The Korea Herald


Lee to be fifth ex-president grilled by prosecutors

By Kim So-hyun

Published : March 13, 2018 - 16:57

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Lee Myung-bak will be the country’s fifth former president to be grilled by the prosecution when he appears at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Wednesday for questioning over corruption allegations.

After five months of investigation into suspicions of bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement, among other charges, the prosecution summoned Lee for interrogation as a suspect.

Former President Park Geun-hye was investigated by the prosecution while she was still in office. Prosecutors launched the probe in October 2016 following media reports that she allowed her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil to meddle in state affairs.

Special prosecutors found Park to be at the center of a massive influence-peddling scandal in which Park and Choi conspired to coerce conglomerates to donate some 77.4 billion won ($72.65 million) to foundations controlled by Choi. 

Lee Myung-bak (Yonhap) Lee Myung-bak (Yonhap)

Park was ousted from office on March 10 last year as the Constitutional Court upheld her impeachment by the National Assembly. She was summoned by the prosecution for questioning as a suspect 11 days later.

Park was arrested on March 31 last year and has since been detained at the Seoul Detention Center in Uiwang, Gyeonggi Province.

The prosecution indicted Park in April on 18 charges including bribery, abuse of power and leaking government secrets. Prosecutors demanded 30 years in prison for Park. The court will deliver its ruling on April 6.

As for the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, the prosecution began investigating him in late 2008, the first year of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

The Central Investigation Division under the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office summoned Roh for questioning on April 30, 2009 on charges of accepting $6 million in kickbacks from his longtime political donor Park Yeon-cha, chairman of a shoemaking company called Taekwang Industrial.

Roh took a bus from his hometown of Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province, to arrive at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. After a 10-minute meeting with Lee In-kyu, then-head of the Central Investigation Division, Roh was grilled for more than 10 hours. Now president, Moon Jae-in was his lawyer at the time.

The prosecution later said Roh’s daughter, Roh Jeong-yeon, was suspected of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from Park Yeon-cha. The investigation was closed without a conclusion after Roh killed himself on May 23, 2009.

The first former president to be summoned by the prosecution was Roh Tae-woo, who was accused of amassing hundreds of billions of won in slush funds.

The investigation into Roh Tae-woo began in October 1995 under the Kim Young-sam administration, as a lawmaker revealed the former president had secret funds of some 400 billion won in bank savings.

Roh Tae-woo, who was in office from 1988 to 1993, admitted to the existence of the slush funds and presented himself to the prosecutors in November 1995. He was questioned for 17 hours.

Roh was arrested later that month on bribery charges. He was also charged later with mutiny for taking part in a military coup on Dec. 12, 1979, and a bloody crackdown on a pro-democracy movement in Gwangju on May 18, 1980.

In April 1997, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision to sentence Roh to 17 years in jail and have him pay 262.8 billion won in forfeitures.

The second ex-president put behind bars was Roh Tae-woo’s predecessor Chun Doo-hwan, who led the country from 1980 to 1988.

Chun was charged with treason, mutiny and murder for the purpose of rebellion in the 1979 military coup that he led, and the 1980 crackdown in Gwangju that killed hundreds of civilians.

However, Chun refused to comply with the prosecution’s summons, denouncing the investigation as “politically driven.” He then went to his hometown of Hapcheon, South Gyeongsang Province, where he was arrested.

In April 1997, the Supreme Court confirmed Chun’s sentence of life imprisonment and forfeiture of 220.5 billion won. But in December 1997, then-President Kim Young-sam pardoned both Chun and Roh Tae-woo.

By Kim So-hyun (