politics

Former South Korean President Lee Faces Arrest for Bribery

Updated on
  • Court says it’s concerned evidence could be destroyed
  • Lee denies allegations, calls move political revenge by Moon
Lee Myung-bak Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

A South Korean court ordered the arrest of former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak over allegations of bribery.

Lee became the second former leader of Asia’s fourth-largest economy to face jail time in just over a year. Park Geun-hye, his successor from the same conservative party, was removed from office last year after being impeached over a corruption scandal that engulfed the entire country from late 2016.

There are concerns that evidence could be destroyed given the suspect’s position and the graveness of the case, the Seoul Central District Court said in a text message Thursday.

“At this moment, I will blame myself instead of blaming others and I have a sense of shame,” Lee said on Facebook after the arrest warrant was issued. “I hope my arrest will help lessen the pain on my family and people who I worked with.”

Lee, the president from 2008 to 2013, is suspected of taking a total of 11 billion won (about $10 million) in bribes from entities including the national spy agency, Samsung Group and the former chairman of Woori Finance Holdings Co., according to Yonhap News.

Lee previously denied most of the dozen or so allegations, Yonhap reported, saying the prosecutors are carrying out political revenge on behalf of current President Moon Jae-in’s liberal government. Lee said last week that he hopes "this is the last time in history" that a former president is victimized.

Lee gained fame as a self-made man as the nation grew into an economic powerhouse from postwar poverty. He spent years as a street vendor before entering a prestigious college in Seoul. Later he joined Hyundai Engineering & Construction, where he rose to become its chief executive officer.

His early years in office were tainted by the global financial crisis and massive street protests over his agreement to allow imports of American beef.

(Updates with Lee response.)
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