A man in the audience of President Park Geun-hye's impeachment hearing Monday was ordered to leave the courtroom after welcoming a justice's remarks with applause.
The man, appearing to be in his 50s, clapped during the 15th hearing at the Constitutional Court in response to acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi's remarks that the president would be obliged to take questions if she decided to attend the final hearing currently scheduled for Friday.
Park's lawyers have been debating whether to suggest the president's appearance at the final session as it could rally her supporters but also weaken her defense if she fails to properly respond to questions from justices and the National Assembly impeachment panel. The president faces charges of letting her friend Choi Soon-sil meddle in state affairs and colluding with her to extort money from conglomerates.
Lee sternly ordered the man to leave the courtroom and he was escorted out by a court official. He became the first person to be expelled from the courtroom during the 18 rounds of preliminary and formal hearings held so far at the court.
Moments earlier, another member of the audience clapped in response to an argument in Park's defense, but Lee called for silence then.
The court has taken care to maintain neutrality in the highly charged trial as public opinion has grown increasingly divided, with more and more people turning up at rallies to support or denounce the president.
Last week, one of Park's attorneys held up the Korean flag in the courtroom in a blatant show of support for the president. The rallies demanding Park's reinstatement have been marked by the waving of the flag.
The lawyer put the flag back in his bag after a court official intervened.