Massive demonstrations were held in central Seoul on Thursday demanding the resignation of Cho Kuk, the controversial minister of justice.
On the National Foundation Day, groups of protesters took to the Gwanghwamun Square and adjoining crossroads, filling up the 12-lane road from the square to the City Hall Subway Station Exit No. 7 -- about 100 meters in width and 1.4 kilometers in length – by around noon.
A separate rally organized by the ultraconservative Our Republican Party saw protesters filling a 400-meter stretch of 10-lane road from Seoul Station to Sungnyemun Gate nearby.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party officially kicked off the anti-Cho rally in front of Sejong Center near Gwanghwamun Square at around 1 p.m. Some key party figures, including Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn and Floor Leader Na Kyung-won, spoke at the rally.
Conservative party chief Hwang said the rally was a manifestation of public outrage over the Moon Jae-in administration’s “non-principled” appointment of Cho.
“The president is sacrificing the normal operation of state affairs to save minister Cho,” Hwang said, addressing the crowd. “Cho Kuk needs to go, no matter what.”
Large and dense clusters of protesters blocked the 2.1-kilometer stretch of road from Gyeongbok Palace to Sungnyemun, with the Liberty Korea Party claiming a turnout of around 3 million by 2 p.m. Our Republican Party’s estimate for the combined protests was 200,000.
A civic group demanding President Moon Jae-in’s impeachment was among the participants of the mass protest.
“The protesters seem to range from right-leaning groups to citizens without political ties,” said Shin Yul, a political science professor at Myongji University.
The protests, which were expected to last through early evening, was scheduled to wrap up with a march toward Cheong Wa Dae, located about 1.6 kilometers from Gwanghwamun.
Protesters fill Gwanghwamun crossroads. (Yonhap)
Thursday’s demonstrations follow a string of corruption allegations against Cho’s family that have mounted over the last two months since his nomination on Aug. 9.
Police said some 5,400 officers were stationed around the area of protests.
Last Saturday, pro-Moon groups held candlelight vigil dubbed “Save Cho Kuk” movement outside the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in southern Seoul, calling for the reform of the prosecution -- one of the main agendas of the Moon administration. The vigil’s organizers claimed the turnout numbered close to 1.5 million in two sections of roads. Another rally supporting Cho is scheduled to take place this Saturday at the same place.
By Kim Arin (firstname.lastname@example.org