South Korean Catholics demand Park's resignation

Local churches, groups show their opposition to 'Choi Soon-sil Gate'
South Korean Catholics demand Park's resignation

Some of the anti-government protesters who called for the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun-Hye as they marched towards the Gwanghwamun area of central Seoul on Nov. 12. (Photo by AFP) reporter, Seoul
South Korea
November 16, 2016
Local churches and groups across South Korea have demanded that President Park Geun-hye step down over a scandal that has been coined "Choi Soon-sil Gate."

From a diocese level to even seminarians, the church in South Korea has been vocal in its calls for Park to resign after news broke that her friend, Choi Soon-sil, allegedly manipulated the president to gain access to secret documents and purportedly embezzle funds through non-profit foundations.

The first obvious example of protest from the church began with Masses being held in Kwangju Archdiocese and Cheju Diocese on Nov. 7.

Auxiliary Bishop Simon Ok Hyun-jin of Kwangju presided over the Mass with archdiocesan priests at Namdong Church that called upon Park to resign. Following the Mass, Bishop Ok led some 1,000 Catholics from the church to the May 18 Democracy Plaza in downtown Gwangju. Along the way they shouted for Park’s resignation over the scandal, which has already seen her friend Choi arrested and charged.

On the same day, the Cheju Diocesan Committee for Justice and Peace held a Mass at Gwangyang Church in memory of  Baek Nam-ki, a farmer activist who died recently, and criticized Park for failing the state administration.

On Nov. 9, Bishop Vincent Ri Pyung-ho of Jeonju presided over a Mass at Joongang Cathedral, which was dedicated to the recovery of democracy. At the Mass, Bishop Ri indirectly asked for Park’s resignation when he said: "All walks of life in Korea are asking President Park to pull out of state administration."

Two days later, Daejeon and Masan Dioceses did similar.

Auxiliary Bishop Augustine Kim Jong-su of Daejeon presided over a Mass at Daeheungdong Cathedral on Nov.11. Some 1,800 attended the Mass where they asked Park to confess to her alleged wrongdoing and take responsibility for what she had done.

Father Taegon Andrew Yim Sang-kyo of Daejeon said in the homily of the Mass, "The so-called Choi Soon-sil Gate shows the tragic circumstances of Korea. The president should resign and we Catholics need to pray for this country whose democracy is at stake." After the Mass, participants marched to nearby Daejeon Station holding lit candles and placards calling for Park to resign.

Bishop Constantine Bae Ki-hyen of Masan concelebrated a Mass and Sapadong Church in Changwon on Nov. 11 that had a similar theme.

"Let’s pray for the country and ask God to realize His justice in the land," said Bishop Constantine

Father Michael Park Cheol-hyeon, president of the Masan Diocesan Committee for Justice and Peace, said in his homily that the "faithful living in our age should be prophets of the times. By holding candles in our hands, let’s win through the darkness of our times."

On Nov.14, Seoul Archdiocese and Uijeongbu and Suwon dioceses held a joint Mass at Seoul’s Gwanhwamun Plaza. Again the scandal-riddled leader was urged to resign.

Around 850,000 people attended a rally demanding Park's resignation in Seoul on Nov. 12.

In an effort to diffuse the scandal Park has fired her closest aides and repeatedly apologized to the public.

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Park has so far given no indication she will resign but if she does she will be the first elected South Korean president to not finish their five-year term. If Park does not resign she may be impeached by parliament over the scandal, say some analysts. She is the daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee who was assassinated by his spy chief in 1979.

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