South Korean Protesters Call for Their President to Step Down

For the past five weekends, hundreds of thousands of protesters have been occupying large parts of downtown Seoul, South Korea, in some of the largest demonstrations seen in decades, demanding the ouster of President Park Geun-hye. This weekend’s crowd was estimated to be as large as 1.3 million protesters.

Holding candles and signs reading “Who’s the real president?” and “Park Geun-hye, step down”, the protesters marched through downtown Seoul after holding a candlelight vigil near City Hall. Police estimated that about 12,000 people turned out for the biggest anti-government demonstration in Seoul in months.

“Park has lost her authority as president and showed she doesn’t have the basic qualities to govern a country,” Jae-myung Lee, from the opposition Minjoo party and the mayor of the city of Seongnam, told the protesters from a stage on Saturday.

Park is accused of letting her confidante Choi Soon-sil, who does not hold an official government post, view confidential documents and presidential speeches. Choi is accused of using her relationship with Park to accumulate millions of dollars in donations to her foundations. Choi is charged with abuse of power, fraud and coercion, and two of Park’s former aides also face criminal charges.Park will not be charged because the South Korean Constitution affords the President immunity while holding office.

Although she has apologized several times, Park has resisted the public pressure to resign, infuriating her critics — who have questioned her judgment and credibility.

She is set to leave office in February 2018 as she cannot run in the presidential election in December next year.