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.

S Korea sees massive protest against President Park Geun-hye

Thousands of South Korean people rallied in capital Seoul calling for their president Park Geun-hye to step down over a leaked document scandal. Furious people took to the streets, shouting ‘Step Down, Park Geun-hye’.

This followed an investigation conducted by South Korean media which showed 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. Owen Miller, lecturer in Korean Studies in SOAS said it is not unusual for South Korean presidents become unpopular towards end of their term. But he believes this is different compared to previous anti-presidential feelings in this country.

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.

At Saturday’s protest, an opposition politician, the mayor of another city, Lee Jae-myung, made a speech urging Ms. Park to quit her job. He said, ‘Park has lost her authority as president and showed she doesn’t have the basic qualities to govern a country’, ‘She should step down. No, she should be fired’.

This is definitely the biggest crisis in President Park’s political life. Last Tuesday, the president made a public apology on television. Her approval rating fell to around 10% in the next week, which is a record low since she took office. Dr. Miller from SOAS said if Park could survive until the presidential election next year, she would definitely be a lame duck president.