November 18, 2016 12:32
Police are bracing for another massive candlelight rally in downtown Seoul on Saturday after last week's protests drew up to 1 million people from all walks of life to the streets of downtown Seoul.
Police expect fewer people to participate in this week's rally in Seoul as separate smaller rallies are planned across the country. But things could turn ugly this weekend as President Park Geun-hye seems to be stalling on her pledge to cooperate with investigators in the massive corruption scandal that has engulfed her.
Park has refused to face question this week as her lawyer demanded more time to prepare to represent her. He said he will "cooperate" with prosecutors so she can be questioned next week but it is unclear whether that will happen in person.
In a bizarre move, Park also ordered prosecutors to investigate a lobbying scandal surrounding a high-rise condo in Busan, apparently under the impression that she remains in charge.
A police spokesman claimed officers "barely managed to resist" angry protesters last week and now public sentiment has worsened. "We don't know how protesters will behave so we're very nervous," he added
Large numbers of high school seniors want to take part in the protests on Saturday now that they have finished Thursday's college entrance exam.
Many have been especially angered by the news that the daughter of Park's crony Choi Soon-sil was given a high school diploma even though she attended only 17 days' of classes in her senior year and was even given a prize in physical education. On Thursday, around 300 high school seniors joined a candlelight protest in downtown Seoul immediately after taking the exam.
Organizers expect half a million people to converge in downtown Seoul on Saturday and 1 million across the nation. They hope to encircle Cheong Wa Dae as closely as possible, and maps have been posted on social media instructing people when and where to go.
Police have informed organizers that they will not be allowed past a junction some 900 m from Cheong Wa Dae, but organizers have applied for court permission to march right up to the gates.
"Although we expect the protests to remain peaceful, we will not hesitate to respond according to the manual if violence erupts," a police spokesman said.
Police are not ruling out violence as some hardline conservative groups plan a counter-demonstration. Thousands of Park's die-hard supporters plan to rally at Seoul Station on Saturday afternoon and march downtown to meet the other rally.
The Korea Freedom Foundation, one of the country's biggest conservative groups, has also asked its 3 million members to take part.
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