Tens of thousands of protesters from all walks of South Korean society on Saturday gathered in Seoul to call on President Park Geun-hye to resign, marking the third consecutive week of mass demonstrations.
“I’m here to demand Park Geun-hye’s resignation. Her apologies are meaningless. She needs to step down,” said 66-year-old Cho Ki-mang, one of the protesters.
Police said approximately 170,000 people were expected to join the rally. However, organizers put the number of protesters much higher, saying turnout could reach up to 1 million, marking one of the country’s largest demonstrations since pro-democracy protests in the 1980s.
Deputy Prime Minister Lee Joon-sik on Friday warned of the possibility of “illegal collective action or violence.”
“Until now, the government has guaranteed the freedom to legally protest. We hope the public will cooperate so that (Saturday’s) demonstration will be legal and peaceful,” he said.
Scandal taints presidency
Park’s presidency has been rocked by a deepening political scandal concerning her longtime confidant Choi Soon-sil.
She is accused of abusing her close relationship to Park in order to influence state affairs and direct donations from companies like Samsung to non-profit organizations, which she used for personal benefit.
Police arrested Choi earlier this month, and have until November 20 to charge her under South Korea’s criminal litigation law.
Protesters say Park’s apologies are meaningless
Analysts believe Park will be allowed to ride out the last year of her single five-year term, given that opposition parties have shied away from calling for her resignation. However, opposition lawmakers have called on her to devolve executive powers to the legislature.
Park, who has apologized several times for the debacle, witnessed her approval ratings drop to a record low of 9 percent in a Gallup Korea poll published Friday.
Meanwhile, prosecutors questioned on Saturday questioned the chief executive of South Korea’s largest steelmaker, Posco, in their investigation into Choi.
Authorities alleged that one of Choi’s associates attempted to force a company that bought Posco’s in-house advertising unit to relinquish control of more than 80 percent of its shares.
A top Samsung executive had also been questioned by prosecutors for allegedly bankrolling equestrian training for Choi’s daughter, amounting to up to 2.8 million euros ($3.1 million).
ls/tj (AFP, AP)