Huge numbers of protesters continue to flood the streets of South Korea, for more than five weeks running now. The first protestors took to the streets in October this year after a scandal involving President Park Geun-hye broke out.
The President was accused of letting her confidante, Choi-Soon-sil, view confidential documents and presidential speeches. Prosecutors asserted that she was regularly sharing classified information with Choi, who has no official government position and no security clearance. Choi was found to be giving secret counsel to the president; helping her adjust speeches and allowing het to inform national policy.
More than this, Choi was also accused of using her influence with the President to rack up millions of dollars for her foundations; including global companies such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai. The former confidante and senior staff are alleged to have extorted $774 million from Korean ‘chaebols’ –family owned business conglomerates- in order to build to media and sports foundations.
Choi is charged with fraud, coercion and abuse of power. Two of the President’s former aides are also under investigation. President Park is only under investigation as a suspect, but she has denied any wrongdoings. Nevertheless, under South Korean Constitution, the president has immunity and she will not be charged as long as she is in office.
The President admitted her close ties with Choi Soon-sil, which sparked outrage in South Korea. Her approval ratings fell sharply to only 5%, the lowest ever for any sitting South Korean president.
Demonstrations broke out in Seoul soon after the revelations, with people demanding on the President to resign. Protesters braved the cold and the snow and took to the streets of Seoul, as they believe that the President has lost their trust; and they doubt her power and legitimacy.
Protestations hit a peak on the night of November 26th, with 1.9 million South Koreans taking part, making it the biggest anti-presidential rally in the country’s history thus far. Park has twice apologized for her wrongdoings, but has refused to resign.
Eventually, Ms Park offered to resign over the scandal. But her offer was rejected by the opposition, which plans to hold a parliamentary impeachment vote next week.
Whether President Park will resign or will be impeached, she will become the first democratically elected president in South Korea’s history to not serve a full term.
Another large demonstration is expected in Seoul on Saturday 3rd, which will mark the sixth week-end of protests in a row.