Rally could reach steps from Blue House

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Rally could reach steps from Blue House

A sixth mass rally to demand the ouster of President Park Geun-hye could get as close as 100 meters (330 feet) of the Blue House today, the closest that protesters will have gotten to the presidential residence since the weekly demonstrations attended by millions in central Seoul began last month.

Rally organizers submitted an injunction to the Seoul Administrative Court on Thursday after police banned the route leading up to the three-way intersection in Hyoja-dong, central Seoul, just steps from the Blue House. In the past four rallies, the court has overruled the police ban and allowed protesters to move closer and closer each time to the presidential residence. As of press time Friday evening, the court still had not announced its decision for the upcoming rally.

In the meantime, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said Friday that it would ramp up measures to ensure citizens’ safety during the rally and help them travel through the capital as conveniently as possible. Around 570 employees from the city government and subway operators will be dispatched to train stations, and 28 ambulances and 416 firefighters will be on standby for emergency situations.

There will also be 11 portable bathrooms at Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul Plaza and Cheonggye Plaza, along with 210 other bathrooms that will be open throughout downtown.

Subway service will be extended, with at least 10 more trains on subway lines No. 2 to 5 and two more trains on line No. 1. “There will also be a total of 44 buses on six lines that run through the city during the late hours on Saturday,” the Seoul government said in a press release. “Around 2,400 taxis will also be available at night.”

The weather is expected to be warmer than the yearly average today, with the high in the capital reaching 11 degrees Celsius (52 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the Korea Meteorological Administration. Even around midnight, the temperature will not drop below 5 degrees Celsius in central Seoul, according to projections.

The mass rallies demanding Park’s resignation over a broad corruption scandal involving the president and her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil have been drawing closer to the Blue House over the weeks as the number of participants has swelled.

At the first demonstration on Oct. 29, 30,000 protesters were stopped by a police line near the statue of King Sejong on Gwanghwamun Square, about 1,300 meters from the Blue House. By the fifth rally last Saturday, as much as 1.5 million people were gathered in downtown Seoul, with the edge of the protest reaching just 200 meters west of the Blue House.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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