Approval ratings for South Korean President Park Geun-hye have dipped into single digits — and protests calling for her ouster are expected to swell to more than a million people Saturday.
Amid cold and snow, demonstrators filed into the streets of Seoul over the growing scandal that has engulfed her presidency and plunged the nation’s government into uncertainty.
Massive protests have broken out since the scandal engulfing Park surfaced in late October.
Organizers of Saturday’s protest called for 2 million people to hit the streets — no small feat for a country of 50 million. Protesters clutched umbrellas, signs and candles near the Blue House, the presidential residence, in Seoul. Organizers also had called for rallies in other cities too.
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.
Meanwhile, Park will not be charged because the country’s constitution affords the president immunity while holding office.
Although Park has apologized several times, she has resisted the public pressure to resign, infuriating her critics — who has questioned her judgment and credibility.
She is set to leave office in February 2018 as she cannot run in the country’s presidential election in December next year.
The presidential scandal started when CNN South Korean affiliate JTBC found evidence that Choi had received secret documents on an abandoned tablet device.
When Choi’s father died, she succeeded him as leader of the Eternal Life Church. For years, she has given Park spiritual guidance.
“It’s much more than simply, ‘Oh she knows this person,’ it’s deeply intertwined, almost like they’re Rasputin and Park Geun-hye is just a puppet,” David Kang, director of the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California, recently told CNN.
The classified information scandal, while rare and shocking in South Korea, isn’t the only reason many are calling for her to step down.
There has been growing frustration with Park over the past few years. Issues that angered her opponents included the stagnating economy and the Sewol ferry sinking, which killed more than 300 people. Many South Koreans were outraged at the systemic lapses that contributed to the sinking.