Prosecutors summon Park, vote set for May 9

WIDENING INQUIRY: Two more conglomerates being probed –

SEOUL: South Korean prosecutors summoned ousted leader Park Geun-hye on Wednesday for questioning next week as they conduct a widening investigation into an influence-peddling scandal that ended her presidency.
The government also announced a presidential election to find a replacement for Park, South Korea’s first democratically elected president to be removed from office, would be held on May 9.
The Constitutional Court dismissed Park from office on Friday when it upheld a parliamentary impeachment vote over an influence-peddling scandal that has shaken South Korea’s political and business elite.
Park has denied any wrongdoing.
The Samsung Group, South Korea’s largest conglomerate, is already embroiled in the scandal and the Yonhap news agency said prosecutors had started investigating two other conglomerates — the Lotte Group and SK Group.
Samsung denies any wrongdoing. A spokesman for the SK Group said it would cooperate with the investigation, while the Lotte Group could not be reached immediately for comment.
Park had been summoned to appear for questioning at 9.30 am (0030 GMT) on Tuesday, the prosecutors’ office said in a message to media.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who has been acting president since December, when parliament voted to impeach Park, said he would not run in the election. Minister of the Interior Hong Yun-sik promised the vote would be the most clean and transparent ever.
“This election is unprecedented in our history,” Hong told a briefing, referring to the short campaign period.
Hwang had emerged in opinion polls as a top conservative candidate even though he had not declared an intention to run.
The scandal has undermined support for the ruling conservatives, and Hwang’s decision would appear to bolster the chances of a prominent liberal, Moon Jae-in, who is leading in opinion polls.
The turmoil comes at a time of rising tension with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programmes, and with China over the deployment of a US anti-missile system in South Korea that China sees as a threat to its security.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit South Korea, as well as Japan and China, this week. — Reuters