February 13, 2017 13:24
Downtown Seoul saw both massive candlelight protests for the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye and rallies by die-hard supporters on Saturday. Although no physical clashes were reported between the two sides, tensions were running high.
More than two months have passed since the National Assembly passed a bill impeaching Park, but the situation is worsening rather than improving as her legal team do everything to stall proceedings and grandstanding continues on all sides.
The Constitutional Court has ordered the prosecution and defense in Park's impeachment trial to submit their final opinions by Feb. 23. It is unclear whether the court can wrap up the case before acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi retires on March 13, but it now seems certain that the court's ruling is not far away.
It is no secret what the candlelight protesters and pro-Park supporters want. Demonstrations being held in front of the Constitutional Court have long passed the boundaries of a peaceful expression of political views and now constitute brute force. This is beginning to look like an assault on the rule of law.
Yet organizers of the protests keep competing over attendance figures, and that will only intensify as the date of the ruling approaches. A violent reaction by the side that is deemed to have lost would end up costing Korea's entire society dearly. The time has come for everyone to calm down and wait for the court's ruling.
Most importantly, organizers of the demonstrations must say that they are willing to accept the ruling of the court. If not, the justice they have been calling for will become a farce.
Former Minjoo Party leader Moon Jae-in, South Chuncheong Province Governor Ahn Hee-jung and Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung attended the candlelight protests against Park on Saturday, while Saenuri Party lawmakers Kim Moon-soo and Lee In-jae took part in pro-Park rallies and spoke in front of the embattled president's die-hard supporters.
People's Party head Ahn Cheol-soo and lawmakers with the conservative splinter Bareun Party were the only senior political figures who did not attend any rallies.
Moon on Friday said he would accept a ruling that "differs from public sentiment," but warned that the public will not. It was a relief to hear Moon at least pledge to abide by the rule of law.
All presidential hopefuls must promise to accept the ruling of the Constitutional Court and refrain from participating in mob rule. That is the only way to avoid chaos after the court's decision. Voters can trust only candidates who promise to accept the court's decision and follow their pledge with action to show they are truly concerned about the future of our nation. Those who do not are simply opportunists.
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