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South Korea's ruling party splits over impeached president

Dozens of MPs have split from South Korea's ruling party over the corruption scandal involving impeached president Park Geun-hye, in a move that could shape elections that might take place in just months.

The 29 anti-Park MPs who left the Saenuri Party plan to create a new conservative party that is likely to try to lure outgoing United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon as its presidential candidate.

And there is a possibility of more MPs leaving Saenuri in the coming weeks over rifts with Park loyalists who continue to occupy the party's leadership.

Choung Byoung-gug, one of those who left Saenuri, accused the loyalists of "neglecting the values of real conservatism" and "shamelessly defending the infringement of constitutional values" as they continued to support the scandal-hit president.

The split came as investigators widened their inquiry into the scandal surrounding Ms Park, who has been accused of colluding with a long-time confidante to extort money and favours from the country's biggest companies and to allow her friend to manipulate government affairs.

The team, led by special prosecutor Park Young-soo, is planning to summon the president's jailed friend, Choi Soon-sil, following their first interrogation of her on Saturday.

Mr Ban is seen as the best hope for conservatives to win back the Blue House after Ms Park's collapse complicated politics for her party. Recent opinion polls put him slightly ahead of liberal politician Moon Jae-in, who conceded the presidential race to Ms Park four years ago, as the favourite to win a presidential vote.

In a recent meeting with South Korean reporters in New York, Mr Ban said he was ready to "burn" his body in devotion for South Korea, his strongest hint yet that he would run for president.

South Korea's opposition-controlled parliament voted on December 9 to impeach Ms Park over the scandal that saw millions of people protest in recent weeks.

AP

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