Tens of thousands of protesters in Seoul demanded the resignation of beleaguered South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Saturday.
According to the BBC, Seoul police estimated roughly 45,000 people turned out for demonstrations against Park’s leadership. Organizers claimed almost four times as many people had attended.
Public support for Park, who is the country’s first woman leader, has plummeted amid an unusual scandal involving her close confidant Choi Soon-sil. South Korean prosecutors allege that Choi, the daughter of a charismatic preacher who holds no formal position, used her extraordinary influence within the Park administration to enrich herself and her family.
Most of the allegations against Choi involve more traditional forms of corruption, ranging from siphoning off state funds to obtaining preferential treatment for her children at universities. But South Korean media outlets have also focused on Choi’s role as an eminence grise of sorts within the Park administration. The Washington Post has more:
JTBC, a television network, said it had found a tablet computer that contained files of speeches the president had yet to give, among other documents. The younger Choi is said to have edited the landmark speech that Park gave in Germany in 2014, laying out her vision for unification with the North. The Hankyoreh newspaper wrote that actual presidential aides “were just mice to Choi’s cat.”
She is also rumored to have created a secret group called “the eight fairies” to advise the president behind the scenes.
TV Chosun, the channel belonging to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, aired a clip showing Choi overseeing the making of an outfit for Park, “raising doubt whether Park made any decision at all without Choi,” the paper said.
South Korean media have been full of Photoshopped graphics to illustrate the relationship, including one showing Park as a puppet and Choi Soon-sil pulling her strings.
In a televised address Friday after South Korean investigators issued a warrant for Choi’s arrest, Park took personal responsibility for the scandal. She also took the opportunity to deny some of the more sensational claims surrounding Choi, including a rumor she had run a shamanistic cult in the Blue House, the South Korean equivalent of the White House.