Tens of thousands of South Koreans have taken to the streets of the capital Seoul, calling for President Park Geun-hye to step down over a political scandal that has gripped the nation.
The protests on Saturday, expected to draw more than 40,000 people, come after Park addressed the country on Friday, admitting that she had allowed her friend and confidante Choi Soon-sil to become too close to the corridors of power and decision-making.
Choi allegedly helped her with political appointments and policy decisions, even though she is a private citizen without security clearance. Park apologised for the scandal. She called the controversies that allegedly allowed her confidante to manipulate power as “heartbreaking”.
But thousands of South Koreans are refusing to accept her apology. The main opposition issued a set of demands to Park, including the call for a full investigation by politicians and an independent counsel.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Seoul, said that people from all walks of life had turned up to protest, indicating that people were still outraged and unwilling to accept her apology.
“Many here say they don’t feel the apology is a sincere one and they are here to call for her to step down,” our correspondent said.
“The wheels of goverment are turning but [President] Park is running out of luck on the political front as she is on the popular front,” our correspondent said.
Smaller protests have taken place daily in the past few weeks amid growing calls for Park to step down, although opposition parties have yet to make a serious push for her resignation or impeachment for fears of negatively affecting next year’s presidential election.
Park’s comments on Friday come at what may well prove to be the crucial moment of her presidency. Park is attempting to show the contrition and sense of responsibility that South Koreans demand, while re-establishing her tarnished credibility.
She is in the fourth year of a single five-year term and faced criticism even before this scandal, particularly for the government’s response to a 2014 ferry sinking that killed more than 300 people.
Only Choi has been formally arrested in connection with the scandal.
Prosecutors on Friday requested an arrest warrant for Ahn Jong-beom, a former Park aide, for his alleged involvement in extracting $70 million in donations.
Earlier in the week, prosecutors held another ex-presidential aide, Jeong Ho-seong, for allegedly leaking confidential documents to Choi. Prosecutors said they were reviewing whether to seek an arrest warrant for him, too.