With impeachment passed, more than 1 million still gather for candlelight demonstrations

Posted on : 2016-12-11 11:14 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
At seventh weekly demonstration, participants call on Constitutional Court to uphold Park’s impeachment
Participants in the seventh weekly candlelight demonstration call for President Park Geun-hye to immediately step down as they set off firecrackers celebrating the passage of the impeachment motion in front of Cheongwoon Hyojadong Community Service Center
Participants in the seventh weekly candlelight demonstration call for President Park Geun-hye to immediately step down as they set off firecrackers celebrating the passage of the impeachment motion in front of Cheongwoon Hyojadong Community Service Center

The candles will never stop burning. The seventh candlelight rally that was held the day after the motion for President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment was passed was attended by 800,000 people in Seoul and 1.04 million people around South Korea.

As of 8:30 pm on Dec. 10, the group organizing the demonstration (called the Emergency Public Campaign for the Resignation of President Park Geun-hye) estimated that 800,000 people had assembled in Seoul. (The police estimated that there were a maximum of 120,000 people on Sajik Street, Gwanghwamun Square and Sejong Street as of 7:30 pm.)

The organizers said that the number of protesters totaled 1.04 million if demonstrations in Busan, Gwangju and other cities were included. (As of 8 pm, the police estimated that 46,000 people were at demonstrations [in these cities]).

 about 200 meters from the Blue House in Seoul
about 200 meters from the Blue House in Seoul

While this fell short of the 1.7 million estimated to have attended the protest in Seoul last week (for a total of 2.32 million nationwide), or the largest protest in the history of South Korea’s constitutional government, it was still a substantial number. After all, the motion for impeachment passed the National Assembly the previous day, the temperature was a chilly 4 to 5 degrees below zero and fatigue from seven straight weeks of candlelight protests was setting in.

While the protesters on Dec. 10 were overjoyed that the motion for impeachment had passed through the power of the candles, they made clear that they would not put out the candles until Park stepped down and until her accomplices were prosecuted. Protesters shouted slogans such as “Step down now,” “We won’t tolerate this for even one second” and “Arrest [former Presidential Chief of Staff] Kim Ki-choon and [former Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs] Woo Byung-woo, too.”

 Dec. 10. (by Lee Jeong-yong
Dec. 10. (by Lee Jeong-yong

After the main rally was over, more than 30,000 people marched toward the intersection with the Constitutional Court where they chanted slogans such as “Uphold the impeachment” and “The people command it,” urging the Constitutional Court to make a quick ruling on the impeachment motion. The peaceful demonstration continued until late in the evening, with protesters listening to speeches and setting off firecrackers in front of the Cheongwoon Hyojadong Community Service Center, about 200 meters from the Blue House.

The march began at 4 pm, bringing protesters to the Hyoja Public Safety Center, 100 meters from the Blue House. Family members of the victims of the Sewol ferry sinking stood in the vanguard, holding placards that called for a thorough investigation into what Park was doing during the first seven hours after the accident. Some of the Sewol family members were shedding tears.

During the main rally, which started at 6 pm at Gwanghwamun Square, singer Kwon Jin-won, guitarist Ham Chun-ho and singer Lee Eun-mi took the stage for a stirring performance that kept the cold weather at bay.

 staff photographer)
staff photographer)

Between songs like “As You Go Through Life” and “Arirang,” Kwon Jin-won spoke to the crowd: “There was a vote for hope in the National Assembly yesterday. The power of the people is great, but our hearts are still heavy. We still have a long way to go. So much of the truth has been buried, and so many problems remain to be solved, like the seven hours after the Sewol sank and the cozy relationship between government and big business. The candles that you are holding today will light the way toward a tomorrow that is better than today.”

When Lee Eun-mi came on stage, she shouted, “May the Republic of Korea be reborn!” While singing “Wake Up,” Lee also made some remarks to the crowd: “For a long time, we haven’t dealt with the past in this country. I think that yesterday was the first day of dealing with the past. It was a historic day that must never be forgotten. Are you always going to stay awake?”

“Take the hands of the people beside you and put your arms around their shoulders and thank them for their hard work and for going to all this trouble. Let’s make this country even more awesome than it already is!” Lee said.

Many protesters also had a chance to make short speeches at the rally, including a group of South Koreans who are studying in Singapore: “Our candles must not go out. All we’ve done is suspend the powers of a president who was treated like a puppet. The Korean people are like an earthen pot that is slow to heat up. Since the impeachment motion has passed, the burner may have gone out, but the earthen pot has not cooled down yet. We have to keep watching to see what happens with the special prosecutor, the cozy ties between the government and big business, the investigation into the first seven hours after the Sewol ferry and measures to prevent this from happening again.”

Participants march from Gwanghwamun Square to the Blue House after the seventh weekly candlelight demonstration call for President Park Geun-hye to immediately step down
Participants march from Gwanghwamun Square to the Blue House after the seventh weekly candlelight demonstration call for President Park Geun-hye to immediately step down
 Dec. 10. (by Kim Myoung-jin
Dec. 10. (by Kim Myoung-jin

Yu Gyeong-geun, chair of the executive committee of the Sewol family association, took the microphone as well. After sharing what it had felt like to see Park impeached at the National Assembly the day before, he expressed his gratitude and the gratitude of the other Sewol family members to those who had participated in the candlelight rallies.

At 7 pm, the candles went out for one minute. In the darkness, the emcee intoned the names of those who had been lost: “Choi Gang-seo, Lee Un-nam and Lee Ho-il: these are workers who ended their lives after Park was elected president. Go Chang-seok, Lee Yeong-suk, Kwon Hyeok-gyu, Park Yeong-in, Nam Hyeon-cheol, Heo Da-yun, Cho Eun-hwa, Yang Seung-jin and Kwon Jae-geun: these are the names of those who have yet to return from the Sewol Ferry. Kim Kwang-hong, Choi Jong-beom, Yeom Ho-seok, Han Gwang-ho, Song Guk-hyeon, Baek Nam-ki and Kim Ju-yeong: these are the names of those sacrificed under the Park administration. The siblings in Paju, the woman and her two daughters in Songpa and the 19-year-old young man at Guui Station: please remember these people who did not even leave their names behind. These people paved the way so that this candlelight rally could be held today here at Gwanghwamun Square.”

 staff photographer)
staff photographer)
On the morning of Dec. 10, far-right groups including Parksamo (People Who Love Park Geun-hye) held a demonstration calling for the impeachment to be reversed. “Simply put, this impeachment is a popular revolution. Leftists and North Korean sympathizers are hard at work to complete this popular revolution. Our liberal democracy could be converted into a people’s democracy,” said Lee Sang-jin, president of the Popular Coalition to Extirpate Anti-State Education, during a protest held at Cheonggye Square in central Seoul at 11 am.

The police deployed 18,200 officers in 228 units on Dec. 10. At 1:20 pm, they estimated that as many as 40,000 people attended the demonstration.

By Kim Ji-hoon, Kim Kyu-nam, Park Su-ji and Bang Jun-ho, staff reporters

 staff photographer)
staff photographer)
Citizens hold candles and placards during the seventh weekly candlelight demonstration shouting for President Park Geun-hye to immediately step down at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul
Citizens hold candles and placards during the seventh weekly candlelight demonstration shouting for President Park Geun-hye to immediately step down at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul
 Dec. 10. (by Kang Chang-kwang
Dec. 10. (by Kang Chang-kwang

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