What exactly happened in S Korea?

(Video by spectátor J/Edited by Fan Wang)

This is the fourth straight weekend since people in South Korea took to the streets asking their president Park Guen-hye to resign. Today, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators continued their protest in capital Seoul.

The series of protests followed an investigation conducted by South Korean media which revealed President Park has allowed her close friend Choi Soon-sil, a daughter of a religious cult leader with zero political experience, to interfere in significant state affairs.

Evidence from Ms Choi’s office suggested that she had access to a large amount of President Park’s confidential documents. She had not only drafted the president’s speeches, but also meddled in state affairs, including some related to sensitive policy issues.

Ms Choi is also alleged to have used her connections with the president to pressure personal interests. She is accused of asking companies for millions of dollars in donations to two non-profit foundations she controlled. Additionally, media also speculated that she has used her presidential connections to get her daughter into one of the top universities in South Korea and asked for special academic treatment.

This is the biggest protest against President Park so far. Seoul Police estimated there were over 170,000 people attending, while the organizers alleged at least 600,000 were at the scene. Apart from the capital, marches also went on in more than 60 cities across the country.

It is not unusual for South Korean presidents become unpopular towards end of their term. But Dr. Owen Miller, lecturer in Korean Studies at School of Oriental and African Studies(SOAS), University of London considered this different compared to previous anti-presidential feelings in the country. “It is rare that such a huge scandal explodes when the president still holds power in office”, he said.

park

(President Park made a public apology to South Koreans on TV on 4 November. Photo by Kim Jongsin/Flickr)

As more details about the scandal being exposed, South Korean’s anger towards their president keeps growing. President Park’s approval rating fell to 5% this week, which is a record low since she took office.

Meanwhile, there is still no sign for her resignation. It is also difficult for analysts to foresee whether she will step down shortly or not. Describing Ms Park as “operating very much on her own” and “unpredictable”, Dr. Miller thought even if she could survive the next few months until next year’s presidential election, she would definitely become a “lame duck” president, “but it’s possible she won’t survive “, he said.

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