Memorial to Park's father damaged in arson attack

Ms Park visiting the Seomun market in her home town yesterday - her first public appearance in over three weeks. A fire had destroyed the sprawling century-old market in Daegu city on Wednesday.
Ms Park visiting the Seomun market in her home town yesterday - her first public appearance in over three weeks. A fire had destroyed the sprawling century-old market in Daegu city on Wednesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Suspect wanted South Korean President to quit, say police

SEOUL • The birthplace of the father of South Korea's scandal-hit President Park Geun Hye was damaged in an arson attack yesterday, police said, with the suspect allegedly calling on the leader to quit.

Ms Park is under huge pressure to resign over an influence-peddling scandal that has drawn more than a million people into the streets in protest.

The fire damaged the memorial hall of the house where former military dictator Park Chung Hee was born in the southern city of Gumi, police said.

A 48-year-old man was arrested nearby for suspected arson. "The President should have resigned or killed herself. I set the fire because she did neither," the suspect was quoted as saying by the police, according to Yonhap news agency.

Police were investigating whether he had written a message in the visitors' book yesterday which read "Kill yourself, Park Geun Hye. Stop soiling your father's name."

Ms Park said this week she would let Parliament decide her fate following accusations that she colluded with Choi Soon Sil - a secretive confidante dubbed "Korea's Rasputin" - to coerce firms to "donate" tens of millions of dollars to foundations that were used for Choi's personal gain.

Ms Park has been named a suspect, making her the first sitting president to be subject to a criminal investigation while in office.

The President had also approved a lawyer recommended by the opposition-controlled Parliament as an independent prosecutor to carry out a new probe into the scandal. The special prosecutor will interview her and be given 120 days to follow up on the findings of state investigators.

The ruling Saenuri Party yesterday urged Ms Park to step down in April next year, giving her a week to accept its ultimatum or risk impeachment. The party's 128 lawmakers called for a presidential election to be held in June, six months earlier than due. "All the lawmakers of the party unanimously approved this timetable," said parliamentary floor leader Chung Jin Suk after a party meeting.

The party said the timetable would ensure a peaceful transfer of power, maintain stability and give political parties time to prepare for the presidential election.

Ms Park's popularity plunged to 4 per cent in a poll released last week, a record low for a South Korean president. The bitter mood contrasts with 12 years ago, when, as interim conservative leader, she rescued her battered party ahead of a parliamentary election and salvaged more seats than expected, even though it lost its majority.

Activists have called for a sixth weekly protest tomorrow in central Seoul, despite Ms Park saying she would be willing to cede power.

Yesterday, the President made a brief and unexpected visit to a charred Seomun market in her home town - her first public appearance in over three weeks.

A fire had destroyed the sprawling century-old market in Daegu city on Wednesday. Shopowners who gathered at the market after the fire said they felt betrayed by Ms Park, once proudly claimed as "a daughter of Daegu".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2016, with the headline 'Memorial to Park's father damaged in arson attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe