Thousands gather in South Korea for fifth week of protests against Park

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Hundreds of thousands rallied in central Seoul on Saturday for a fifth week of protests against President Park Geun-hye, in the largest ongoing series of demonstrations in the country since the 1987 movement to democratize South Korea.

Park’s presidency has been rocked by allegations that a close friend used her ties to the leader to meddle in state affairs and wield improper influence. Prosecutors investigating the case have indicted her friend, Choi Soon-sil, and are seeking to question the president about her role in the scandal.

Organizers said 800,000 people had gathered early on Saturday evening and expected a total of 1.5 million people to join by the end of the night. Police declined to give an estimate of the crowd size but said 25,000 personnel had been dispatched to police the protest.

The protests, now in their fifth week, have remained peaceful and marked by huge candle-lit rallies where activists and rock bands have entertained a diverse crowd of students, office workers, and young families.

“I was watching the news and thought this cannot go on – people really want her to step down but she hasn’t,” said 45-year-old Kwak Bo-youn, one of the protesters.

“This is the second time for me to the protests, but the first time for my husband and kids”.

Earlier in the day, a large group of demonstrators marched to within 200 meters of the presidential palace, where Park resides, but a court appeal to allow protesters to remain there after dark was rejected.

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