‘Mil­lion’ rally in Seoul to seek Park’s res­ig­na­tion S Korean oppn weighs impeachment mo­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Up to 1.3 mil­lion pro­test­ers braved sleet and freez­ing tem­per­a­tures in Seoul yes­ter­day to de­mand Pres­i­dent Park Geun-Hye re­sign over a cor­rup­tion scan­dal or face impeachment, or­ga­niz­ers said. Par­tic­i­pants raised can­dles, sang and danced while chant­ing “Ar­rest Park Geun-Hye” and “Throw Park into jail”, with cries from the main rally site re­port­edly reach­ing the pres­i­den­tial Blue House some 1.5 kilo­me­ters (0.9 miles) away.

Park’s pres­i­dency has been rocked by al­le­ga­tions that a close friend used her ties to the leader to med­dle in state af­fairs and wield im­proper in­flu­ence. Prose­cu­tors in­ves­ti­gat­ing the case have in­dicted her friend, Choi Soon-sil, and are seek­ing to ques­tion the pres­i­dent about her role in the scan­dal.

Or­ga­niz­ers said 800,000 peo­ple had gath­ered early yes­ter­day evening and ex­pected a to­tal of 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple to join by the end of the night. Po­lice de­clined to give an es­ti­mate of the crowd size but said 25,000 per­son­nel had been dis­patched to po­lice the protest.

The protests, now in their fifth week, have re­mained peace­ful and marked by huge can­dle-lit ral­lies where ac­tivists and rock bands have en­ter­tained a di­verse crowd of stu­dents, of­fice work­ers, and young fam­i­lies. “I was watch­ing the news and thought this can­not go on - peo­ple re­ally want her to step down but she hasn’t,” said 45-year-old Kwak Bo-youn, one of the pro­test­ers.

“This is the sec­ond time for me to the protests, but the first time for my hus­band and kids”. Ear­lier in the day, a large group of demon­stra­tors marched to within 200 me­tres of the pres­i­den­tial palace, where Park re­sides, but a court ap­peal to al­low pro­test­ers to re­main there af­ter dark was re­jected.

Choi Soon-sil and a for­mer aide to Park have been in­dicted by prose­cu­tors on charges of col­lud­ing with the pres­i­dent to pres­sure big busi­ness to con­trib­ute funds to two foun­da­tions con­trolled by Choi.

Park, whose five-year term ends in Fe­bru­ary 2018, has apol­o­gized twice over the affair but is re­sist­ing calls for her res­ig­na­tion. Op­po­si­tion par­ties are can­vass­ing for sup­port to im­peach her. Her ap­proval rat­ings slipped one per­cent­age point on Fri­day af­ter hov­er­ing at just 5 per­cent for three con­sec­u­tive weeks. Her dis­ap­proval rating rose three per­cent­age points to 93 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a poll by Gallup Korea, which is not af­fil­i­ated with the US-based Gallup, Inc.

Park Geun-hye’s pop­u­lar­ity and elec­tion as pres­i­dent in 2012 stemmed in part from the sym­bolic con­nec­tion to her fa­ther who ruled South Korea for 18 years un­til he was as­sas­si­nated by his spy chief in 1979. Many, es­pe­cially the el­derly, credit Park’s fa­ther with the rapid de­vel­op­ment of Korea.

How­ever, only 9 per­cent of peo­ple aged over 60 said Park was do­ing well, ac­cord­ing to the Gallup Korea sur­vey. Her sup­port is low­est amongst young peo­ple. Ninety-nine per­cent of 19-29 year-olds and 98 per­cent of peo­ple in their thir­ties dis­ap­proved of Park, ac­cord­ing to Gallup Korea.

Fears of pol­icy-mak­ing paral­y­sis prompted by the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis has also dealt a blow to con­sumer con­fi­dence, which fell to its low­est in more than seven years in Novem­ber, South Korea’s cen­tral bank said. — Agen­cies

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