South Korea presidential frontrunner vows justice as Park Geun Hye leaves Blue House

Liberal politician Moon Jae In, who is likely to be South Korea's next president, promised justice and common sense.
Liberal politician Moon Jae In, who is likely to be South Korea's next president, promised justice and common sense.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (Reuters) - The South Korean politician likely to emerge as the next president promised justice and common sense on Sunday (March 12) as ousted leader Park Geun Hye moved out of the presidential Blue House.

The Constitutional Court ruled on Friday to uphold a parliamentary vote to impeach Park, dismissing her from office over an influence-peddling scandal that has shaken the country's political and business elite.

A snap presidential election will be held by May 9.

Leading in opinion polls to succeed Park is liberal politician Moon Jae In, who advocates reconciliation with North Korea.

"We still have a long way to go. We have to make this a country of justice, of common sense through regime change," Moon told a news conference on Sunday.

"We all have to work together for a complete victory."

Park, 65, is South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be forced from office.

Her ouster followed months of political paralysis and turmoil over a corruption scandal that also landed the head of the Samsung conglomerate in jail and facing trial.

Park did not appear in court on Friday and she has not made any comment since. She left the presidential complex on Sunday evening to return to her residence in northern Seoul, the official Yonhap news agency reported.

Thousands of Park's opponents rallied in Seoul on Saturday, where they have been gathering every weekend for months, to celebrate her departure and demand that she be arrested.

The former president's conservative supporters also took to the streets not far away, though fewer in number.

Police were out in force with riot shields but there were no reports of trouble.

Two pro-Park protesters died as they tried to break through police lines outside the court on Friday.

One was believed to have had a heart attack, a hospital official said, and the other died as protesters attacked police buses being used as a barricade. A third protester, a man aged 74, suffered a heart attack and died on Saturday.

Park's dismissal marked a dramatic fall from grace of South Korea's first woman president and daughter of Cold War military dictator Park Chung Hee. She served as his first lady after the 1974 assassination of her mother.

Her father, who seized power in a 1961 coup, ruled for 18 years until he was assassinated in 1979.

Now, having lost presidential immunity, she could face criminal charges over bribery, extortion and abuse of power in connection with allegations of conspiring with her friend, Choi Soon Sil. Both women denied wrongdoing.