South Korea's ousted president Park Geun Hye yet to leave Blue House

South Korean policemen blocking the road as supporters of President Park gathered outside the Seoul City Hall yesterday to protest against the Constitutional Court's ruling to permanently remove her from office.
South Korean policemen blocking the road as supporters of President Park gathered outside the Seoul City Hall yesterday to protest against the Constitutional Court's ruling to permanently remove her from office.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

No date set for departure; netizens fear she is delaying exit to destroy incriminating evidence

Fireworks lit up Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul as hundreds of thousands of people gathered yesterday to celebrate the impeachment of President Park Geun Hye, who continued to remain in the presidential Blue House a day after her ouster.

In other parts of the city though, the mood was totally different as similar large rallies were taking place. Angry Park supporters were denouncing Friday's impeachment decision and even clashing with the police. Three people died from injuries sustained when an earlier protest turned violent.

The eight-member Constitutional Court voted unanimously last Friday to permanently remove the country's first female president, ruling that she had abused her power to allow her friend Choi Soon Sil to meddle in state affairs for her own gain.

The verdict took effect immediately and was irreversible. But as there was no precedent, questions remained over when Ms Park, 65, should leave the presidential residence within the Blue House.

Analysts said she should be given a reasonable amount of time to leave, perhaps two to three days.

Some reports threw up tomorrow as a possibility, following talk that it would take at least two days for repairs to be completed at her long-vacated private residence in the upscale Gangnam district, and for security to be installed. A media mob remains entrenched outside her two-storey private residence, awaiting her return.

A presidential spokesman told reporters there was no official date yet for Ms Park to leave the presidential residence.

One of her aides told Yonhap news agency that she was "in a state of shock and appears to need time to come to terms with what has happened to her".

But her official portraits are already being removed from government departments, with the Defence and Foreign ministries issuing orders yesterday for them to be taken down.

On social media yesterday, many expressed fears that Ms Park was delaying her departure to destroy key evidence for a criminal probe that she is likely to face. Prosecutors have accused her of colluding with Choi to extort millions of dollars from large conglomerates.

A common plea on Twitter was for her to be expelled as soon as possible. Twitter user imozart7 echoed many others: "The dismissed Park Geun Hye is staying on at the Blue House without expressing her stance. What's most worrying is that she could be destroying evidence in case of arrest and criminal investigation. She should just apologise to the people and leave."

Analysts also agreed that Ms Park should make a quiet and graceful exit to allow divisions to heal. Emeritus Professor Im Kaye Soon from Hanyang University said: "She betrayed our trust in her. I don't even want to see her ever again. She should leave quietly and disappear, then our wounds can heal."

Meanwhile, the country's various political parties have ramped up preparations to hold their respective primaries to select their official presidential candidates, ahead of a poll due before May 9.

Front runner Moon Jae In, former chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, has been travelling in the south-western parts of the country since last Friday, trying to win over voters in the liberal stronghold divided between his party and the smaller People's Party.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 12, 2017, with the headline 'Ousted Park yet to leave Blue House'. Print Edition | Subscribe