November 21, 2016 09:49
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered across the country on Saturday for another round of candlelight demonstrations demanding the resignation of President Park Geun-hye over a crony scandal.
In Seoul, police were surprised by the sheer numbers who poured into the streets between Gwanghwamun Plaza and City Hall downtown, but estimates varied between 180,000 and 600,000. Organizers put the total at 950,000 across the nation and police at 240,000.
A more accurate estimate might be based on the number of people who got off at the 12 nearby subway stations, which tallied at 575,000, down about 300,000 from last Saturday when many flocked to Seoul from outside town. But this time many were able to rally in their hometowns.
Saturday's demonstrations again proceeded peacefully and dispersed voluntarily around midnight. Nobody was arrested. Thousands of high school seniors joined the demonstrations for the first time now that they had finished their college entrance exams.
One aspect of the scandal surrounding Park's friend Choi Soon-sil that angered the youngsters was a sweetheart deal giving Choi's daughter a preferential place as an equestrian at the prestigious Ewha Womans University although she missed almost her entire senior year in high school.
"All other students are studying really hard to get into college. I'm angry that such a girl could enter a prestigious university just because her parents bought her a horse," one high-school senior said.
Many protesters brought LED lights this time instead of candles, thumbing their nose at a pro-Park lawmaker who sneered after last week's rally that candles can be "blown out by the wind." Organizers predicted an even bigger turnout in the coming Saturday.
Meanwhile, about 11,000 mostly elderly Park loyalists rallied at Seoul Station around 2 p.m. on Saturday, police estimated. They shouted their opposition to Park's resignation, carrying national flags and flashing signs reading, "There'll be no better president than Park Geun-hye!" and "We absolutely oppose her forced resignation!"
Originally, the die-hard supporters had planned to march to Gwanghwamun, but police feared for their safety and cut them off near Namdaemun. They dispersed around 6 p.m.
Fittingly, the conservative protesters made up just about five percent of those who marched for Park's ouster, the exact approval rating the hapless president still enjoys.
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