South Korea protesters pushing for Park ouster

South Korea protesters pushing for Park ouster
PHOTO: Reuters

SEOUL - Tens of thousands of people were expected to gather in Seoul Saturday for a ninth straight week to demand the immediate ouster of impeached President Park Geun-Hye, organisers said.

Parliament voted to impeach Park earlier this month over a corruption scandal in which she allegedly colluded with her friend, Choi Soon-sil, to strong-arm donations from large conglomerates to two dubious foundations.

Park is also accused of ordering aides to leak confidential state documents to Choi, who has no official title or security clearance, and allowing her to meddle in state affairs, including the appointment of top officials.

Massive demonstrations have been taking place in Seoul and other cities every Saturday for the past two months, with protesters calling for Park's immediate departure from office.

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

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    Tens of thousands of unionized workers staged a general strike and students boycotted classes Wednesday, upping pressure on President Park Geun-hye to resign.

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    Demanding the president's immediate resignation, civic groups, the workers and students vowed to hold a large-scale rally Saturday.

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    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.

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    "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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    "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.

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But Park, who has been suspended from her duties since the impeachment vote on December 9, has remained defiant, declaring she will "calmly" wait until the Constitutional Court, which is due to rule on the case within 180 days, arrives at a decision.

Organisers said Saturday's protest would see demonstrators sing along to Christmas tunes with new lyrics calling for Park's immediate removal.

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"Today's demonstration will be a mix of Christmas-eve celebrations and protests," Ahn Jin-Geol told AFP.

The demonstration comes as investigators prepared to question Choi in connection with new allegations that she sent dubious assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars overseas.

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Choi, who has been in custody since October, was brought to a special prosecutors' office in a prison bus.

Television footage showed the 60-year-old handcuffed and wearing an ivory prison outfit with a serial number on the chest as she was taken off the bus and led into the court building.

Choi, dubbed South Korea's "female Rasputin" for the influence she wielded over Park, faces trial on charges of embezzlement and abuse of power - largely related to huge "donations" made by companies to two foundations she controlled and allegedly plundered.

The ‘female Rasputin’ at centre of S Korean President Park Geun-Hye political scandal

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    South Korean President Park Geun-Hye is facing calls to resign over allegations she allowed a close personal friend to meddle in state affairs.

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    People watch a television news report showing South Korean President Park Geun-Hye making a public apology, at a railway station in Seoul on October 25, 2016.

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    South Korean President Park Geun-hye bows after releasing a statement of apology to the public during a news conference at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, October 25, 2016.

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    South Korea’s presidential office said on Saturday it was cooperating with prosecutors’investigation into key aides to President Park Geun-hye over allegations an old friend of hers enjoyed inappropriate influence over her.

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    Prosecutors’ request for presidential Blue House documents came ahead of an evening protest expected to draw thousands in central Seoul calling for Park’s resignation amid a scandal that has cast her presidency into crisis.

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    A woman attends a protest denouncing President Park Geun-hye over a recent influence-peddling scandal in central Seoul

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    Protestors hang a caricature showing South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (L) and her confidante Choi Soon-Sil (C), on a board during a rally denouncing a scandal over President Park's aide in Seoul on October 27, 2016.

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    South Korean prosecutors on October 27 set up a high-powered "task-force" to probe a widening scandal involving alleged influence-peddling by a close confidante of President Park Geun-Hye. Choi Soon-Sil, an enigmatic woman with no government position, was already part of an investigation into allegations that she used her relationship with the president to strong-arm conglomerates into multi-million dollar donations to two non-profit foundations.

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    Park’s office said late on Friday she had ordered her senior secretaries to tender their resignations, and she will reshuffle the office in the near future. Her chief of staff separately offered to resign earlier, the office said.

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    The deepening crisis over allegations that Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, enjoyed inappropriate influence over her has sent her public support to an all-time low, with more than 40 percent in an opinion poll saying Park should resign or be impeached.

"We will question her to confirm her earlier statements and investigate other allegations," a spokesman for the special prosecutor told reporters.

Choi's appearance came on the heels of the first hearing into Park's impeachment earlier this week.

If the justices confirm impeachment, Park will be permanently removed and elections must be held within 60 days.

S Korea President Park Geun-hye may have undergone various anti-aging medical procedures

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