SEOUL, South Korea- Even on New Year’s Eve, large mob of South Koreans gathered to join another rally demanding the ousting of impeached President Park Geun-hye, who’s determined to restore her powers through national courts trial.
Carrying signs and candles and blowing cornets, people packed a boulevard in front of an old palace gate that has been the center of massive but peaceful protests in recent weeks. Marches were planned near Seoul’s presidential palace and the Constitutional Court.
Park’s advocates rallied in nearby streets, surrounded by thick lines of police.
The court has up to six months to decide whether Park should permanently step down over a corruption scandal or be reinstated. The magistrates said Friday that Park cannot be forced to testify in the impeachment trial as it enters its argument stage next week.
Protest organizers estimate that nearly 9 million people have participated in anti-Park rallies nationwide in the previous nine Saturdays. The historically biggest protest motion in the country pushed lawmakers to vote for Park’s impeachment on Dec. 9.
State attorneys have accused Park of colluding with a longtime confidante to extort fund and favors from the country’s largest companies and allowing the friend to manipulate her administration. Park has apologized for putting religion in her jailed friend, Choi Soon-sil, but has denied any legal wrongdoing.
“Choi Soon-sil has shown us that our democracy was shattered, ” said Lee Hae-jin, who protested for the 10 th consecutive Saturday in Seoul, carrying a large South Korean flag and wearing black traditional hanbok and a black dance mask that he said was a commentary on the state of the country’s democracy.
“I hope in 2017 we will see our republic repaired, ” Lee said.
State prosecutors have now handed over the investigation to a special prosecution team, which has been focusing on proving bribery distrusts between Park and the Samsung Group. The business giant is suspected of sponsoring Choi in return for government favors.
On Saturday, researchers questioned Moon Hyung-pyo, the country’s arrested former health minister, over allegations that he forced the National Pension Service last year to support a consolidation between two Samsung affiliates last year.
The deal shaved the fund’s stake in one of the companies by an estimated millions of dollars in value, but allowed Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong to promote a father-to-son succession of leadership and increase corporate wealth at the group.
Investigators also incarcerated a literature professor from Ewha Womans University as they look into distrusts that the prestigious Seoul school manipulated its admission process to accept Choi’s daughter, Yoora Chung, and afterwards her academic favors.
The professor, Ryu Cheol-gyun, is a famous novelist who in 1997 wrote a tale critics assured as exalting Park’s father, slay military despot Park Chung-hee, whose legacy as a successful economic strategist is marred by violent the recording of civilian oppression.
Investigators are also looking into allegations that Park’s administration blacklisted thousands of artists for their political beliefs.