Cheong Wa Dae, rival political forces and the police on Friday braced themselves for the massive anti-government rally to be held Saturday in Seoul, which observers say could be a watershed moment for the beleaguered President Park Geun-hye in the Choi Soon-sil fiasco.
Thousands of chartered buses are expected to take residents from other parts of the Korean Peninsula to the rally, which is expected to be the largest candlelight vigil ever to be held in local history.
As many as 1 million people may gather, according to rally organizers. Police anticipate some 170,000 participants, which would still by far exceed the turnout of the 2008 anti-US beef protest. At that time, police’s tally was 80,000 against organizers’ claim of 700,000.
Though organized by a union of some 1,500 civic groups and labor bodies, the upcoming rally is expected to be joined by nearly all that oppose the scandal-hit conservative leader, spanning labor, civic society, political parties and unaffiliated citizens from all over the country.
Cheong Wa Dae appeared to be lying low in the face of public anger toward Park for letting her friend interfere with state affairs.
“We will hear citizens’ voices very seriously,” presidential spokesperson Jung Youn-kuk said Friday.
The government, in a public statement, pleaded for a peaceful protest.
“It is a turbulent time for South Korea with North Korea’s missile threats, and uncertainties growing in the world economy following the results of the US presidential election,” said the statement read by Lee Joon-sik, the deputy prime minister for social affairs.
“At such times, it is of utmost importance for citizens to overcome difficulties together. Please cooperate to uphold a mature and peaceful protest culture.”