Ousted leader faces dogs row as South Korean election date revealed
An election will be held in May to choose a successor to ousted South Korean leader Park Geun-hye, who has caused anger by leaving her nine dogs in the presidential palace.
The Constitutional Court ruled on Friday to formally end her presidency over a huge political scandal involving her and a confidante.
By law, South Korea must hold a national vote to find her successor within two months of the ruling, and the interior m inistry said on Wednesday that May 9 has been chosen as the date for the election.
The scandal has made Ms Park hugely unpopular in South Korea, and the accusation of abandoning her dogs is likely to send her reputation even lower.
Her neighbours gave her a pair of Jindo dogs, a Korean breed of hunting dogs, when she left for the presidential Blue House in 2013.
The dogs recently gave birth to seven puppies, which are now considered too young to be separated from their mother, Kim Dong-jo, a Blue House spokesman, said on Wednesday.
She said the dogs would continue to stay at the presidential palace until they are ready to be sent to new owners. Ms Park told staff members to take good care of the dogs before vacating the Blue House on Sunday, Ms Kim said.
But Kim Ae Ra, who heads the Korea Alliance for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said the group filed a complaint on Monday with South Korea's Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission over the dogs.
The commission then asked the National Police Agency to look into it. Officials from the police agency could not immediately confirm how the case would be treated.
It is unclear whether Ms Park not taking the dogs with her qualifies as abandonment under the country's animal protection law.
It defines lost or abandoned animals as those "wandering without an owner in public places" or "left deserted in paper boxes or other containers".
Animal abandonment is punishable by a fine of up to 1 million won (£718) in South Korea. People who fail to report an ownership change for pets within 30 days can also face fines of up to 500,000 won.
Ms Park's decision to leave the dogs behind has triggered a heated reaction from dog lovers, who flooded social media with angry remarks.
"It seems that Park Geun-hye is a person who entirely lacks empathy, whether it's for humans or for animals," Park Jeong-eon, a 38-year-old office worker who is unrelated to the ousted president, told The Associated Press.
Prosecutors accuse Ms Park of colluding with confidante Choi Soon-sil to extort money from businesses and allowed her to pull government strings from the shadows, and plan to question her next week.
Moon Jae-in, a liberal opposition leader who lost the 2012 presidential election to Ms Park, is the favourite to be the country's next leader according to opinion polls.