South Koreans who took to the streets over the past months demanding Park Geun-hye's impeachment welcomed the Constitutional Court's decision Friday to oust her with acclamation and tears.
Anti-Park protesters, who gathered in the early morning near the Constitutional Court in central Seoul, erupted in joy after the court's eight justices unanimously ruled against her, with some shedding tears.
"I was so nervous that I could not just stay home and watch TV," said a 34-year-old instructor who took part in the rally with her friend. "I feel that our democracy has made a big step forward."
"My heart swelled with overwhelming emotion," said college student Uhm Dong-hyun, who watched the ruling on TV at home. "From the ferry Sewol disaster to all those nights that we took to the streets went through my mind in a flash."
Some of the participants at the rally marched toward the presidential office after the ruling, chanting, "Arrest Park Geun-hye!"
Some shops held surprise events to celebrate the impeachment, offering food and beverages free of charge. A local cinema in Daegu, 302 kilometers south of Seoul, welcomed the ruling by showing all films for free.
Park's supporters, who held their own rally on the other side of the road, clashed with police as they tried to march toward the court.
The participants had been shouting for the reinstatement of Park even when the verdict was being read. Some shed tears in anger, and some others used makeshift weapons, such as wooden sticks, to fight against police.
Two protesters, including a 72-year-old man surnamed Kim, died in the process after sustaining injuries during the protest. Police later arrested a pro-Park protester known by his surname Jeong on the suspicion that he caused the fall of a heavy speaker installed atop a police bus which hit and killed Kim.
Police said they will also look into whether the organizers of the pro-Park rally are responsible for the violent acts committed during the rally.
Police tightened security near the Constitutional Court and other government offices, including the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, for contingencies. They have surrounded the court with police buses and mobilized some 21,600 officers to stand guard.
Liberal civic groups that have been holding candlelight vigils every weekend from late October said they will hold another demonstration at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul at 7 p.m.
Another candlelight rally scheduled for Saturday will be their last weekly demonstration. (Yonhap)