Mass protests in Seoul commence against Park Geun-hye arrest

Jen Offord
South Korea's ousted leader Park Geun-hye leaves

Supporters of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye turned out in the country's capital Seoul on Saturday. Turning out in their thousands, Park's defenders protested against her arrest following allegations of corruption.

The daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee who ruled in the post Korean-war era from 1960 until his assassination in 1979, Park polled well among older voters who remember her father as a hero. South Korea's first female president was ousted from power on March 10 2017 after an investigation relating to allegations of high-level corruption was opened against her.

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The organiser of the protests, Jung Mi-hong, told Park's supporters at the demonstration: "She could have avoided this all if she wanted to, but Park chose the road of a martyr."

He added: "She has offered to sacrifice herself to protect the constitutionalism of the Republic of Korea and a free democracy."

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Among the allegations against Park is the accusation that she gave access to classified government documents to longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil to favour business interests. Choi has since been jailed.

Prosecutors have 20 days to decide whether to formally charge Park, who has apologised for trusting Choi. She denies the accusations against her, which includes taking a multi-million dollar bribe from South Korean technology giant, Samsung. The company's vice chairman and de facto head, Lee Jae-yong, is also being held.

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Though two previous leaders of South Korea have been jailed, Park is the first democratically elected leader to be imprisoned. Her arrest took place following a nine-hour hearing.

Organisers of the protest told crowds, waving Korean and US flags – the latter as a sign of the alliance between the two countries against North Korea – Park's rivals were "leftist North Korea sympathisers" and "turncoats". Meanwhile protestor Chung Kwak-taek told the Associated Press: "[Park's rivals had] ruthlessly attacked a lonely woman who dedicated herself to the country."

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