Seoul rally calling for S. Korean president to resign draws at least 18,000 over weekend

Posted on : 2022-10-24 15:16 KST Modified on : 2022-10-24 15:16 KST
Protesters took to the streets in the heart of Seoul, calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the first lady as well
People participating in a rally organized by Candlelight Action in downtown Seoul hold up pickets and chant on Oct. 22. (Kim Hye-yun/The Hankyoreh)
People participating in a rally organized by Candlelight Action in downtown Seoul hold up pickets and chant on Oct. 22. (Kim Hye-yun/The Hankyoreh)

Around 6 pm on Saturday, the road running from Seoul’s City Hall Station to Sungnyemun Gate was packed with people. According to police estimates, around 18,000 people gathered at the candlelight march calling for the resignation of President Yoon Suk-yeol and for a special prosecutor to investigate first lady Kim Keon-hee.

The police had initially estimated that 7,000 people would gather for the rally, so with more than twice the number of people attending the protest, the police commented that they “didn’t expect such a big turnout,” and that their “estimates clearly were not accurate.”

At the same time, a mere 100 meters away, conservative groups also held their own protests.

The police believe that these rallies in downtown Seoul may turn into “power confrontations,” and are planning on increasing the number of security personnel assigned to monitor the demonstrations.

A group made up of progressive activists staged a massive candlelight march for an independent prosecutor to investigate Kim Keon-hee and the resignation of Yoon in Seoul on Saturday, starting at 4 pm.

Citizens from around 23 cities and regions across the country, including Gangneung, North Gyeongsang Province, and Gwangju, attended the march. Police estimated that up to 18,000 people had arrived by 6 pm, while the organizers estimated the number to be around 300,000.

The organizers reported that they were expecting roughly 100,000 people to take part, but the police expected around 7,000 to come.

The participants started off by using only three car lanes for their protest, but at one point they filled up eight.

The police information department explained their failure to estimate the scale of the rally by saying that the scale “was not one that could’ve been calculated based on the number of members of a union.” That is, they seemed caught off guard by how many citizens responded to calls for people from all over the country to join the rally.

Citizens from all over the country were able to make their voices heard at an event prior to the rally’s kick-off.

Jeong Nyeong-hee, leader of Candlelight Action’s chapter in North Jeolla Province, shouted, “President Yoon should step down, and Kim Keon-hee should be subject to a special prosecutor over her manipulation of stock prices.”

Kwon Jung-seon, leader of Chuncheon’s Candlelight Action group said, “The light of a candle can become a wildfire. I have a six-year-old child. I'm participating in this rally so that I can help create a country where my daughter can thrive.”

A citizen who stated that he was from Chungju took the stage and said, “The economy is bust and the prosecution, courts, and even universities are keeping silent even though Kim Keon-hee’s fake academic record and participation in a stock manipulation case have been brought to light. What kind of a country is this?!”

Conservative groups also held a rally starting at 3 pm on the same day, filling the streets from the Dongwha Duty Free Shop in Gwanghwamun to City Hall Station. The police estimated that 35,000 people (as of 3:30 pm) had joined the rally, which was attended by members of the Liberty Unification Party led by pastor Jeon Kwang-hoon.

Shouts of “Lock up Lee Jae-myung immediately!” could be heard throughout the rally, referring to the arrest of Kim Yong, a close aide of Lee Jae-myung and vice president of the Institute for Democracy, on suspicion of accepting illicit campaign contributions.

There were no physical clashes between the two groups, but the larger-than-expected turnout had inevitable repercussions for traffic congestion. The police deployed around 6,500 officers from 100 units to the rallies on Saturday. A police official stated that the police will consider increasing the scale of police forces deployed in these cases, as the two sides’ rallies could lead to “power confrontations.”

By Park Ji-young, staff reporter; Chai Yoon-tae, staff reporter

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