The South Korean president made a rare public appearance Thursday after an arsonist set the birthplace of her father ablaze.
Embattled President Park Geun-hye has faced repeated protests, calls for her resignation, and impeachment threats in recent weeks due to her alleged involvement in an influence-peddling scandal. The scandal has consumed the country and threatens to paralyze the government for months to come. Park has a record low approval rating of four percent, with millions demanding her removal from office.
She announced her willingness to resign Tuesday and put her fate in the hands of the National Assembly. South Korean lawmakers are debating giving her the opportunity to resign with dignity next year or to move forward with impeachment proceedings.
Authorities detained a middle-aged man Thursday who revealed that he torched the birthplace of Park’s father, now a famous memorial shrine, in Gumi because he was outraged over the president’s refusal to immediately resign, the Associated Press revealed.
“The president should have resigned or killed herself. I set the fire because she did neither,” the suspect said, according to Yonhap News Agency.
The suspect apparently used paint thinner to start the fire.
Police are investigating whether the suspect also wrote the words “Kill yourself, Park Geun-hye. Stop soiling your father’s name” in the visitor’s book at the memorial.
Park’s father Park Chung-hee seized power through a military coup in 1961. He ruled with an iron fist as an dictator for 18 years before he was assassinated by his spy chief.
Park’s late father is a controversial figure in South Korea. While some revile him as an authoritarian dictator, others praise him for stimulating the country’s economic growth.
The memorial was reportedly gutted by the fire, destroying portraits of the former dictator and his wife, Yook Young-soo.
Park visited the nearby town of Daegu Thursday following another fire. The town has traditionally been very supportive of the president.
“Merchants here supported me whenever I had difficulties and I’m really sorry,” Park said during her visit, “I agonized a lot over whether I should come here in the current situation.”
Returning to her car, Park reportedly burst into tears.
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