South Korea to hold vote on May 9 to pick Park’s successor
South Korean prosecutors said Wednesday they plan to question ousted President Park Geun-hye next week over a corruption scandal that removed her from office, as the government announced that an election will be held on May 9 to pick her successor.
Park lost her presidential immunity from prosecution after the Constitutional Court ruled Friday to formally end her rule over allegations that she colluded with a longtime confidante to extort money from businesses and allowed her pull government strings from the shadows.
Prosecutors said they told Park’s lawyer that they’ll summon her next Tuesday as a suspect in the scandal. No further details were provided.
Dozens of high-profile figures including some top Park administration officials and Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong have already been indicted over the scandal.
Park could also face extortion, bribery and other criminal charges, but she has denied any legal wrongdoing and expressed defiance toward her corruption allegations.
“Although it will take time, I believe the truth will certainly come out,” Park said after leaving the presidential Blue House on Sunday.
Park’s comments raised worries about a further deepening of the national divide over her fate. Three people died and dozens were injured in violent clashes between Park’s supporters and police following Friday’s court ruling.
By law, a national vote to find her successor must be held within two months of Friday’s court ruling, and the Ministry of Interior said Wednesday that May 9 would be the election date.
The political turmoil comes at a time of rising tension with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs and with China over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea that China sees as a threat to its security.
The prospect of an opposition victory has raised questions about the future in South Korea of the U.S.-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, which China opposes because it says its radar can penetrate its territory.
The scandal has undermined support for the ruling conservatives. A prominent liberal politician is leading in opinion polls and is expected to become the next president.
Moon Jae-in, a liberal opposition leader who lost the 2012 presidential election to Park, is the favorite to be the country’s next leader in opinion surveys.