Catholics in South Korea called for unity following a unanimous ruling, on 10th March, by the Constitutional Court to uphold the impeachment of now-former President Park Geun-hye.
On the day of the Constitutional Court ruling the bishops’ conference head called for “rebuilding the country through harmony,” and Seoul’s Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung put out a message saying Koreans should accept the decision regardless of what side they were on.
Maryknoll Sr Jean Maloney, 86, has lived mostly in South Korea since 1953, when the Korean War ended. She told Catholic News Service: “What’s important is…the unity among (South Koreans) and accepting the court decision…But that’s not so easy I think, for older people who are afraid of communism, and they revered (the president’s) father, who was really a dictator, so there is really a conflict between you might say pro-Park and anti-Park.”
Sr Maloney, a US citizen, experienced the country’s rebuilding following the war and lived through the rapid industrialisation that took shape under Park’s father, Park Chung-hee. She told CNS she did not actively protest but supported her Korean friends.
Hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens had held weekly protests calling for Park Geun-hye’s impeachment after investigators linked her to a major corruption scandal involving some of the country’s largest conglomerates. The protests erupted in early December after public outrage over separate incidents of corruption had been simmering for years.
When word spread of Park’s decades-long ties to Choi Soon-sil, a private citizen on trial for taking bribes from business tycoons and having intimate knowledge of state secrets, Koreans took to the streets calling for her ouster. Choi and Park deny any wrongdoing.
But thousands also turned out to support the beleaguered president.
Franciscan Fr Francis Lee Yongho of Seoul said he agreed with the call for harmony but that it “should not be denial of discrepancy in opinions.”
“What we need in our society is open and respectful discussions of different opinions, and it should be conducted in accordance with law in a respectful and peaceful way. And to make a transparent and trustful society, every wrongdoing should be uncovered,” he told CNS.
Picture: Fireworks explode in Seoul as South Koreans gather to celebrate after a court upheld the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Catholics in South Korea called for unity following the ruling. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).