South Korea protesters demand Park Geun-hye's release
SEOUL, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- They distrust the "tabloid media," are incensed by the sitting president and battle perceptions they stand at the margins of society.
In Seoul public squares, they voice their frustrations about a range of issues traditionally tied to conservative South Korea concerns: a ruling government too easygoing on North Korea, expensive welfare schemes, and perhaps most importantly, the abrupt ouster of former President Park Geun-hye.
Hundreds of South Korean men and women, typically in their 60s -- but some older -- have been gathering weekly in areas like Seoul Station on Saturdays, where they call for the removal of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the release of Park, most recently sentenced to 25 years in jail.
Park was convicted of colluding with a friend, Choi Soon-sil, so Choi could receive millions of dollars from major South Korean corpora tions. Park did not enrich herself, but a South Korean court found her guilty of bribery and coercion.RELATED North Korea group suggests U.S. withdraw forces
The charges are puzzling, protesters told UPI.
"I don't know what it is Park Geun-hye did wrong that she deserves to be in prison," said Kim Hyeong-su, 65, who traveled to the Korean capital from Anyang, Gyeonggi Province. "The people currently holding positions of power in government, it appears they're using their authority to lock people up."
Last week, South Korean prosecutors said they are seeking a 20-year prison sentence for another conservative politician: former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, after indicting him on 16 counts of graft ranging from bribery to abuse of presidential power.RELATED Exhibit shows rare North Korean art: Sweeping landscapes, f orced smiles
Kim, a private citizen who turned out to support the right-wing activists, said he is skeptical Moon is on the right track.
"I don't know whether the current president, Moon Jae-in, is doing a better job," he said. "Out of duty, you cannot unconditionally negotiate with North Korea. That's not right."
Many of the protesters, bearing the South Korea and U.S. flags to "show their support for the alliance," see the Moon administration as politically aligned with North Korean interests.RELATED Two Koreas seek accelerated denuclearization, Seoul says
During Park's term in office, North Korea used strong language to condemn the leader, the daughter of former South Korean dictator Park Chung Hee -- calling for the "death penalty" for the "traitor Park Geun-hye" in 2017.
Cho Si-chul, a leading member of The Korean Patriots Party, told UPI his country is in the midst of a crisis. &qu ot;Pro-North" leftists are to blame, he said.
"The Moon Jae-in administration is simply a left-wing regime with pro-North Korea sympathies," Cho said, as the Korean national anthem soared in the background. "That is why they acknowledge the Kim Jong Un regime."
Cho also raised concerns North Korea could get what it has advocated for decades: a so-called "Koryo Confederation System" that would eventually realize North Korea founder Kim Il Sung's vision of unification by absorption of the South.
"The Republic of Korea is a liberal, democratic market economy created according to the charter and founding ideology of the United Nations," Cho said. "Therefore, it is not compatible with the three-generation dictatorship, socialist-communist system" of North Korea.
Cho also said the Moon administration's legitimacy should be questioned, given the circumstances that brought the current president to p ower.
"The left-wing regime came to power because of the illegal impeachment of Park Geun-hye," the activist said, adding the South Korean "tabloid media" is ultimately responsible for a decision from the constitutional court to unilaterally vote in favor of impeachment in 2017.
"It was the press that manipulated numbers, saying as many as 2 million protesters called for impeachment, when in fact it was about 100,000 people," Cho said, referring to the candlelight rallies of 2016 and 2017. "This kind of impeachment cannot happen in a democracy."
A stark discrepancy between rally organizers' and police approximations does exist in estimates of the number of anti-Park Geun-hye protesters. On Christmas Day 2016, for example, anti-Park organizers said 700,000 protesters appeared in public, while police said the numbe r was closer to 53,000, according to press reports at the time.
Protesters standing by Cho, wearing t-shirts that read "Rescue Park" in English, appeared to share his bitter resentment of the civic movement that swept Moon into office and landed Park in jail.
When a man walked up to a makeshift stage bearing banners calling for the removal of Moon, and said, "Where is the Republic of Korea going?" the crowd answered back: "It's going into ruin!"
The protests, involving a coalition of multiple groups, are expected to continue regularly for the remainder of the year.
They also come at a time when Moon's once skyrocketing approval rating, following his first and second summits with Kim Jong Un, is dropping dramatically.
According to a Realmeter poll on Monday, the president's support is now at 53.5 percent -- the lowest since he took office.
Moon is expected to meet again with Kim Sept. 18-20 in the capital Pyongyang.Source: Google News South Korea | Netizen 24 South Korea