South Korea is expected to witness its largest-ever rally on Saturday as 2 million people are expected to gather nationwide to call for President Park Geun-hye to resign.
Saturday’s protest is likely to receive momentum from the recently-aggravated political sentiment against the embattled state chief, amid the prosecution’s ongoing investigation and prominent political figures calling for her impeachment.
Reflecting the unabated public anger and the growing moves for sanctioning the president, Park’s approval rating took another dip this week to 4 percent.
The organizers -- the Emergency Public Action for the resignation of the Park Geun-hye administration -- said that they will hold the fifth pan-national public rally to demand for President Park’s ouster at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square starting from 6 p.m. Saturday.
“We expect 1.5 million people to gather in Seoul this Saturday and over 2 million nationwide,” officials said.
The corresponding numbers were 1 million and 600,000 respectively on the two previous Saturdays, while the police estimated lower turnouts.
Various social clusters ranging from labor unions, students’ associations and farmers held preparatory meetings and marches this day, encouraging citizens to take part in the main event on the following day.
The most conspicuous were members of the Korean Peasants League, a leading farmers’ federation here, who rode their tractors from every corner of the country all the way up to Seoul to participate in Saturday’s rally.
The majority were from the nation’s southwest Jeolla provinces, referred to as the Honam region which has for long leaned towards the progressive political aisle.
Those from South Jeolla Province have been on the road for 10 days, having departed early last week and gathering others along the way.
Their plan is to gather about 1,000 tractors and agricultural machines, hold a rally near the Seoul Government Complex on Friday afternoon and march towards the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. The attendants also pledged to join other citizens in Saturday’s main rally.
This mass gathering had raised concerns over possible clashes with authorities, especially as the police announced a ban on the tractors entering Seoul’s downtown area, citing traffic congestion.
But the Seoul Administrative Court on Friday afternoon upheld the suspension request on the police ban, motioned by the KPL, allowing the protesting farmers to drive their tractors to the scene of the rally, though they will face some restrictions.
For instance, tractors are to remain stationary within a given perimeter from Gwanghwamun Square so as not to hinder the protestors and passers-by.
Also, students associations from major universities announced an allied strike and called fellow youngsters to a general rally at Gwanghwamun Square on late Friday, taking a step forward from their earlier statement of state affairs.
With such a large number of participants expected, the police decided to allocate a total of 280 squadrons, or 25,000 officers, in rally zones focusing on Gwanghwamun Square and the areas surrounding the Blue House, officials said Friday.
Meanwhile, a survey conducted by leading local pollster Gallup Korea showed Friday that President Park’s approval rating fell further to a record-low 4 percent this week, with 93 percent expressing discontent on her job performance.
Her rating had already dropped to a lowest-ever 5 percent earlier this month after the revelation that her civilian confidante Choi Soon-sil had interfered in key state affairs and used her influence for personal gains.
The recent fall came as the prosecution’s ongoing investigation found new evidence indicating at the president’s involvement in Choi’s corruptive acts. The three opposition parties -- the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, the runner-up People’s Party and the progressive minority Justice Party -- as well as some members of the ruling Saenuri Party earlier pledged to lay a motion for impeachment as early as next week.