Supporters of impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye clashed with anti-Park protesters as large crowds of demonstrators again gathered in Seoul to demand the leader’s immediate ouster.
Despite thick lines of police officers separating the two sides on Saturday, there was some yelling and shoving between them with one Park supporter hitting an anti-Park protester with a flag pole.
There were no immediate reports of serious violence or injuries.
“I can’t stand Park for even another day. Nobody wants her, but she’s stubbornly sticking around, using taxpayer money like it’s her money,” said Kim Eun-young, who participated in her third weekend protest.
The large weekend demonstrations over a corruption scandal pushed South Korea’s opposition-controlled parliament to vote this month to impeach Park.
The impeachment suspended her powers until the Constitutional Court decides whether she should permanently step down or be reinstated.
While polls measure Park’s popularity in the low single digits, her impeachment has become a rallying point for her conservative supporters, who turned out in the tens of thousands on Saturday.
They waved the country’s national flag and shouted for Park’s “illegal” impeachment to be “nullified”, and the “rotten” parliament to be dissolved.
Tension was tangible as anti-Park protesters, whose numbers were much bigger, gathered on a boulevard across the street from where Park’s supporters were rallying. Protest organisers estimated about 600,000 anti-Park protesters turned out.
Huge throngs of anti-Park protesters later walked towards the presidential offices and residence, known as the Blue House, carrying candles, signs, and calling for Park to immediately quit.
Other groups marched towards the office of Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who assumed the role as government caretaker after Park was impeached on December 9, and towards the Constitutional Court.
Prosecutors accuse Park of colluding with a longtime confidante – Choi Soon-sil – to extort money and favours from companies and allowing her to manipulate state affairs.
The court has up to six months to decide on Park’s case. If she is formally removed from office, the country will hold a presidential election within 60 days.
Park has apologised for putting trust in her jailed friend Choi, whose criminal trial begins on Monday, but has denied any legal wrongdoing.
Park’s lawyer, Lee Joong-hwan, said the court should restore Park’s powers because there is insufficient evidence to justify her unseating. He and other members of Park’s legal team submitted a statement to the court explaining why the case should be decided in the president’s favour.