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(4th LD) Tens of thousands in S. Korea rally for Park's resignation

All Headlines 22:50 November 05, 2016

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SEOUL, Nov. 5 (Yonhap) -- Tens of thousands of protesters holding lit candles rallied in central Seoul on Saturday, demanding President Park Geun-hye's resignation amid an influence-peddling scandal involving one of her acquaintances.

The anti-government protest, one of the largest held in the capital in recent years, came a day after Park offered an apology for the mysterious woman who allegedly meddled in state affairs and pursued unlawful benefits for herself.

Police estimate around 50,000 protesters gathered in central Seoul in the latest series of rallies that began a week earlier.

Organizers, on the other hand, insist up to 200,000 people from all walks of life took part in the rally, citing the public's escalating anger towards the presidential office.

The protesters, including family members and high school students, held banners and signs that read "Park Out" or "Park regime should step down."

A federation of college students filled the square in central Seoul and nearby streets, strongly voicing their demand for Park to step down, as she allegedly turned over all of her presidential power to an unqualified person.

"There is some concern over a power vacuum when the Park Geun-hye administration steps down. However, that is no worse than giving all of the power given by the people to some stranger," said Choi Eun-hye, an Ewha Womans University student.

(4th LD) Tens of thousands in S. Korea rally for Park's resignation - 1

The demonstrators then participated in a march through the streets around the square, shouting out slogans such as "Let's join forces" and "Step down Park!"

"I wanted to show my children the power of citizens," said Han Jin-wook, a demonstrator and a mother of one daughter. "Some media reported the rally would be violent, but I feel totally safe."

On Friday, local pollster Gallup Korea said Park's approval rating crashed to 5 percent this week, marking the lowest-ever rating for an incumbent South Korean president in the country's history.

Some 17,600 officers were deployed to the site, police said, noting that they were specifically instructed to not provoke protesters.

They still acknowledged that some confrontations would be inevitable should the protesters attempt to march around, possibly toward the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae that is located close to the rally site.

A 62-year-old demonstrator surnamed Seo shouted that he had participated in the rally as he wanted to get his vote back.

"I thought that President Park was doing a good job but now I feel so angry. It is my first time participating in a rally," said Seo.

Earlier in the day, the Seoul administrative court allowed the citizens to hold the rally after police rejected an earlier request for a marching rally.

Smaller protests also took place in other cities demanding Park's resignation.

More than 3,000 citizens gathered in the southern city of Gwangju and more than 700 people rallied in the city of Ulsan.

(4th LD) Tens of thousands in S. Korea rally for Park's resignation - 2

People in Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang Province area, considered Park's stronghold, also participated in a massive rally to ask for Park's resignation.

Up to about 1,200 civic activists and other people gathered in Daegu and 120 other citizens also participated in a rally in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province.

The protest rally comes amid allegations that Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of Park, had assumed the role of an eminence grise since the Park administration came into office in February 2013, exerting influence in state affairs while holding no public seat in the administration.

She is also suspected to have had unauthorized access to presidential documents, which allowed her to even edit the president's speeches before they were given.

The 60-year-old was placed under prosecution custody during her interrogation earlier this week. A local court issued a warrant for her detention on Thursday.

Protesters also conducted a funeral for Baek Nam-gi, a protester who died late September after being knocked down by a police water cannon during an anti-government rally held in November last year.

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colin@yna.co.kr

khj@yna.co.kr
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