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Tensions rise amid possibility of clash between Park's supporters, opponents

Millions of people are expected to crowd the streets of Seoul Wednesday in a last push to oust or reinstate impeached President Park Geun-hye, leading to concerns about violence between the two groups.

Park's supporters and opponents have taken to the streets each Saturday since late last year as the Constitutional Court reviews the legality of her impeachment and special prosecutors have conducted an extensive probe into her alleged corruption.

The rallies have been largely peaceful, with the president's critics holding candlelight vigils in Gwanghwamun Square in the center of Seoul and her supporters waving the Korean flag just meters away near the city hall.

(Image modified using Yonhap photos)
(Image modified using Yonhap photos)

On Wednesday, both groups plan to hold a special rally to mark Independence Movement Day, a public holiday.

It will come a day after the independent counsel concluded the 70-day investigation by naming the president a bribery suspect in connection with her friend Choi Soon-sil's extortion of money from local conglomerates including Samsung Group.

This week the Constitutional Court also held the final hearing in Park's impeachment trial. The court is widely expected to deliver a ruling by March 13, when its acting chief justice is set to retire.

Park's supporters plan to march toward the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae for the first time. Officials with the group said they expect between 5 million and 7 million people to join them for the rally.

The protest will be broadcast live on YouTube, among other channels, and center on arguments that the entire impeachment process was triggered by fabricated reports in the media and the parliament's impeachment vote on Dec. 9 was flawed.

Participants will urge the court to either reject or dismiss the impeachment resolution.

Meanwhile, Park's opponents are scheduled to hold a separate rally in Gwanghwamun Square to call for her ouster and a strict investigation into her suspected wrongdoings once she steps down.

The president is immune from criminal indictment while in office.

The group had informed police of its plan to march toward the presidential office, but was forced to adjust their route due to the march by pro-Park protesters.

Although the two groups' routes don't overlap, police said they will prepare for possible clashes by separating them with walls of police officers and vehicles. (Yonhap)
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