Huge protest urges South Korean president to quit

AFP, SEOUL

Sun, Nov 06, 2016 - Page 1

Tens of thousands of protesters yesterday marched through the streets of Seoul, demanding that South Korean President Park Geun-hye resign, a day after she apologized and accepted full blame for a crippling corruption scandal.

In one of the largest demonstrations seen in the South Korean capital in years, there was little sympathy for Park, who in an emotional televised address to the nation on Friday talked of her loneliness and “heartache” at the explosion of public anger in recent weeks.

“Her speech made me even more angry,” said Park Mee-hee, 44, who was marching with her teenage daughter.

“She kept making ridiculous excuses as if she was totally innocent. She should step down right now,” she said.

The scandal has focused on a close personal friend of the president, Choi Soon-sil, who has been arrested for fraud and also stands accused of meddling in state affairs — including official appointments and policy decisions — despite holding no official position.

The crisis has shattered public trust in Park Geun-hye’s judgement and leadership, and her approval rating has plunged to just 5 percent — a record low for a sitting president.

Police said more than 40,000 people turned out for yesterday’s candlelight rally — more than double the size of a similar protest the week before.

Organizers said the number was closer to 200,000, after a Seoul court overturned a police ban on the demonstrators marching along the city’s main ceremonial boulevard.

About 20,000 police were mobilized, but while the tone of the banners and slogans was angry, the event was largely peaceful, with many school and college students, as well as couples carrying infants or walking with their young children.

Punching their fists in the air, they chanted “Resign Park Geun-hye” and “You are under siege.”