Police say 2 dead in S. Korean protests

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The Latest on South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s removal from office Friday by the Constitutional Court (all times local):

5:35 p.m.

South Korea’s acting head of state has pleaded with opponents and supporters of ousted President Park Geun-hye to stop their fierce rallies that have divided the streets of capital Seoul.

The comments by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Friday came hours after two men died amid clashes between Park’s supporters and police following the Constitutional Court’s ruling to formally remove her from office.

In a televised speech, Hwang says “there would be people who feel they cannot understand or accept (the court ruling), but it’s now time to move on and end all conflict and standoff.”

He adds: “It’s not ideal to expand the conflict by continuing the protests outside on the streets … Precious lives were lost during the rallies today, and this must no longer happen.”

Hwang has served as the government caretaker since lawmakers voted to impeach Park in December.

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3:45 p.m.

South Korea’s presidential office says Park Geun-hye won’t leave the presidential Blue House on Friday after the constitutional court stripped her of her powers over a corruption scandal.

A Blue House spokesman says some of Park’s aides are at her southern Seoul home to prepare for her return, but it hasn’t been determined exactly when she will leave the Blue House.

The spokesman says Park has no plans to issue a statement over the ruling on Friday.

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3:20 p.m.

South Korea’s acting head of state says he feels “heavy responsibility” after the Constitutional Court formally removed Park Geun-hye as president over a corruption scandal.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has been the government caretaker since lawmakers voted to impeach Park in December. He said Friday in a meeting with Cabinet ministers that the government needs to focus on maintaining defense and economic stability while preparing for a presidential by-election that must be held within 60 days.

Hwang also instructed the Justice Ministry and police to prepare for the possibility of violent protests following the ruling.

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2:40 p.m.

South Korean netizens are seeing a South Korean judge’s hair rollers as a symbol of dedication and hard-working women on the day that the court that the judge leads dismissed the president from office.

Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi arrived at the Constitutional Court earlier Friday with two pink hair rollers attached to the back of her bobbed hair.

Pictures of her profile showing the round curlers as the justice walked to her office, apparently unaware, went viral.

Some South Koreans saw the apparent mistake as a sign of Lee’s dedication to her work. Some linked it to President Park Geun-hye, who summoned her hair stylist to work hours after a deadly ferry sinking.

Lee, 54, is the sole female among eight judges on the Constitutional Court.

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This item corrects Lee’s age.

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2:30 p.m.

South Korean police say a second person has died in protests against a court’s decision to remove President Park Geun-hye from office.

Police had no other details about the death Friday. Hospital official earlier said that another person, a man in his 70s, died from head wounds after falling from a police bus in front of the Constitutional Court after it ruled to oust Park.

The official said the man, believed to be a Park supporter, was bleeding heavily when he arrived at the office and died at around 1:50 p.m.

Thousands of Park’s supporters angrily reacted to the verdict, shouting and hitting police officers with flag poles and climbing on buses the police used to create a perimeter protecting the court.

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2:25 p.m.

South Korea’s defense minister has ordered the military to be on alert for possible North Korean provocations attempting to exploit “unstable situations at home and abroad.”

In a video conference on Friday with military commanders, Defense Minister Han Min Koo said North Korea can make “strategic or operational” provocations at any time. The North has test-fired ballistic missiles in recent weeks.

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency has published a short dispatch on the court ruling in Seoul, anticipating that Park will now come under investigation as a “regular criminal.”

The party of ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye, meanwhile, says it “humbly accepts” the ruling by the Constitutional Court to remove Park from office and that it feels responsible for her downfall.

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2:10 p.m.

A South Korean hospital official says that a man in his 70s died from head wounds after falling from a police bus in front of the Constitutional Court after it ruled to remove President Park Geun-hye from office.

The official said Friday that the man, believed to be a Park supporter, was bleeding heavily when he arrived at the hospital and died at about 1:50 p.m.

Thousands of Park’s supporters have angrily reacted to the verdict, shouting and hitting police officers with flag poles, and climbing on buses the police used to create a perimeter protecting the court.

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1:55 p.m.

Japan’s top diplomat says it will continue to work with a South Korean government led by the successor of ousted President Park Geun-hye.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Friday that he would not comment on the court ruling that removed the impeached president, citing internal politics.

Kishida says both countries must work on the “comfort women” dispute that has strained their relations for decades. He says he hopes Tokyo and South Korea’s new government can implement a 2015 agreement they signed to fully resolve the impasse over sexual exploitation of the women by Japan for its troops before and during World War II.

Kishida says Japan has no immediate plan to send back the ambassador it temporarily recalled to protest a “comfort woman” statue built outside of its consulate in the South Korean city of Busan.

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11:55 a.m.

The United States says the removal of South Korean President Park Geun-hye is a domestic issue that doesn’t affect its strong alliance with the country.

The Constitutional Court formally removed the impeached Park from office Friday over a corruption scandal.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner says the U.S. will continue to work with the acting president, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, and looks forward to whomever South Koreans choose in a presidential election to be held within two months.

Toner says Park’s removal is “a domestic issue on which the United States takes no position,” and that it’s up to the South Korean people to determine their country’s future.

He says the two nations’ alliance “will continue to be a linchpin of regional stability and security.”

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