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(LEAD) Massive rally in Seoul to demand Park's resignation

2016/11/05 18:13

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES with more info throughout; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Nov. 5 (Yonhap) -- Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in central Seoul Saturday demanding President Park Geun-hye's resignation from office over a corruption scandal involving one of her acquaintances who allegedly meddled in state affairs and pursued unlawful benefits for herself.

Police estimate around 43,000 protesters gathered in central Seoul in the latest series of rallies that began a week earlier.

Organizers, on the other hand, insist up to 100,000 people from all walks of life took part in the rally, citing the public's escalating anger towards the presidential office.

On Friday, local pollster Gallup Korea said Park's approval rating crashed to 5 percent this week, marking the lowest-ever rating for an incumbent South Korean president in the country's history.

Some 20,000 officers were deployed to the site, police said, noting that they have been specifically instructed to not provoke protesters.

They still acknowledged that some confrontations may be inevitable should the protesters attempt to march around, possibly toward the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae.

Earlier in the day, the Seoul administrative court allowed the citizens to hold the rally after police rejected an earlier request for a marching rally.

The protest rally comes amid allegations that Choi Soon-sil, a close friend of Park, had assumed the role of an eminence grise since the Park administration came into office in February 2013, exerting influence in state affairs while holding no public seat in the administration.

She is also suspected to have had unauthorized access to presidential documents, which allowed her to even edit the president's speeches before they were given.

The 60-year-old was placed under prosecution custody during her interrogation earlier this week. A local court issued a warrant for her detention on Thursday.

Protesters will also conducted a funeral for Baek Nam-gi, a protester who died late September after being knocked down by a police water cannon during an anti-government rally held in November last year.