Half a million people protest over South Korean president
Park Geun-hye faces mounting calls to step down over allowing friend to meddle in state affairs
South Koreans shout slogans as they carry placards reading “Park Geun-hye Out”, during a protest against South Korean president Park Geun-Hye on a main street in Seoul, South Korea on Saturday. Photograph: Reuters
South Korean people shout slogans as they carry placards reading ‘Park Geun-Hye Out’, during a protest in Seoul, on Saturday. Photograph: EPA
South Korean president Park Geun-hye faced mounting calls to step down as a record number of people at a massive rally on Saturday criticised her as unfit to rule over allegations she allowed a friend to meddle in state affairs and wield influence.
The protest rally in downtown Seoul drew more than half a million people, according to its organisers, many of whom were ordinary citizens who packed the main streets running through the city centre including a 12-lane thoroughfare.
They came with family, and students and young parents pushing buggies were among the crowd as were people in wheelchairs and crutches, in a sharp contrast from some previous rallies often dominated by militant unions and civic groups that had turned violent and clashed with police.
They chanted “Step down, step down, you must step down.”
“Of course she must step down,” Jung Sun-hee, a 42-year-old housewife who attended the rally with her husband and two pre-teen daughters, said. “I believe we need a new person to break through this situation, who will be better than this one.”
The crowd has been given a go-ahead by the court to march later in the evening to within a few blocks of the presidential Blue House compound, which had been previously disallowed by the police, citing security reasons.
It was the third weekend protest rally since Ms Park’s first public apology on October 25th where she admitted she had sought the advice of her friend, Choi Soon-sil, which only fuelled public anger and suspicion over the secret confidant who apparently held no official government position.
Another apology by Park and an offer to work with the parliamentary opposition to form a new cabinet and relinquish some power failed to calm public anger, prompting her opponents to say she did not grasp the gravity of the crisis at hand.
Members of main opposition parties joined the rally calling on Park to resign, indicating there was a growing opinion in parliament to take action to remove her from power, although there was no formal move yet to launch impeachment proceedings.
Park’s approval rating has dropped to 5 percent for a second week, according to a poll conducted by Gallup Korea and released on Friday, the lowest number for a South Korean president since such polling began under democratically elected leaders in 1988.
Gallup Korea, based in Seoul, is not affiliated with US-based Gallup, Inc.
No South Korean president has ever failed to finish their five-year term, but Ms Park has faced growing pressure from the public and political opponents to quit.
Ms Park has dismissed some of her most senior and closest advisers, and former aides have been arrested on charges of abuse of power. Choi, the friend who is believed to have been acquainted with the president since the 1970s, has been charged with abuse of power and fraud.