S.Korea braces for impeachment unrest

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Eight out of 10 South Koreans supported the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye ahead of the constitutional court's final ruling on the impeachment motion, a local survey showed Thursday. "Those who try to hamper the court's ruling or use violence to disobey the decision should be dealt with strictly", Lee Cheol-seong, Chief of the South Korean National Police Agency, said during a video conference with senior officials as quoted by Yonhap News Agency.

The eight judges of the top court continued their closed-door deliberation before the crucial vote - expected to take place at the very last minute on Friday morning - on whether to uphold the parliamentary impeachment of Park, over a score of allegations.

If she is dismissed, a presidential election will be held within 60 days.

In a written statement on Monday, Ms Park said she was innocent of the charges but had "belated regret, that I should have been more cautious with my trust in her [Ms Choi]".

On 20 November, Ms Choi was charged with various offences, including abuse of authority, coercion, attempted coercion and attempted fraud, leading to the wider investigation. The court has been trying with only eight justices since the departure of ex-Chief Justice Park Han-chul on January 31.

Park's lawyers say she was staying in her "residence cum office", receiving situation reports by phone and issuing directives on rescue operations.

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Even the head of her presidential secretariat did not know where she was when the disaster - the country's worst for decades - struck, sparking wild rumours including a tryst and a cosmetic surgery.

"Expectations are that the court will uphold the impeachment, but how will the public respond?" said Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign relations.

The motion to impeach President Park was passed on December 9 through the National Assembly by an overwhelming support.

Park has also steadfastly denied any wrongdoing through the whole process, but special counsel investigating the case have paved the way for laying charges against her once she leaves office and loses her immunity from prosecution.

If a presidential election is triggered, opinion polls favour liberal opposition politician Moon Jae-in, who lost the 2012 race to Park, to succeed her.

Park also became close to Choi's daughter, Choi Soon-sil, the confidante at the center of this scandal, and their friendship continued after both their fathers died.

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