On Saturday hundreds of thousands of South Koreans have defied cold and snowy weather to fill the streets of Seoul demanding the resignation of President Park Geun-hye. Park has been engulfed in nepotism charges for letting her confidante, Choi Soon-sil view confidential documents and presidential speeches. Choi does not hold an official government position and is accused of using her relationship with the president to accrue millions of dollars in donation to her foundations.
Choi is already charged with fraud, coercion and abuse of power. Park has since apologised for putting “too much faith in a personal relationship”. She can not be charged because South Korean constitution gives a sitting president immunity. But she has pledged to co-operate with investigations into the scandal, as two of her former aides are also charged. However, her refusal to resign has angered South Koreans who have been protesting for 5 weeks.
The organisers of Saturday’s protest had estimated that about 2 million people will participate. But it is estimated that only 1.5 million people turned out as police deployed 25,000 officers to keep the protest orderly. The protest marks the largest ever in South Korea since pro-democracy demonstrations of the 1980s. Organisers are calling for rallies in other cities as protesters in the capital city of Seoul matched to the Blue House, the official residence of the president.
Park approval rating had already taken a deep dive even before this scandal broke. South Koreans where outraged at the systemic failure that led to the sinking of Sewol ferry in which more than 300 souls were lost. Only about 5% of South Koreans approve of the job their president is doing. If she fails to resign, the only constitutional option that is left is for her to be impeached. There are grounds for impeachment as prosecutors have directly linked her to the scandal. But the only problem is that, it can not be done from the streets of Seoul.