January 25, 2017 / 7:41 AM / in 7 months

Artist defends nude portrait of Korea's Park after brush with law

A supporter of South Korean President Park Geun-hye defaces a painting titled "Dirty Sleep" at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, January 24, 2017. Son Hyung-ju/News1 via REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) - An impressionist-style painting of impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye lying in the nude has caused a new uproar in a country already engulfed in a corruption scandal and political crisis.

Conservative supporters of Park, who has been stripped of her powers as she awaits a decision on her impeachment, took down the painting on Tuesday as it hung in an exhibition of works featuring Park, and threw it on the floor, media said.

Police were called to control the situation and arrested the Park supporters on charges of damaging property, Yonhap news agency said.

The artist, Lee Ku Young, defended the work, "Dirty Sleep", which shows Park lying next to the woman at the center of the graft scandal, Choi Soon-sil, in the style of Manet's 1863 work, "Olympia".

"A president of a country is an obvious target of satire," he said in a radio interview on Wednesday, adding that the exhibition was planned by 20 artists who were on an arts blacklist for their opposition to the government.

Opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Pyo Chang-won, who hosted the exhibition, said on Facebook he had not chosen the works.

Opposition and ruling party lawmakers alike were critical of Pyo.

Female lawmakers of another opposition party said the painting "sexually objectified" women and they called for the Democratic Party to apologize.

South Korea has been gripped by crisis since lawmakers voted in December to impeach Park. If the impeachment is upheld, she will become the first democratically elected leader to be removed from office.

(This version of the story was refiled to add artist speaking on Wednesday, paragraph 5)

Reporting by Yun Hwan Chae; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel

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