In a sign of the growing pressure on South Korean president Park Geun-hye to resign, she announced that MPs would decide her fate on Tuesday.
A powerful movement demanding Park’s immediate resignation has rocked South Korea since late October.
Over one and a half million people protested in the capital city Seoul last Saturday—and hundreds of thousands gathered in other towns and cities. A further round of mass protests was planned for this Saturday.
People are determined to bring down Park. As Hye-shin Park, a university student, told Workers’ Solidarity, “For the last four years Park has been pushing reforms that make it easier to fire workers.
“Now it’s our turn to fire her.”
The left wing Korean Confederation of Trade Union (KCTU) led the march in Seoul towards the Blue House, the presidential palace.
Many people at the protest greeted the KCTU’s plan for a one-day protest strike this Wednesday.
The crowd cheered loudly when the civil service workers and teachers’ unions announced they would defy the government and strike. A teacher’s union member told the rally, “More than anything this protest justifies my union’s struggle against Park.
“Park’s attack on workers’ rights and education should stop immediately—she should be in jail.”
Striking rail workers, who’ve resisted opposition parties and their union leadership’s call to end their walkout, also received widespread support.
Park has tried to intimidate workers from joining the movement, but organised workers played an important role from the begining.
Jae-heon Lee, a worker for a Hyundai Motors supplier, told Workers’ Solidarity, “Some say that workers’ participation within the protests will bring a backlash.
“I don’t buy it—we workers should raise our voices.”
Up until this protest, the mainstream opposition parties were hesitant to support the popular demands for Park’s resignation.
But they’ve now said there will be an impeachment vote no later than next week, in an attempt to shift the focus of popular anger away from the streets.
The popular mobilisations have caused a sharp division within Park’s ruling Saenuri party. A significant faction, which is backed by some important South Korean capitalists, has challenged Park and said it will support impeachment.
To avoid a party split, leading MPs who support Park began talking about an “orderly resignation” and forced Park to make her announcement.
As the political turmoil continues, it is important to organise the movement independently from parliamentary manoeuvres.
As the KCTU said, “Parliamentary impeachment is too slow and what people demand is immediate resignation.”
Such words need to be backed up by action, especially strikes by organised groups of workers.
This will not be an automatic process, but Workers’ Solidarity is arguing within the movement for more mass protests and strikes.
Close link to old dictatorship
Since the protest movement erupted in October, president Park Geun-hye has only angered those demanding her resignation.
In the last week alone, Park has pushed ahead with strengthening military cooperation with Japan despite widespread opposition.
Anger against Park runs deep in society. She has been steadily taking steps to glamorise the military dictatorship, run by her father Park Chung-hee that ruled South Korea until 1979.
Park is intimately connected with the regime. She acted as “first lady” for five years after her mother was killed in a failed assassination attempt on her father.