South Kore­ans hit the streets of Seoul

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

Tens of thou­sands of South Kore­ans poured into the streets of down­town Seoul yes­ter­day, us­ing words in­clud­ing “trea­son” and “crim­i­nal” to de­mand that Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye step down amid an ex­plo­sive po­lit­i­cal scan­dal.

The protest, the largest anti-gov­ern­ment demon­stra­tion in the cap­i­tal in nearly a year, came a day af­ter Park apol­o­gised on live tele­vi­sion amid ris­ing sus­pi­cion that she al­lowed a mys­te­ri­ous con­fi­dante to ma­nip­u­late power from the shad­ows.

Hold­ing ban­ners, can­dles and colour­ful signs that read “Park Geun-hye out” and “trea­son by a se­cret gov­ern­ment”, the de­mon­stra­tors, in­clud­ing many stu­dents, packed a large square in front of an old palace gate and the nearby streets, singing and thun­der­ously ap­plaud­ing speeches call­ing for the ouster of the in­creas­ingly un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dent.

They then shifted into a slow march to­ward the streets around City Hall, shout­ing “Ar­rest Park Geun-hye”, “Step down, crim­i­nal” and “We can’t take this any longer”.

“Park should squarely face the prose­cu­tion’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion and step down her­self. If she doesn’t, politi­cians should move to im­peach her,” said Kim Seo-yeon, a col­lege stu­dent who par­tic­i­pated in the march in the cap­i­tal.

“She ab­so­lutely lost all author­ity as pres­i­dent over the past few weeks,” he said.

Ear­lier in the week, pros­e­cu­tors ar­rested Choi Soon-sil, the daugh­ter of a late cult leader and a long­time friend of Park, and de­tained two for­mer pres­i­den­tial aides over al­le­ga­tions that they pres­sured busi­nesses into giv­ing $70 mil­lion to two foun­da­tions Choi con­trolled.

There are also al­le­ga­tions that Choi, who has no gov­ern­ment job, reg­u­larly re­ceived clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion and med­dled with var­i­ous state af­fairs, in­clud­ing the ap­point­ment of min­is­ters and pol­icy de­ci­sions.

“I came out to­day be­cause this is not the coun­try I want to pass on to my chil­dren,” said one of the de­mon­stra­tors, Choi Kyung-ha, a mother of three.

“My kids have asked me who Choi Soon-sil was and whether she’s the real pres­i­dent, and I couldn’t pro­vide an an­swer.”

Po­lice es­ti­mated the crowd at about 43,000, although protest or­gan­is­ers said about 130,000 peo­ple turned out.

Po­lice used dozens of buses and trucks to cre­ate tight perime­ters in streets around the square in front of the palace gate to close off paths to the pres­i­den­tial of­fice and res­i­dence. Thou­sands of of­fi­cers dressed in flu­o­res­cent yel­low jack­ets and full riot gear stood in front of and be­tween the ve­hi­cles as they closely mon­i­tored the pro­test­ers.

Smaller protests have taken place in the past few weeks in Seoul and other cities amid grow­ing calls for Park to step down. While sev­eral politi­cians have in­di­vid­u­ally called for Park’s ouster, op­po­si­tion par­ties have yet to at­tempt a se­ri­ous push for her res­ig­na­tion or im­peach­ment in fear of neg­a­tively im­pact­ing next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Park has tried to sta­bilise the sit­u­a­tion by fir­ing eight aides and nom­i­nat­ing three new top Cab­i­net of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the prime min­is­ter, but op­po­si­tion par­ties have de­scribed her per­son­nel reshuf­fles as a di­ver­sion­ary tac­tic.

RAL­LY­ING CALL: Po­lice es­ti­mated 43,000 turned out for the protest

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