Former President Lee Myung-bak on Sunday blasted the prosecutorial probe into the alleged political meddling of the National Intelligence Service during his term, saying the investigation is driven by old grudges of the liberal administration now in power.
Former President Lee Myung-bak speaks to the media before boarding a plane for Bahrain at Incheon Airport, Sunday. Yonhap
Before boarding a plan for Bahrain at Incheon Airport, Lee told the media that the liberal Moon Jae-in government’s push for a probe into the alleged wrongdoings of past governments is nothing but “political retaliation” under the disguise of eliminating accumulated evils.
“I was one of those who had expectations of the establishment of the new liberal government. But over the past six months, I have come to doubt whether the new government intends to really reform state agencies -- or express pent-up emotions,” he said.
On Sunday, Lee departed for a four-day visit to Bahrain, where he will deliver a lecture on the South Korean economy at the request of government officials there.
Meanwhile, there are rising calls to directly investigate Lee and bring him to court. As of Sunday morning, over 70,000 people had filed online petitions for a travel ban on Lee, criticizing his attempt to evade the probe.
Lee also warned that investigations into scandals would divide the public and do no good to the country’s security and diplomacy, amid the critical time for national security and economic growth.
Lee has been at the center of the widening probe into allegations that the spy agency and military meddled in politics during his term from 2008-2013.
Inquiries into the former defense chief and former NIS officials have raised speculation that Lee might also be involved in the political maneuvering scheme, either directly or indirectly.
On Saturday, former Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin was arrested for his possible involvement in covert cyber activities to sway public opinion in favor of the Lee administration, in an apparent breach of rules on political neutrality.
The Seoul Central District Court issued the arrest warrant for Kim, who has been charged with political interference in violation of the Military Criminal Act and abuse of power.
In a Facebook post in September, Lee slammed the Moon Jae-in government’s campaign to investigate political scandals involving former governments, saying that it would not only compromise national interests, but also end in failure.
Lee has also criticized the prosecution for redressing issues from a bygone era, saying, “The nation is bound by the past.”
By Kim Da-sol (firstname.lastname@example.org)