Protesters attend a rally calling for the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 19, 2016.Photo: Xinhua
Almost one million South Koreans marched on Saturday night to demand the resignation of President Park Geun-hye over her biggest political scandal since she took office in February 2013.
Organizers said about 600,000 protesters took to the streets in central Seoul. It was half of last Saturday's rally in size that drew over 1.3 million and surpassed the June 1987 protest against then military dictatorship.
Instead of joining the Seoul demonstration as seen a week earlier, residents outside the capital city chose to hold separate rallies in their respective hometowns.
According to the estimate by organizers composed of about 1,500 civic groups, some 350,000 people held candlelight vigils in around 70 locations across the country.
This Saturday was the fourth protest rally since the scandal involving President Park and her decades-long confidente burst into a fit of rage last month.
Choi Soon-sil, whose friendship with Park dates back to the 1970s, and two former presidential secretaries are scheduled to be indicted by prosecutors on Sunday. Choi is suspected of interfering state affairs behind the scenes.
Public alienation from the Park administration was especially evident in the country's southeast regions, which are traditionally a political home turf for Park and her ruling Saenuri Party. The regions presented multiple election victories to them since Park entered the political sphere in 1998.
In the southeastern port city of Busan, over 50,000 people gathered on the streets with candles in hand. Over 12,000 protesters marched in the southern city of Daegu, according to local cable news channel JTBC.
Daegu is described as a political hometown of the president, who entered politics by being elected a lawmaker in the city.
In the capital city, three main opposition parties held separate rallies around the Gwanghwamun square. Presidential hopefuls in the opposition bloc joined candlelight vigils in major cities outside Seoul.
Most of the hopefuls demanded President Park immediately step down, while Lee Jae-myung, mayor of Seongnam city in Gyonnggi province, maintained his position that procedures to impeach the president should be launched immediately.
The Seongnam mayor's support rate recently jumped to the double digits on his active participation in the protest rallies.
Choo Mi-ae, chairwoman of the No. 1 opposition Minjoo Party, said in her speech in Seoul that President Park will be described as "the worst traitor" in history as the president with an approval rating of 5 percent pushes for a military intelligence pact with Japan, the country's former colonial ruler.
Park's approval scores stayed at 5 percent for three weeks in a row, the lowest for any South Korean president, according to a weekly public opinion poll by Gallup Korea.
The embattled president is trying to normalize state affairs, appointing new vice ministers and foreign missions earlier this week. Park on Wednesday ordered a thorough investigation into a corruption scandal involving the tourism complex development in Busan.
The president is widely believed to chair a cabinet meeting next Tuesday, when major government policies would be approved such as the military intelligence pact with Japan and the special prosecutor bill on the Choi Soon-sil case. It would be Park's first cabinet meeting in over a month.
People were enraged further as President Park delayed a face-to-face questioning by prosecutors to next week. Park said in her second public apology that she would accept an investigation into herself if necessary.
The prosecution office had asked Park to be investigated no later than Wednesday, requesting it once again as late as Friday.