SEOUL, , (Pakistan Point News - APP - 12th Nov, 2016 ) - Up to half-a-million people have been expected to take to the streets of Seoul demand the resignation of scandal-hit President Park Geun-Hye, in one of the largest anti-government protests in decades. On the back of official appeals for calm, around 25,000 police were on standby for the third instalment in a series of weekly mass demonstrations, triggered by a corruption scandal that has left Park fighting for her political life.
In an effort to soothe public anger, Park has issued several apologies, reshuffled her top officials and even agreed to relinquish some of her extensive executive powers, but the popular calls for her to step down have been relentless. "We are feeling the weight of the serious public mood," presidential spokesman Jung Youn-Kuk acknowledged Friday. Most experts believe Park, who has just over a year left of her single five-year term, will be able to ride out the crisis and remain in office, albeit with her authority and ability to govern seriously undermined.
Opposition parties have, so far, avoided direct calls for her to resign and appear more interested in extracting more concessions from Park in terms of devolving power to the legislature. Police said they were planning for a crowd of around 170,000 for Saturday's demonstration, while organisers said they expect up to 500,000 people to turn out. Those sort of numbers would make it one of the biggest anti-government rallies since the pro-democracy protests of the 1980s In a televised press conference on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Joon-Sik voiced concerns at the possibility of "illegal collective action or violence.
" "We hope the public will cooperate so that the demonstration will be legal and peaceful," Lee said. The two previous rallies were mostly peaceful, with a large number of families attending, including couples with infants and young children. The last time Seoul witnessed mass protests on such a large-scale was in 2008 when around 100,000 people took to the streets to protest then-president Lee Myung-Bak's decision to lift an import ban on US beef.
The scandal engulfing Park is focused on her long-time personal confidante, Choi Soon-Sil, who is currently under arrest on charges of fraud and abuse of power. Prosecutors are investigating allegations that Choi, 60, leveraged her personal relationship with Park to coerce donations from large companies like samsung to non-profit foundations which she set up and used for personal gain. She is also accused of interfering in government affairs, including the nomination of senior officials, despite holding no official position. Lurid reports of the unhealthy influence Choi wielded over Park have sent the president's approval ratings plunging to record lows.