South Korea’s former leader questioned on graft charges

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Park Geun-hye. kremlin/CC0

SEOUL (AFP) – Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak reported to prosecutors for questioning in a corruption probe yesterday and apologised for the controversy.

Allegations of corruption involving the 76-year-old’s relatives and aides during his 2008-2013 presidential term have mounted in recent weeks as prosecutors investigate multiple cases of bribery amounting to millions of dollars.

The investigation into Mr Lee means all four living former South Korean presidents have been convicted, charged, or embroiled in criminal inquiries.

“I stand here with a heavy heart,” Mr Lee said as he arrived at the prosecutors’ office in Seoul yesterday morning. “I’m very sorry for causing concern to the people,” he told reporters.

He added that South Koreans’ livelihoods were “difficult” and the security situation on the Korean peninsula was “dire”.

Mr Lee, accompanied by his defence lawyer, was received by a senior prosecutor and given tea before being ushered into room 1001, the same place his successor and ousted former president Park Geun-hye underwent marathon questioning.

He was to be interrogated by three prosecutors and Yonhap news agency said the questioning – which will be videotaped – was expected to last around 20 hours, with prosecutors having prepared around 120 pages of questions relating to some 20 alleged offences.

“We will treat the former president with dignity but we will conduct a thorough and transparent probe,” a senior prosecutor told journalists.

Two of Mr Lee’s former aides have been arrested as part of the investigation and the homes and offices of his brothers raided.

He has previously denounced the inquiry as “political revenge”.

He said yesterday he hoped it would be the “last time in history” that a former South Korean head of state was summoned for questioning by prosecutors.

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