South Korea: Tens of thousands march through Seoul demanding president’s resignation
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South Korea: Tens of thousands march through Seoul demanding president’s resignation

THE streets of Seoul filled up with tens of thousands of protesters calling for the embattled  President Park Geun-hye to resign from her position amid an explosive political scandal involving manipulation by the daughter of a former cult leader.

The protest on Saturday is the largest anti-government demonstration in the capital in nearly a year, and came a day after Park apologized on live television amid rising suspicion that she allowed the mysterious friend to influence government decisions despite holding no official role.

Police estimated the crowd at 45,000, although protest organizers said about 200,000 people turned out in the capital.

Dozens of police vehicles were parked around City Hall and also a square in front of an old palace gate, which the police planned to close off to prevent protesters from marching towards the official presidential office and residence, the Blue House.

On Friday, Park apologized to the nation in a televised address, saying “I feel a huge responsibility (for the scandal) deep in my heart. It is all my fault and mistake.”

She vowed to accept a direct investigation into her actions, but the opposition, sensing weakness, immediately threatened to push for her ouster.

SEE ALSO: ‘Heartbroken’ South Korean president Park admits scandal was ‘all my fault’

The scandal surrounding Park and her longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, emerged after Park acknowledged she relied on Choi for help in editing presidential speeches and other unspecified “public relations issues”.

Soon after, rumours of Choi’s links to a religious cult escalated and reports identified her as the daughter of former cult leader Choi Tae-min, depicting her as a manipulative “shaman” who had been controlling Park’s decisions via supernatural means.

Just a few days ago, Park reshuffled her Cabinet, replacing the prime minister, finance minister, and safety minister in an attempt to contain the backlash from the scandal. The move had drawn criticism from the opposition People’s Party, who said such a reshuffle “can’t be happening without discussing it with the opposition”.

Additional reporting by Associated Press