Koreans rally in big numbers, urge Park to resign
Thousands of South Koreans have taken to the streets, calling on President Park Geun-Hye to resign amid deepening fallout from a corruption scandal.
As many as 20,000 police officers were deployed on Saturday throughout the capital Seoul to check protesters who ignored a government ban to march through the streets.
Some 40,000 demonstrators were expected to turn out at the rally in central Seoul and authorities were braced for protesters trying to make their way towards the presidential Blue House.
The protesters chanted slogans and carried banners urging Park to step down, the day after she issued a tearful televised apology over the influence-peddling affair which has shattered public trust in her leadership.
The president consented to the launch of a formal corruption investigation against her and pledged to cooperate with investigators.
Park conceded that the scandal involving her long-time confidante Choi Soon-Sil was “all my fault,” but rejected reports that linked her and Choi to a religious cult.
The corruption probe is reportedly focused on allegations that the 60-year-old Choi manipulated her close ties with the South Korean president to persuade local business institutions into donating large sums to doubtful non-profit foundations that she then used for personal gains.
Choi was formally detained on Thursday on charges of fraud and abuse of power.
Public anger, however, has mainly focused on reports that she intervened in governmental affairs and enjoyed access to confidential documents, despite lacking any official position or security clearance.
South Korean news outlets have further portrayed Choi, whose late father was a shadowy religious leader and a key mentor to Park, as a Rasputin-like figure who wielded a harmful influence over President Park.
While Park is not likely to quit the presidency, local analysts suggest that she will limp along to conclude her current term in office with her authority gravely weakened at a time of declining economic growth, rising unemployment and continuing military tensions with rival North Korea.
Meanwhile, the country’s main opposition Democratic Party reacted to Park’s televised address by insisting that her changes had been cosmetic, further vowing to wage a campaign for her ouster.