Demonstrators in South Korea staged the largest protests the country has seen in nearly a decade over the weekend calling for President Park Geun-Hye's resignation.
Students and unionized workers took to the streets on Saturday protesting Park's proposed labor law reforms, which would give workers fewer protections, and the introduction of a new government-approved textbook in schools. Students and teachers say the text book presents a biased view of history with a right-wing slant. The New York Times explains:
Student protesters on Saturday said that the new textbook, to be issued by the government by 2017, would whitewash the legacy of Ms. Park’s father, former President Park Chung-hee. Mr. Park was accused of collaborating with the Japanese colonial forces in the early 20th century, and in 1961 he seized power in a military coup and ruled South Korea as the leader of a dictatorship until his assassination in 1979. The country’s conservative elites have credited him with guiding South Korea’s economic growth during his rule.
“I made my way to show my objection to the government’s plan for history textbooks. A history textbook should not be a script that can be written by a winner,” one student, Lee Hyun-ju, told The Korea Herald at the protest.
According to police estimates, 60,000 people were involved in the protests in downtown Seoul and 51 were arrested, Reuters reports. Protest leaders put the number of participants at closer to 130,000. Police buses blockaded protesters, who were hit with water cannons and pepper spray when they tried to get past the road blocks.
“Our concern became reality as violent, radical protests took place at the heart of Seoul,” Justice Mister Kim Hyun-woong said on Sunday afternoon. “We allowed legal, peaceful assemblies to a great extent, but some protestors committed violence by using illegal weapons like steel pipes to beat the police.”
South Korea will hold elections next year in April.