Lee Sang-deuk, 78, former six-term lawmaker and elder brother to ex-President Lee Myung-bak, will be released from prison Monday. He has been serving time since July last year for taking illegal funds from failing savings banks.
The political bigwig was considered the most influential figure in the previous administration after the president.
Lee was frequently described by pundits as the “Regent King” for exercising enormous political power through having his younger brother at the nation’s top post. In the beginning of the Lee administration, businesses, politicians and government officials lined up to consult the elder Lee in pursuit of presidential favors.
Those rosy days, however, did not last long.
Soon after he was elected to the parliament in 2008, Lee faced increasing political attacks for purportedly wielding influence, not only from the opposition parties but also from a reformist faction of the ruling Grand National Party, precursor to the Saenuri Party.
As invective continued, Lee was forced to announce that he was taking a backseat from politics, instead traveling on diplomatic missions for natural resources.
Despite his gestures, Lee fell further from grace in 2011, when his assistant was arrested for bribery charges.
Several months later, Lee was arrested for allegedly receiving hundreds of millions of won from two financial institutions and a business group from 2007 to 2011.
A lower court sentenced Lee to two years in prison and fined him 750 million won. Lee’s sentence was commuted to one year and two months by a Seoul appellate court in July.
Life in prison was humiliating for the veteran politician, according to sources. The elder Lee was angry throughout his term and rarely had visitors, as most of his aides and even those who had benefited from him allegedly turned their backs on him.
His health has been deteriorating rapidly, they added. He is reportedly suffering from pneumonia and eye problems.
Although he finished his jail term, the elder Lee awaits a Supreme Court ruling on his bribery charges.
“Lee’s health worsened and he is probably to receive hospital treatment while he waits for the Supreme Court’s ruling,” an aide said.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org