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Published: Thu, March 30, 2017
World | By Tasha Manning

SK Group brass grilled in presidential scandal


South Korea's former president Park Geun-hye's pet dogs are seen in this handout picture provided by the Presidential Blue House and released by News1 on December 24, 2015.

South Korea's government has made a decision to hold early presidential election on May 9 to replace the impeached leader, the Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday, citing the country's Interior Minister Hong Yun Sik.

"To stabilize state affairs and fairly administer the presidential election, I've reached the judgment that it is inappropriate for me to run in the election", Hwang said during a cabinet meeting Wednesday.

Park, 65, became the first democratically elected South Korean president to be removed from office, after the Constitutional Court on Friday upheld parliament's vote last December to impeach her.

Prosecutors said they told Park's lawyer they would summon her next Tuesday as a suspect.

"I feel sorry that I could not finish the mandate given to me as president", a spokesman for Park quoted her as saying Sunday night, when she left the presidential Blue House and returned to her private home - some 56 hours after being dismissed.

"She [Park] told Blue House staff to take good care of the dogs and to find good foster homes for the puppies if necessary", the spokesman added.

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The two countries banned each other's citizens from leaving their countries and both of their ambassadors were recalled. Jong-nam, who travelled with a passport bearing the name of Kim Chol, died on the way to the Putrajaya Hospital.

Park - the 65-year-old daughter of the late former strongman Park Chung-Hee - has been named as Choi's accomplice who helped her extract money from the firms.

A snap presidential election will be held by May 9.

The special investigation headquarters of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said two former executives and one sitting executive of SK Group were summoned for questioning earlier in the day. Park and her confidante, Choi, have denied wrongdoing.

Acting president Hwang Kyo-Ahn, from Park's conservative Liberty Korea party, fell back to third place with 9.1 percent, it said.

Opinion polls show Mr Hwang as a top conservative candidate even though he has not declared his intention to run. All were her lawyers during the impeachment trial. Park has denied them all. Choi stands accused of having used her presidential ties to force local firms, including Samsung, to "donate" almost 70 million dollars to non-profit foundations she allegedly used for personal gain.

Other high-profile figures have already been charged in connection with the case, including Lee Jae-yong, heir of electronics giant Samsung.

Park took a hardline stance toward the North over its nuclear and missile programmes, shutting down the lucrative Seoul-invested Kaesong industrial park in the North, the last legacy of the previous decade's inter-Korean rapprochement.

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