South Koreans gathered in central Seoul on Christmas Eve, braving the cold to protest against President Park Geun-hye and demand the Constitutional Court promptly carry out her impeachment trial.
Saturday’s rally, the ninth of its kind since October, had a festive mood, with some protesters dressing up as Santa Claus.
Before the main part of the rally, which was a march toward the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae at 6 p.m., there were events such as a Korean traditional percussion performance and concerts led by singers Jatanpung, Maya and rock band Every Single Day at Gwanghwamun Square.
“I feel like I’m here to attend a concert, not a protest. It actually feels good because I do not have to think about the current political crisis which gives me a headache,” Jo Jin-hae, 39, told The Korea Herald.
People also sang Christmas carols, but changed the lyrics to incorporate phrases like “Park Geun-hye should resign."
Rally organizers said Saturday’s rally was more focused on allowing citizens to celebrate the Yuletide season.
“We are here to forget about all the sadness and frustration from the past several months, because it is the holiday season and citizens will eventually win,” said a staff member of the organizers, who was preparing for the rally.
Candlelight vigils will continue until the Constitutional Court rules in favor of the people and Park is permanently removed from office, the staff member added. Next week’s protest on Dec. 31 will be another festive event.
On Christmas Eve, the streets were filled with families, friends and couples, bundled up in padded coats and masks due to the cold weather.
“We could have visited a warm place to celebrate the year-end holiday, but I thought being here at Gwanghwamun Sqaure at this time -- a historical moment for South Korea -- is more meaningful and memorable,” said 28-year-old Kim Se-yeon who joined the protest with her boyfriend.
Despite chilly air, rally organizers said some 550,000 citizens gathered in Seoul as of 6:30 p.m. to demand Park’s ouster, surpassing 8 million citizens who have taken part in the protests since the first rally was held on Oct. 28.
Families with children participated in events such as caricature drawing and hanging wishes for the new year on a Christmas tree.
President Park, who is embroiled in a corruption scandal involving her friend Choi Soon-sil, was impeached by the parliament on Dec. 9. She is now preparing for a legal battle at the impeachment court.
Earlier in the day, the president’s staunch supporters gathered to call for the Constitutional Court to dismiss the parliamentary impeachment of Park and reinstate her.
Pro-Park civic groups such as Parksamo -- an abbreviation of “people who love Park Geun-hye” -- waved the national flag in front of Seoul City Hall chanting, “Get out, zombies with candles!”
The head of Parksamo said that at least 100,000 conservative supporters took part, while police put the number at 6,000.
By Kim Da-sol (email@example.com