The Korea Herald


Candlelight vigil Saturday to celebrate impeachment

By Ock Hyun-ju

Published : Dec. 9, 2016 - 20:27

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As in previous weekends, many South Koreans are expected to gather in central Seoul with candles, this time to celebrate the impeachment of Park Geun-hye.

Rally organizers said Friday that this Saturday’s candlelight vigil, the seventh against President Park since a scandal involving her confidante erupted late October, will be a festive event with lots of cultural performances, stand-up comedy and displays of satirical messages.

The messages will center on demanding President Park immediately step down and calling for the Constitutional Court to make a decision rapidly.

As in previous rallies, participants will completely surround the presidential office from several locations starting from 4 p.m. The main event is scheduled for 6 p.m. in its seventh massive street rally against Park. 

Citizens of Gwangju participate in anti-Park Geun-hye candlelight vigil on Friday. (Yonhap) Citizens of Gwangju participate in anti-Park Geun-hye candlelight vigil on Friday. (Yonhap)

Upon the announcement of Park‘s impeachment on Friday, some protestors who have gathered in front of the National Assembly shouted “The impeachment motion was passed!” The area near the front gate of the Assembly building turned into an outdoor festival on Friday afternoon.

An estimated 20,000 people erupted in cheers and stood up to share the historic moment, shouting “We won!” Some shed tears, others expressed joy by dancing to music and taking pictures with the Assembly building in the background.

“I am extremely happy. It is a touching moment. We clearly showed Park Geun-hye and political elites what could happen to them if they ignore us,” Kim Kyung-ja, 50, told The Korea Herald right after the news was delivered.

“We have a long fight ahead against the Park administration’s flawed policies like labor market reforms, state-issued history textbooks and agreement on comfort women,” she said, jumping up and down in joy.

Among the most relieved were the bereaved families of the Sewol ferry, who have fought long to reveal truth behind the tragedy that took away the lives of more than 300 people in April in 2014.

“It is a big relief. I think my daughter Soo-jin helped the motion to be passed from heaven. I thank her,” said Kim Jong-ki, who lost her 17-year-old daughter in the maritime disaster. “The Constitutional Court should rule in favor of the motion so that we can finally find the truth about the cause of the ferry disaster.”

The president has come under fire for the administration’s botched rescue efforts to save the victims, with questions growing over what she did for seven hours while the ferry sank.

After minutes of celebration, protestors pledged to continue their candlelight rallies to fix the political, social and economic structure to root out injustice, inequality and corruption in the society. They demand a thorough probe and stern punishment for Park, her friend Choi Soon-sil and ex-presidential aides such as Woo Byung-woo and Kim Ki-choon involved in the influence-peddling scandal.

“I expected Park Geun-hye to be impeached to some extent. The impeachment is only a beginning of structural reforms ranging from dissolution of the ruling Saenuri Party to punishment of family-owned conglomerates,” said Heo Woo-jin, 25. “I will join the rally on Saturday at the Gwanghwamun Square to call for the Constitutional Court to immediately make a decision on the impeachment.”

As the motion was passed with the approval of 234 lawmakers from the 300-seat National Assembly, the fate of her presidency is left up to the Constitutional Court. It reviews the motion and should make a ruling within 180 days.

“People won. We won. Following the June democratic uprising in 1987, we opened a new chapter of this country’s democracy,” said Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon before the crowds at the front gate of the Assembly building. “Park Geun-hye should immediately resign without waiting for the Constitutional Court’s decision.”

Civic groups also welcomed the passage of the impeachment motion.

An association of 1,500 civic groups demanding Park’s resignation and holding candlelit protests every weekend called it a “reasonable result.”

“The passage of the motion is a precious achievement of people who have taken to the streets and held up candles. We took a jab at opportunistic politicians only caring out their interests. President Park said she would not step down despite the passage of the impeachment motion, which is a declaration of war on Korean people,” they said in a statement. “So we will light more candles.”