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S. Koreans hold competing mass rallies over Park's impeachment

All Headlines 20:42 February 25, 2017

SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Koreans took to the streets Saturday calling for the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye over a massive corruption scandal, on the same day as the fourth anniversary of her administration.

To counter the anti-Park rally, the president's supporters held their own protest, waving the Korean flag while demanding that Park's impeachment be nullified.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters held their 17th weekly candlelight vigil in central Seoul, the rally's organizer said, putting the turnout at an estimated 800,000.

The protesters called for the Constitutional Court to speed up its review over the legality of Park's impeachment to end the Park administration, which has about a year left.

"The president's lawyers tried to slow down the trials with various tactics, but the candlelight vigils stopped it," said Lee Ho-joon, a law professor at Sogang University, during the rally, adding that the ruling should be delivered in the name of the people.

The anti-Park protest came amid growing calls for extending the February deadline for a probe led by Independent Counsel Park Young-soo into the corruption scandal involving Park and her longtime friend.

The investigation can be extended once by a month with consent from Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is serving as the acting president, but Hwang remains lukewarm toward the extension despite calls from opposition parties.

The court has until early June to decide whether to unseat or reinstate the president following parliament's vote in December to impeach Park over the scandal. Approval from at least six justices is required to unseat the president.

It earlier indicated its resolve to finalize the proceedings before March 13, the retirement date of the acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi as her departure will create another vacancy on the nine-member bench. Chief Justice Park Han-chul retired last month, dropping the bench down to eight members.

Meanwhile, Park's supporters demanded that the top court reject Park's impeachment, saying the court is trying to deliver the ruling before Lee's departure.

"I am worried about the Constitutional Court's wicked plan to end the hearings on Feb. 27 and deliver the ruling before Lee's departure," said Kwon Young-hae, a rally participant.

The Park supporters said 3 million people had participated in the rally as of 2:45 p.m.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters hold their 17th weekly candlelight vigil in central Seoul, calling for the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. The rally's organizer put the turnout at an estimated 800,000. (Yonhap)

khj@yna.co.kr
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