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South Koreans’ resolute march for president’s New Year’s resignation

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South Korea’s ruling class may sacrifice the president to save the regime, says Workers’ Solidarity
Issue 2535
Protesters marching on the presidential palace with symbols showing Park and her inner circle in jail
Protesters marching on the presidential palace with symbols showing Park and her inner circle in jail (Pic: Workers’ Solidarity)

Protesters brought in the New Year in South Korea with another mass protest to demand the immediate resignation of president Park Geun-hye.

One million people protested in the capital Seoul last Saturday with many staying after midnight.

It was the largest demonstration since parliament voted to impeach Park four weeks ago.

The constitutional court is speeding up the procedure to ratify the impeachment. Some commentators say its verdict may come out this month.

Prosecutors are also taking steps to investigate the Samsung corporation for bribing Park.

The ruling class seems willing to sacrifice Park to save the rest of the regime and regain political stability.

It is demanding all political parties cooperate with prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who was appointed by Park and is now acting president.

Hwang was a “public safety”—meaning security police in Korean—prosecutor before he became a government minister.

But protesters demand his immediate resignation too because he is pushing through Park’s policy agenda, a legacy which people call the “accumulated evils”.

The construction workers’ union leader spoke on behalf of the KCTU trade union federation.

Some protesters prepared torches for the march the presidential palace

Some protesters prepared torches for the march the presidential palace (Pic: Workers’ Solidarity)


To huge applause he said, “The prime ministerial lies at the core of these accumulative evils are what we need to exterminate and he should step down right away.”

There were tears when the families of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster that cost 305 lives denounced the government for its attempted cover-up.

The protests are having a radicalising effect. One young woman said, “I had little understanding of the rail workers’ strike or on the difficulties faced by casual workers.

“I thought words like ‘comrade’, ‘revolt’ were for someone else. But after participating in these protests, I feel I am becoming a different person.”

Moderate forces in the movement, especially the NGOs and the Stalinists, are arguing that the movement needs to form a strategic alliance with the official opposition parties.

But the official opposition don’t even support the key demand of the movement and are preoccupied with the upcoming presidential election.

In contrast, the radical left is arguing for the importance of increasing organised workers’ involvement in the movement.

Contract workers on strike against layoffs at the General Motors car plant spoke at the Christmas Eve protest. When it was reported at last Saturday’s protest that they had won, there was a big cheer from the crowd.

Package delivery workers—classified as independent contractors under the law—also joined Saturday’s protest to call for solidarity as they prepare to launch their own trade union.

After our proposal, the radical left is meeting to discuss wider cooperation on how to increasingly bring such voices to the movement.

Workers’ Solidarity is Socialist Worker’s sister publication in South Korea

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