Public anger at its peak as tens of thousands of S Koreans gather to demand President Park Geun-hye's resignation

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in central Seoul on Saturday to demand President Park Geun-hye's resignation over a spiraling scandal involving her confidante Choi Soon-sil.

Some 200,000 people flocked to Gwanghwamun Square in the evening, according to organizers, signaling the undying public anger toward President Park despite her second televised apology a day earlier. The police estimate was 43,000 people.

The second massive rally since the Choi Soon-sil scandal surfaced was bigger than the first rally held last Saturday that organizers said drew about 40,000 people.

Young students took centre stage in the rally, with middle school, high school and university students condemning the president for letting a civilian friend meddle in state affair. They vowed to "save" the country.

"I am mad that an unelected individual ruled the country behind the scenes. It is a regression of democracy that we have learned," said Cho Ji-hun, a 18-year-old student. "I thought I would regret it if I did nothing in this seriously sad situation."

As hundreds of students in school uniform paraded through main road in Gwanghwamun area chanting "Park Geun-hye, step down" and singing a national anthem ahead of the rally, they received a round of applause from fellow protesters.

"Looking at young students taking to the streets, I am so ashamed and embarrassed about myself and people from our generation," said Lee Seong-kyun, a 65-year-old retiree, who joined anti-Park rally for the first time. "We (adults) let this happen by not taking action earlier."

"The apology she made further disappointed me. She denied her part in the scandal, shifting all the blame to Choi Soon-sil," he said. "Park should voluntarily step down and be investigated."

Park apologised for allowing her guard to drop with Choi Soon-sil and for her role in a "heartbreaking" political scandal, but distanced herself from Choi's alleged influence-peddling and embezzlement of public funds for personal gain.

Park said she would accept prosecutorial questioning if necessary, hinting that she would not step down.

Despite being organised by labour unions and civic groups, the rally drew a lot of unaffiliated citizens who came with their family and friends to express their frustration.

They chanted "Park Geun-hye, step down" or "The owner of this country is the Korean people," with many holding candles and carrying anti-Park placards.

"I came here not to feel ashamed in front of my children. I have never participated in a rally, but I could not just see the president further ruining this country," said Park Je-hee, 37, who brought her 3-year-old and 5-year-old children from Suwon.

Park said that Park's apology made her only angrier.

"President Park does not seem to know what a real problem is. Does she think Koreans are a bunch of idiots?"

Park's approval rating has plunged to 5 per cent, setting an all-time low for any sitting South Korean presidents, according to a Gallup poll released Friday. The survey was conducted on 1,005 Koreans from Nov. 1-3.

As dusk gathered, protestors began to march 3.7 kilometers across central Seoul after a local court ordered the police to cancel their ban on the rallying march earlier in the day.

Tens of thousands of South Koreans stage protest in Seoul calling for President Park Geun Hye to resign

  • Tens of thousands of unionized workers staged a general strike and students boycotted classes Wednesday, upping pressure on President Park Geun-hye to resign.
  • Demanding the president's immediate resignation, civic groups, the workers and students vowed to hold a large-scale rally Saturday.
  • An association of 500 civic groups declared Wednesday as "a day of citizens' resistance," staging rallies in front of City Hall in central Seoul and in major cities from 3 p.m. More universities also joined a boycott of classes to ramp up pressure on Park.
  • "Ignoring people's calls for an immediate resignation, Park shifted responsibility (for her resignation) to the parliament," Choi Jong-jin, acting chief of the nation's second-largest umbrella labour union KCTU, said during the rally in central Seoul.
  • Some 220,000 workers from the public transport, public service, construction and education industries under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions joined the partial strike by taking a day off or leaving work early.
  • Students from 17 universities, including Sookmyung Women's University, Sogang University and Korea University, began to boycott their classes Friday. A few more schools including Seoul National University and Kookmin University joined the boycott Wednesday. Incheon University, Inha University and Pusan National University will join the move from Thursday.
  • Starting at 4 p.m., some 20,000 laborers marched across central Seoul and stopped at the headquarters of major conglomerates including Samsung, SK, Lotte, GS and Hanhwa, which are suspected of contributing money to the K-Sports and Mir foundations set up and run by Park's close confidante Choi Soon-sil.
  • The rally organizers initially planned to march to a fountain only 100 meters away from the presidential office, but the police blocked their plan, citing traffic disruption.
  • The sixth anti-Park rally will be held Saturday at Gwanghwamun Square. As with last Saturday's rally, organizers said some 100,000 participants will completely surround the presidential office from several locations starting from 4 pm.
  • Tens of thousands of South Koreans protested in central Seoul on Saturday (Nov 5) in one the largest demonstrations in the country's capital for years, calling on embattled President Park Geun Hye to resign over a growing influence-peddling scandal.
  • Roughly 43,000 people were at the candle-lit rally early on Saturday (Nov 5) evening, according to police. Organisers said a growing crowd of 100,000 had assembled, making the protest one of the biggest since demonstrations in 2008 against US beef imports.
  • Park Geun Hye has been rocked by a scandal involving an old friend who is alleged to have used her closeness to the president to meddle in state affairs. Ms Park has pledged to cooperate with prosecutors in an investigation.
  • Koreans have been angered by the revelations and say Ms Park, the latest South Korean leader to be embroiled in a scandal involving family or friends, has betrayed public trust and mismanaged her government.
  • Her approval rating has slipped to just 5 per cent according to a Gallup poll released on Friday (Nov 4), the lowest number for a South Korean president since such polling began in 1988.
  • Police said they had deployed 17,600 officers and 220 units including buses and mobile barriers to Saturday's protest. Police in riot gear lined the alleys and streets leading to the presidential Blue House as the main body of the demonstration began the march through central Seoul.
  • Ms Park has sacked many of her immediate advisers over the crisis. A former aide, Jeong Ho Seong, was arrested on Thursday (Nov 3) on suspicion of leaking classified information, a prosecution official told Reuters.
  • No South Korean president has ever failed to finish their five-year term, but Ms Park has faced growing pressure from the public and political opponents to quit.
  • "Even though we're just students, we feel like we can't put up with this unreasonable society anymore so we're participating in this protest with like-minded friends," said Mr Byun Woo Hyuk, an 18-year-old high school student holding a banner calling on the president to resign.

"I am shocked about how Park has ignored the Korean people. She does not seem to understand that she was only elected to represents us," said Kim Ji-won, 25, while marching with her parents. "This rally might not be able to change the situation right away, but we are showing the power of people."

Police dispatched some 20,000 officers in central Seoul to maintain public order. They built barricades with police buses in an apparent attempt to block the protestors from marching toward the presidential office.

As in last weekend's rally, the police appeared to avoid provoking protestors and using violence, mindful of possible public backlash. There were no water cannons deployed at the scene.

The anti-Park rally coincided with the funeral for Baek Nam-gi, a 69-year-old activist farmer, who died after being knocked down by a police water cannon during an anti-government rally a year ago.

Baek's funeral was held at 8 a.m. with some 200 people in attendance at Seoul National University Hospital. Thousands of citizens were seen paying respect to the deceased at a send-off ceremony in Gwanghamun Square ahead of the rally.

The funeral had been delayed for more than a month amid controversy over the police's decision to conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death. The police withdrew the plan in the face of opposition from Baek's bereaved family and civic groups.