Protests in Seoul by supporters and opponents of impeached president Park

Demonstrators during a protest calling for the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun Hye in Gwanghwamun square in central Seoul on Nov 5, 2016.
Demonstrators during a protest calling for the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun Hye in Gwanghwamun square in central Seoul on Nov 5, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - Tens of thousands of people took part in two rallies in Seoul on Saturday )Feb 11), protesting for and against impeached President Park Geun Hye, after months of political turmoil in South Korea.

She was impeached by parliament in December over a corruption scandal that tapped into mounting economic and social frustrations and brought millions of people onto the streets in weekly protests.

The Constitutional Court in Seoul is now deliberating whether to approve the impeachment, which would trigger new elections, or to allow her to see out her five-year term.

Saturday's pro-Park protest, which drew an estimated 50,000 people, attracted large numbers of the elderly who grew up under her late dictator father, Park Chung Hee, who is credited with the country's rapid industrialisation.

They claimed Ms Park's impeachment was a work of "pro-North Korea" leftists, urging the court to turn it down and bring her back to power.

A rally by Ms Park's supporters also took place on Saturday outside the City Hall as anti-Park protesters were gathering nearby, calling for the court to approve her impeachment at an early date.

Police set up barricades to keep the two groups apart.

Ms Park is accused of colluding with a longtime friend Choi Soon Sil, to strong-arm donations worth tens of millions of dollars from top firms to dubious foundations controlled by Choi.

The president is also accused of using her influence to ensure the merger of two Samsung units in 2015 to help facilitate a father-to-son power succession of Samsung's founding family, allegedly in return for bribes given to Choi.

The court's chief justice Lee Jung Mi earlier this week gave Ms Park's lawyers until next Thursday to wrap up their arguments and present them in writing.

Her order sparked speculations that the court might reach a verdict in March.

Should the impeachment be approved, new presidential election would have to take place within 60 days.

If rejected, Ms Park would be restored to power immediately.