South Korea

A president and her shaman?

Protests over South Korea’s mysterious presidential scandal enter their fifth week

Protests over South Korea’s mysterious presidential scandal enter their fifth week

UPDATE: President Park Geun-hye said she’s willing to resign if her fellow lawmakers deem it necessary. “I put my faith in deciding to resign or shortening my term in the hands of the National Assembly,” she said in a nationally televised address to the South Korean public on Tuesday.

Protests against South Korean President Park Geun-hye have entered their fifth week, drawing reportedly the largest crowd yet to the nation’s capital Saturday night, despite the first snow of the year.

Hundreds of thousands gathered in the streets of Seoul to march toward the presidential Blue Palace, chanting “Imprison Park Geun-hye” and waving signs demanding her resignation.

Park’s presidency has been rattled with allegations of corruption. While prosecutors cannot indict Park until after she leaves office, they accuse her of helping an old friend and unofficial adviser, Choi Soon-sil, extort millions from businesses. Allegations have also surfaced that Park shared classified information with Choi, whom some believe possesses “shamanistic powers” and belongs to a mysterious cult known as the “Eight Fairies,” which runs the government.

Prosecutors have already indicted Choi on charges of abuse of power, fraud, and coercion.

Park’s term ends February 2018, but lawmakers, including representatives from her own party, look ready to start impeachment proceedings as early as Friday.

Organizers claimed that 1.5 million poured into the streets of Seoul to protest Saturday evening and another 400,000 rallied in other parts of the country, BBC reported. Police estimate a lower turnout in the capital, at around 270,000.

The protests have drawn a diverse group of South Korean society. The New York Times reported a “peaceful and almost festive” atmosphere, with Buddhist monks, mothers with their children, young couples, and students.

Choi’s father, Choi Tai-min, referred to as the “Korean Rasputin,” headed a cult-like religious group called the Church of Eternal Life and reportedly became Park’s mentor. The relationship between the two families has been shrouded in mystery and outlandish media claims, including allegations that Park is a puppet of the Choi family and that she hosted shamanist rituals at the Blue Palace. Park has denied allegations of involvement in a cult.

A recent Gallup Korea poll found that Park’s approval rating plummeted to an all-time low of four percent. She formally apologized earlier this month in a televised address for placing “too much faith in a personal relationship.”

“It is all my fault and mistake,” Park said with her voice shaking. “Sad thoughts trouble my sleep at night. I realize that whatever I do, it will be difficult to mend the hearts of the people, and then I feel a sense of shame.”

She has vowed to cooperate with an official investigation but resists calls to resign, despite pressure from opposition parties seeking her impeachment.

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