South Korea's defense minister called for military readiness Friday as he admitted the country is facing a "very difficult situation”.
Thousands of protesters are set to rally in Seoul on Saturday after President Park Geun-hye recently admitted to seeking advice from an unofficial aide -- raising concerns that a private civilian with close connections to the Park family may have wielded undue influence and had access to confidential state affairs.
The weekend's planned demonstration represents an extension of last November's anti-government gathering which led to the death of a protester who was struck by a police-fired water cannon.
With Park's Realmeter approval rating falling below 20 percent for the first time this week, a member of her staff was quoted by local news agency Yonhap insisting that the president "is pondering in multiple directions over how to address public anxieties and how to unwaveringly run the country".
Morale in the military has also reportedly been hit by the scandal, and Defense Minister Han Min-koo insisted that they must be ready to deal with the persistent threat of North Korean provocations.
"We should remain firm and highly vigilant against any sort of military threat from the North despite a 'very difficult situation' in the country," Han said in comments released from a teleconference with South Korean military commanders.