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SEOUL (AFP) – A day after South Korean lawmakers successfully impeached scandal-hit President Park Geun-Hye, hundreds of thousands of people were expected to take to the streets of Seoul on Saturday for a scheduled protest turned celebration.
For the seventh straight week, the capital braced for one of the huge candle-lit rallies that have become the signature of a mass movement aimed at removing the deeply unpopular Park from office.
Although the national assembly voted to strip Park of her executive powers on Friday, activists say they intend to keep up the pressure with the impeachment still requiring final approval from the Constitutional Court – a process that could take months.
And many are still adamant that the president should resign immediately and face criminal prosecution.
Until the court rules, Park’s authority is only suspended and she retains the title of president and the immunity from prosecution that goes with it.
She was impeached on numerous counts of constitutional and criminal violations ranging from a failure to protect people’s lives to bribery and abuse of power.
Most of the charges stemmed from an investigation into a scandal involving the president’s long-time friend, Choi Soon-Sil, who is currently awaiting trial for fraud and embezzlement.
Prosecutors named Park a suspect in the case, saying she colluded in Choi’s efforts to strong arm donations from large companies worth tens of millions of dollars.
The impeachment process was ignited and fuelled by public outrage at Park’s behavior, with weekly mass demonstrations demanding that politicians take a pro-active role in removing her from the presidential Blue House.
The National Assembly has now played its part, but the country still faces an extended period of political uncertainty at a time of slowing economic growth and elevated military tensions with nuclear-armed North Korea.
“The political paralysis that has enveloped governmental decision-making over the past month is likely to continue for at least the next four to eight months,” said Scott Snyder, a Korea specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.