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Presidential hopefuls welcome Park's ouster

2017/03/10 15:27

(ATTN: COMBINES; UPDATES two previous stories slugged 'impeachment-minor contenders' and 'frontrunner candidate-reaction')

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- Presidential hopefuls on Friday cheered the ouster of President Park Geun-hye calling for national efforts to restore unity as they started preparing for the earlier-than-expected race that will take place within 60 days.

Park was impeached by the National Assembly in December on the corruption scandal involving her confidante Choi Soon-sil. The Constitutional Court ruled Park infringed upon the Constitution, Public Servants Law and Public Servants' Ethics as she abused her status and power for her confidante's interests, which constitutes an unfair performance of official duty.

Moon Jae-in, a frontrunner presidential candidate from the main opposition Democratic Party cheered the court's decision to expel Park Geun-hye from presidential office, claiming the ruling falls in line with the constitutional spirit.

From left to right -- Moon Jae-in, former head of the Democratic Party, South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung, Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party, South Gyeongsang Gov. Hong Joon-pyo, Rep. Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party (Yonhap) From left to right -- Moon Jae-in, former head of the Democratic Party, South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung, Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party, South Gyeongsang Gov. Hong Joon-pyo, Rep. Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party (Yonhap)

Moon said the decision reflected the first article of South Korea's Constitution, which stipulates "the Republic of Korea shall be a democratic republic" and "the sovereignty of the Republic of Korea shall reside in the people, and all state authority shall emanate from the people."

   "The history moves forward based on the power of the great people," Moon said in a statement. "South Korea will start anew based on this fresh and amazing experience."

   In 2012, Moon lost against Park in a 51.6 percent to 48 percent vote.

Amid the unprecedented political crisis of South Korea, Moon has been enjoying strong approval ratings in local opinion polls. According to the poll conducted by Gallup Korea from Monday to Thursday, Moon posted an approval rating of 32 percent.

Other minor contenders also welcomed the decision, bracing for the early presidential election.

South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung of the Democratic Party said the country should now focus on normalizing the country based on constitutional ideas.

"As a politician, I feel heart-stricken as South Korea faced an tragic event in its constitutional history," An said. "But the court's decision was reasonable. There can be no exception before the Constitution and rules."

   An said the court's decision should be accepted as a victory for all South Koreans.

Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, also from the Democratic Party, said the ruling is only the start of the steps to establish a nation of justice.

"South Korea's system concentrating on the establishment, which sparked the influence-peddling scandal and the violation of the Constitution, still has not been solved," Lee said.

"This civil revolution will be recorded in the history of democracy," Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party said. "All procedures were done peacefully under procedures of the Constitution with the power of the people."

   "There are people who are happy (with the decision), while others are disappointed. But they all love South Korea," Ahn said. "The democracy is about the wisdom where people with different idea live in harmony."

   Rep. Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party, which spun off from the Liberty Korea Party, urged Park to take responsible actions following the ruling.

"I hope the president announces that she accepts the result with sincerity, and seeks the reconciliation and unity of the country," Yoo said. "The president still has roles left. Her words with sincerity will prevent division and heal wounds.

"Those who supported or opposed the impeachment are all the nationals of our country. I believe they share common ground in being concerned about the country's future," Yoo said.

South Gyeongsang Gov. Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party said he feels "unfortunate" over the latest ruling but said he will still accept the decision.

Hong continued to hint at his presidential ambitions by calling for "magnanimous rule" during great chaos.

Rhee In-je from the Liberty Korea Party, formerly a six-term lawmaker, on the other hand, said he is frustrated by the ruling.

"We need to come together on the value of patriotic conservatism," Rhee said.

In a poll conducted by Gallup Korea from Monday to Thursday, An received an approval rating of 17 percent, followed by Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party, and Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn with 9 percent each. Lee and Yoo got 8 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Hong also posted an approval rating of 1 percent.

Judges of the Constitutional Court in Seoul are seated at a ruling on the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye on March 10, 2017. The court ruled to impeach Park. (Yonhap) Judges of the Constitutional Court in Seoul are seated at a ruling on the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye on March 10, 2017. The court ruled to impeach Park. (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr

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