Mass protest demands S. Korea's president quit over scandal


Demonstrators gather during a protest calling for the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun-hye in central Seoul, November 5, 2016.

"The family has had an extraordinary influence over Park Geun-hye for essentially her entire adult life", David Kang, a Korea expert at the University of Southern California, told CNN last week.

Ms Choi has been arrested for fraud and also stands accused of meddling in state affairs - including government appointments and policy decisions - despite holding no official position.

The protest came a day after Park apologized on live television for the "heartbreaking" scandal amid suspicions that she allowed a mysterious confidante to manipulate power from the shadows, turmoil that is beginning to threaten her presidency.

But the apologies did little to assuage simmering public anger, which culminated in the largest anti-government rally in the capital in almost a year on Saturday when tens of thousands of people demanded that Park step down.

Police expect around 40,000 people while organizers of the rally say as many as 100,000 will turn out Saturday.

That document reported rumours that Mr Choi "had complete control over Park's body and soul during her formative years" during the dictatorial rule of her father Park Chung Hee and that "his children accumulated enormous wealth as a result". On Sunday, a court also issued arrest warrants for two former presidential aides as the scandal widened.

One national poll released earlier Friday had her approval rating at 5 percent, the lowest for any president in South Korea since the country achieved a democracy in the late 1980s following decadeslong dictatorships.

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Prosecutors reportedly found a circumstantial evidence that President Park probably ordered the seven chaebol chiefs to make donations to the Mir and K-Sports foundations, or cultural and sports funds presumably controlled by Choi. Jeong, who has been formally detained, is charged with bringing confidential presidential documents to Choi on a daily basis.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama has had an effective working relationship with Park as well as her predecessor.

In Friday's televised apology, the conservative president promised to accept a direct investigation into her actions, but avoided the more damning allegation that Choi perhaps had interfered with important government decisions on policy and personnel.

The number was the lowest for any South Korean president, keeping a downward trend for five weeks in a row. She further said that every person involved should be held up to scrutiny, including herself. Other reports speculate Choi also helped choose presidential aides and even picked out Park's wardrobe.

Whatever transpires, the very personal nature of the scandal has severely undermined Park's ability to govern, turning her into the lamest of lame-duck leaders at a time of slowing economic growth, rising unemployment and elevated military tensions with North Korea.

But she denied speculation that she had "fallen into worshipping cult religions or that shamanistic rituals were held at the presidential Blue House".

Support for Park among those in their 50s plunged 14.3 percentage points, with an approval rating among supporters in this range for the ruling party sliding 14.2 percentage points.