Massive Protests Mark Independence Movement Day

Charles Lee, March 2, 2017, 9:30 a.m.

Police set up a huge barricade with over 600 buses across downtown Seoul on Wednesday to separate crowds competing to denounce or support President Park Geun-hye.

Tensions flared as the nation marked March 1 Independence Movement Day, with Park's mostly elderly fans calling for the arrest of independent counsel Park Young-soo, who was appointed to investigate the massive corruption scandal that has brought Park down.

But they found themselves vastly outnumbered by protesters who want the president herself under lock and key.

Both sides waved the national flag and shouted slogans demanding protection of the republic, but ideologically they were a million miles apart.

Park's supporters revere her as the daughter of strongman Park Chun-hee, whom they hold responsible for Korea's rapid economic development and see as a symbol of better times, while her enemies regard her as a corrupt fool.

Organizers of the pro-Park protests claimed an implausible 5 million people took part on their side, which would be half the population of Seoul, while opponents said 300,000 people attended Wednesday's candlelight protest in rain, which was held besides their regular weekend protests that have continued since late October. 

Both sides marched on Cheong Wa Dae, but at different times and along separate routes without major clashes. 

The protests ended between 7 and 8 p.m. The streets of downtown Seoul were closed off for more than six hours due to the rallies.

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