People attend a rally demanding President Park Geun-hye to step down in central Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 26, 2016. (Xinhua/Yao Qilin)
By Yoo Seungki
SEOUL, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- South Korean people opened a new chapter with peaceful, festival-like protest rally against President Park Geun-hye, with protesters demanding the scandal-hit president's resignation more strongly but holding demonstrations in a more exciting manner.
Every corner of the streets in central Seoul was packed with common people, ranging from couples with children to secondary school students and grey-haired people. Temperatures in the capital city fell close to zero degree, but people took to the streets dressed in winter jackets and gloves.
The first snow of this winter began to fall from noon in Seoul, but it stopped falling around the time when hundreds of thousands of people marched up to 200 meters from the presidential Blue House, where Park's office and residence are located.
Park's office was encircled by a chain of protesters in three sides along the outskirts of the Blue House to form a so-called "human chain" for about two hours. The event kicked off at 6 p.m. local time and over a million people marched again on the streets some two hours later.
Before the second march, a lights-out event lasted for a minute from 8 p.m. Hundreds of thousands of candles were put out all at once and were lit up again, giving a message that the darkness cannot beat the light.
For the minute under the darkness, a thunderous wave of shouts resonated along the road linking the Seoul Plaza in the City Hall to the Gwanhwamun Square in central Seoul, just over a kilometer away from the Blue House. They shouted in one voice for Park's resignation.
People watching the nationwide rallies on TV were supposed to turn off lights in offices or apartments to indirectly participate in the outside rally.
Organizers estimated that over 1.5 million people rallied as of 9:40 p.m. on Saturday, becoming the country's biggest-ever demonstration in Seoul. It surpassed the June 1987 rally in which about 1 million people protested against the military dictatorship. At the third Saturday rally on Nov. 12, over 1 million marched in the capital city.
This Saturday marks the fifth weekend demonstration, which drew about 400,000 in major cities across the country, according to the estimate by organizers composed of some 1,500 civic groups.
Slogans people shouted became more aggressive as public anger deepened over President Park who has ignored growing calls for her voluntary resignation. Instead, the presidential office encouraged politicians to push forward impeachment.
While marching on the streets with candles in hand as before, protesters screamed, "Impeach Park Geun-hye" and "Arrest Park Geun-hye." Last Saturday, people mainly chanted for Park's voluntary resignation.
Impeaching President Park could be a political challenge for opposition parties as the impeachment process can take months and cause division. At least two-thirds of the 300-seat National Assembly is required to vote for the impeachment bill. Opposition parties said it would put the bill to vote as early as next Friday.
By law, the impeachment motion must be endorsed by six out of nine judges of the constitutional court. Two judges are set to end their tenures in January and March next year, indicating the need to get approvals from six of the remaining seven judges.
The festival-like rally continued this weekend, showing public efforts to let demonstrations last peacefully to the end. On the outskirts of the square, stalls were standing in rows to sell hot fish cake soup and coffee to enable people to thaw out their freezing hands though temporarily.
Flower-patterned stickers were put on the surface of police buses that were surrounding the wall of the U.S. embassy in South Korea to prevent an attempt to go inside. It was part of efforts to peacefully protest against past bloody suppression by riot police as seen in the death of a farmer who joined the mass rally in Seoul late last year.
On the main stage at the center of the square, a series of music performance were done by popular singers. Candles waved in accordance with the sound and rhythm produced, giving people an illusion of enjoying music in a concert hall.
A band of percussionists wandered around the suburban streets of the square, blowing strong percussion sound and chanting for President Park's resignation. They tried to ridicule the president by dressing up as black-nosed clowns in red wig.