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Why hundreds of thousands of South Koreans are protesting their president

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Why hundreds of thousands of South Koreans are protesting their president

WATCH | Protesters in Seoul demand the president's resignation 

For the fourth straight weekend, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Seoul and called for the increasingly unpopular President Park Geun-hye to step down.  

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Korean President Park Geun-hye addresses the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Who is Park Geun-hye?

Park Geun-hye is South Korea's first female president. When she was elected in February 2013, she pledged to bring "national reconciliation" and greater engagement with North Korea. 

Why she's under fire 

Last month a Korean television station reported Park was being advised behind-the-scenes by a close friend who does not hold elected office, but has ties to a religious cult. 

Choi Soon-sil is accused of using her 40-year friendship with Park to access classified information and solicit millions of dollars in donations to her foundations from the country's major conglomerates, including Samsung. 

Prosecutors arrested Choi for abuse of power and plan to formally charge her on Sunday.

What's this about a cult?

At the center of this scandal is an obscure religious group called the Church of Eternal Life. According to the Korea Times, Choi's father, Choi-Tae-min, founded the group in the 1970s -- blending Christianity, Buddhism and an indigenous Korean religion.

He considered himself a "modern-day Buddha" and called for his followers to seek eternal life. 

There are even talks of me being immersed in a cult or resorting to shamanism ... I would like to say that this is absolutely not true.
Park Geun-hye

South Korea's Rasputin

Because of her alleged influence over Park, Choi Soon-sil has been called South Korea's "Rasputin." Park, however, denies any sort of impropriety.


Not going anywhere 

Park has apologized twice on national television, but according to her spokesperson, has no plans to step down before her term ends in 2018. 

Her approval rating has taken a major blow since the scandal erupted. The Korea Times reported Tuesday that Park is polling in the single digits. 

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In this photo made with a fish-eye lens, South Korean people shout slogans during a protest against South Korean President Park Geun-hye on a main street in Seoul, South Korea Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. Tens, and possibly hundreds, of thousands of South Koreans were expected to rally in Seoul on Saturday demanding the ouster of President Park in what would be one of the biggest protests in the country since its democratization about 30 years ago. (Jeon Heon-kyun/Pool Photo via AP)

Prosecutors plan to interview Park next week, making her the first sitting president in South Korea's history to be questioned in a criminal case. 

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