Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Seoul
on Saturday in the fourth straight weekend of protest against embattled
President Park Geun-hye.Park is resisting calls to step down amid an ongoing political crisis
in which she is alleged to have let an old friend meddle in state
Saturday’s protest was smaller as protest groups also organized
demonstrations in regional capitals. Police said at least 155,000 people
had packed into a central Seoul square early on Saturday evening for a
candle-lit rally. Organizers said the number was 500,000.
Park has pledged to cooperate in an investigation into the scandal.
Prosecutors are expected to bring indictments against Choi Soon-sil,
Park’s friend at the center of the crisis, and two former presidential
Not all Koreans are calling for the president to resign, however. A
short drive away from the main protest, a group of conservative
protesters gathered outside Seoul station in defense of the president.
“Sixteen million people elected this president to office. It does not
make sense to simply ask for her withdrawal,” said Geum Sang-chul, a
78-year-old pensioner and member of the Korean Veterans Association.
Geum had joined a group of counter-protesters that police estimated at
about 11,000-strong, while organizers said the number was higher.
“We can not give into the pro-North Korea supporters,” said Geum,
using a derogatory term that Korean conservatives have for the more
progressive wing of Korean politics.
Park’s approval ratings have been at a record-low 5 percent for the last three weeks because of the scandal over her friend.
Many of her remaining supporters, some of whom refer to themselves as
“the five percent”, are loyal to Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, a
military strongman who ruled South Korea for 18 years until he was
assassinated by his spy chief in 1979.
Park Geun-hye’s popularity and election as president stemmed in part
from the symbolic connection to her father, who is still revered by
“If they really care about the country, they should consider the
country’s image,” said Lee Sang-soon, a 66-year-old pensioner. “I am
troubled by how the country is portrayed abroad by these protests.”
But Park remains highly unpopular across the country. Tens of
thousands of people also gathered for dozens of demonstrations in
regional cities on Saturday night, Yonhap news reported.
High school students also joined the crowds in Seoul on Saturday,
free to protest after finishing important national exams this week.