Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Wednesday renewed his appeal for national unity at a time the country is reeling from the dismissal of President Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal.
During a ceremony marking the 57th anniversary of a historic pro-democracy uprising, Hwang also vowed to ensure that the country will be able to hold a "clean, fair" presidential election slated to take place in May.
"National unity and integration provide the core foundation for overcoming the crisis (facing the nation)," Hwang said during the ceremony in Changwon, 398 kilometers south of Seoul. "If we are sharply divided, security, the economy and people's livelihoods will only be like a house of cards."
The acting president went on to stress that the election to pick Park's successor must be the "starting point" to move the nation beyond the scandal and open a "new future."
"The government will more strictly administer this year's presidential election to ensure that it will be a clean, fair election," Hwang said.
The country is required to pick a new president within 60 days of the Constitutional Court's verdict to remove Park from office. The ruling was delivered last Friday, making Park South Korea's first president to be dismissed by parliamentary impeachment.
Noting that the 1960 uprising played a pivotal role in the country's democratization, Hwang expressed his appreciation to the participants and bereaved families.
"Though half a century has passed by, the leitmotifs of March 15 -- freedom, democracy and justice -- still live on in the hearts of our citizens," he said.
On March 15, 1960, thousands of students and citizens in the city rose up amid widespread allegations of vote rigging by Rhee Syng-man's government. Rhee had ruled the country since becoming the country's first president in 1948.
The March uprising was forcibly quashed, leaving seven dead and many others injured. The deaths became the rallying point for a nationwide pro-democracy movement on April 19 that brought down the Rhee administration. (Yonhap)