formal suspect, has apologised for her naivety but denied seeking any personal gain. Parks lawyer described as groundless prosecutors allegations that she was collusively involved in Chois alleged activities.

Moments after she was impeached, Park apologised for her lack of virtue and the turmoil her relationship with Choi has caused, but resisted calls to step down. Her powers have been temporarily transferred to the countrys prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn.

Analysts believe Park is reluctant to resign because scandal-hit South Korean presidents who leave office before their single, five-year term has ended leave themselves open to criminal charges.

Parks impeachment has prompted talk of a resurrection of popular resistance in South Korea, three decades after huge demonstrations led to the introduction of free and fair elections.

We accomplished a peaceful revolution, said Park Seong-su, a frequent anti-Park protester. For long, people were told by politicians what to do, but on Friday, it was the will of people that forced politicians what to do.

The overwhelming vote in favour of impeachment, with opposition MPs joined by scores of lawmakers from Parks Saenuri party, came after several consecutive weekends of protests with a combined attendance running into the millions.

Park will be removed from office if at least six of the constitutional courts nine justices support her impeachment, with a presidential election held within 60 days. But if at least six judges are opposed, Parks presidential powers will be restored and she could limp on until the end of her term in February 2018.

There have been warnings that failure to uphold the impeachment vote would be a betrayal of the South Korean people and could lead to civil unrest. Then the candles will turn into torches, said protester Kim Hyeong-seok.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/12/half-a-million-south-koreans-celebrate-impeaching-of-president-park-geun-hye

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