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South Korean prosecutors summon impeached president for questioning

20 March, 2017, 23:46 | Author: Nadine Todd
  • President Park Geun-hye on state visit to United Kingdom. Flickr  Republic of Korea

South Korea's Constitutional Court dismissed Park from office last week following her impeachment by lawmakers over allegations she colluded with longtime friend Choi Soon-sil to extort companies to donate $70 million to dubious foundations in exchange for favorable treatment.

An election for a successor will be held on May 9.

Park, who had refused to be questioned while in office, now has lost her immunity from prosecution and will "actively" cooperate with the prosecution's investigation, her lawyer said.

With Friday's ruling, Park became the first democratically-elected leader of the country to be stripped off her powers and she left the presidential Blue House, called the Cheong Wa Dae, on Sunday and moved into her house in an affluent district of Seoul.

A spokesman for the Lotte Group said on Wednesday it was cooperating with the prosecutors' investigation. SK was not included in the list.

Prosecutors said on Wednesday that they planned to summon and question Park next week.

Park is accused of conspiring with Choi to receive bribes in return for supporting the 2015 merger of two affiliates of Samsung Group, South Korea's biggest family-controlled conglomerate. Park's exit is seen as chance to reset China relations.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit South Korea, as well as Japan and China, this week.

The prospect of an opposition election victory has raised questions about the future in South Korea of the USA -made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, which China opposes because it says its radar can penetrate its territory.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who has also been acting president since December, said earlier he would not run in the election.

Moon Jae-in, a progressive from the main opposition Democratic party, has a strong lead in the polls, but Hwang was scoring second even before declaring an interest in running - though still a long way behind Moon.

The aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson is in South Korean waters this week for exercises with South Korean forces.

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