Prosecutors quizz ex-president Lee Myung-bak for alleged corruption

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-03-14 10:04 Updated : 2018-03-14 10:04
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[Photo by Yoo Dae-gil =]

SEOUL -- South Korea's conservative ex-president Lee Myung-bak was thrown into a grueling interrogation by state prosecutors Wednesday following a three-month probe into alleged wrongdoing and corruption under his tenure.

The questioning of Lee, who served as president from 2008 to 2013, came a year after his successor, Park Geun-hye, was arrested after being impeached and ousted for playing a key role in a corruption scandal involving her crony.

In a final hearing last month, prosecutors demanded a 30-year jail term for Park on charges of abusing her power and conspiring with her jailed crony to extort money from top conglomerates in return for business favors.

Lee, 76, apologized for causing public worries in a televised statement before walking into the office of prosecutors in Seoul. He became the fourth former national leader to be questioned by prosecutors.

"Today I stand here with a terrible feeling," he said. "Above all, I am very sorry for causing public worries especially at a time when our economy is in a difficult situation and the security environment surrounding the Korean peninsula is very severe."

Lee reserved any political comment, expressing his hope that he would be the last former president to fall into humiliation.  "I hope this will be the last time in history."

In January, he slammed the probe as political retaliation for the death of his predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun, who jumped from a mountain cliff behind his rural home in 2009 following a humiliating probe by prosecutors into alleged corruption involving his family.

President Moon Jae-in has refuted Lee's accusation as an "insult" to his administration. The liberal leader had worked as Roh's political soul mate and chief presidential aide.

Lee faces corruption allegations that include bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. Prosecutors have questioned Lee's family members and key aides. Some aides were accused of receiving illicit money from South Korea's spy agency and businessmen in return for favors.

He is suspected of owning DAS, an auto parts supplier for Hyundai Motor. Activists claimed Lee is the real owner of DAS, which is controlled by his elder brother and produces seats and seat structures. There have been allegations that DAS embezzled company money and evaded taxes to create a slush fund.