In a fifth week of protests against South Korean President Park Geun-hye, thousands took to the streets of Seoul this past Saturday. Unphased by snow, businessmen, families, and politicians alike continued to voice their discontent with Ms. Park’s scandal-tarnished administration. Estimates regarding the approximate number of protestors differ starkly (official police reports stipulated the number to be about 260,000, whereas those of protest organizers about one and a half million), though public discontent with Ms. Park is manifest in her single digit approval rating of just about five percent.
This all comes amidst the backdrop of a particularly damning allegation that Ms. Park participated in flagrantly criminal behavior, aiding and abetting her long-time friend Choi Soon-sil in acquiring large sums of money, chiefly from conglomerates, for various foundations. Ms. Park is furthermore accused of sharing classified information with Ms. Choi, who currently faces charges of extortion and abuse of state power. Korea’s constitution, however, exempts Ms. Park from prosecution while she holds office. Even still, the President has addressed the situation head-on, publicly apologizing to the Korean people: “I again apologize for causing immeasurable disappointment and worry. All this is my fault, caused by my negligence.”
Ms. Park is officially expected to hold office until February 2018, though the threat of impeachment might cut short her tenure. On December ninth, more specifically, the Korean National Assembly is expected to gather and to vote on some kind of impeachment bill. Ms. Park faces heavy criticism not just from opposition, but also from within her party.
All considered, the protests which began in late October have generally been quite peaceful. One journalist even called them “festive,” making reference to the various rock bands that performed songs with modified lyrics, street-vendors that sold food and posters, and the sheer enormity of people that flooded the streets of the nation’s capital. And they seem to be working, for just this morning Ms. Park stated in a televised address that she is willing to step down before her term officially ends. Even still, until she matches her rhetoric with action, the protests will likely continue.