The Korea Herald


[UPDATE] Up to 1.5 million march to presidential office in protest

By 옥현주

Published : Dec. 3, 2016 - 19:41

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Tens of thousands of South Koreans took to the streets of central Seoul on Saturday in their sixth consecutive weekend rally to demand the President Park Geun-hye’s resignation over an influence-peddling and corruption scandal.

As of 8 p.m. up to 1.5 million protesters, according to rally organizers, packed main boulevards connecting City Hall and Gwanghwamun Square to Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul for a candlelight vigil aimed at ramping up pressure on Park to immediately step down.

Up to 900,000 people gathered for a candlelight vigil held in central Seoul, Saturday. (Yonhap)(Yonhap) Up to 900,000 people gathered for a candlelight vigil held in central Seoul, Saturday. (Yonhap)(Yonhap)

They began to march toward the presidential office at 7:30 p.m. to surround it from several locations.

Enraged by President Park Geun-hye’s third televised address and the Assembly’s failure to hold a vote on her impeachment, the public chanted “Park Geun-hye, step down immediately. It is the public’s order,” and “Arrest Park Geun-hye.”

“President Park is delaying stepping down, leaving the decision on her own presidency up to the parliament,” Kim Seong-ju, 27, told The Korea Herald at Gwanghwamun Square. “That way, she is sparking infighting in the National Assembly. We (the public) have no option but to topple the president ourselves.”

On Tuesday, Park issued an apology for the third time but refused to step down immediately, saying she would leave it up to the National Assembly to decide when and how she should leave her post.

“I think Park’s third televised address was a sophisticated political ploy. Now, the public fury, which was directed at President Park and her confidante Choi Soon-sil, spreads to the National Assembly,” Seo Young-soo, 23, said.  

This is the sixth week of major protests against the president, which were sparked by revelations surrounding the president’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. Choi is alleged to have meddled in state affairs, pressured companies into donating to funds to foundations she controls for her personal use.

 “It is my first time joining the protest. I doubted that my participation in the rally can make any difference,” said a 54-year-old office worker Kim Hye-yeon. “But I gained courage after seeing so many people raising a voice in unison against President Park. I will attend the rally until she steps down.”

A total of 350,000 South Koreans gathered for candlelight vigils in other parts of the country, with 200,000 in the nation’s second biggest city Busan and 100,000 in the liberal Gwangju, according to figures from organizing groups.

Before the main event began at 6 p.m., some 500,000 protestors marched towards the presidential office.

For the first time in recent history, protestors were allowed to march up to 100 meters from the presidential office by 5:30 p.m., the closest spot from Cheong Wa Dae, upon a local court’s order.

A local court has ruled against police banning protestors from marching near the presidential office, citing freedom of public assemblies. 

Last Saturday, the court allowed protesters to hold a rally in front of Cheongwoon-dong community center, some 200 meters away from the presidential office.

“As we are only 100 meters away from President Park in her office, I hope our voices are better delivered,” said Choi Jeong-seon, 53. “The opposition parties should join forces to impeach her.

In the afternoon, several demonstrations were held across Seoul.

At 2 p.m., protesters held a rally in front of the Saenuri Party headquarters in Yeouido, southwestern Seoul, showing the public anger directed at lawmakers opposing Park’s impeachment. Organizers said 20,000 people took part but police put the number at 1,000.

Blasting the ruling Saenuri Party for failing to support the impeachment motion against President Park, they chanted “Resign, Park Geun-hye. Dissolve the Saenuri Party!”

“Sanuri Party is an accomplice to President Park’s crimes. Ignoring the public’s voices, she is clinging to her power. She should step down right now,” said Park Jae-young, 29, in front of the Saenuri Party’s headquarter.

On Friday, the initial plan among the main opposition parties and anti-Park group within the Saenuri Party to vote for an impeachment motion against Park fell through. The opposition parties agreed to hold a vote on the impeachment next Friday.

“I don’t know what opposition parties are doing now. They are doing nothing to remove Park Geun-hye from the office. They lost my trust,” said a 21-year-old student Lee Eun-hui. 

On the other side of Seoul, some 15,000 loyal supporters of President Park staged a rally in front of Dongdaemun Design Plaza, denouncing anti-Park protestors as “witch-hunting” the president. The police tally was 1,500.

President Park Geun-hye’s approval rating remained at record-low 4 percent this week, a Gallup Korea poll showed Friday, while 91 percent disapproved of her.

So far, the cumulative number of Koreans who took to the streets to demand President Park step down has exceeded 4 million, according to rally organizers. Last Saturday alone, up to 1.9 million people participated in the rally, with 1.5 million gathering in Seoul.

By Ock Hyun-ju & Bak Se-hwan ( (