South Korea protests are peaceful, democratic, U.S. State Department says

Spokesman John Kirby said Monday the massive protests have no bearing on the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  Nov. 28, 2016 at 8:43 PM
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SEOUL, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Five weeks of large-scale protests in South Korea organized by citizens requesting the resignation of President Park Geun-hye have no bearing on the U.S.-South Korea alliance, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters the right to assembly is part of "how democracies work" and that "people have that right and that ability and they're exercising that right."

"And I think that's important," he said.

Kirby was answering a question regarding "concerns" about "stability" in the wake of continued protests in Seoul, and other parts of South Korea, that have grown each weekend since Park's influential friend Choi Soon-sil was detained for questioning.

South Korean prosecutors have so far determined Choi embezzled funds, interfered in state affairs and gained access to classified government documents.

"Certainly, we have seen the press reporting of the political protests, and I would let the protesters and the government of Korea speak to that," Kirby said. "But it doesn't change one iota – our commitment to South Korea, to the government, to the people there, and to making sure that we continue to meet all our alliance commitments."

The protests have increased in size in the wake of the political scandal and also as Park has refused to cooperate with prosecutors.

But the protests have remained overwhelmingly nonviolent. Protesters were even seen staying behind to clean up and recycle garbage, according to local press reports.

On Monday Park's lawyer told prosecutors again the president cannot cooperate in a "face-to-face investigation" by a deadline of Nov. 29, according to Yonhap.

Prosecutors have said they believe Park colluded with Choi in the corruption scandal that involved pushing major South Korean corporations to donate to foundations under Choi's supervision.

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