Education Minister nominee Lee Ju-ho speaks to the press on his way to the office in central Seoul on Sept. 28. (Yonhap)
Lee Ju-ho, the nominee for deputy prime minister and education minister, has denied allegations that he used political funds for personal purposes while he was a lawmaker.
The Ministry of Education issued an official statement Monday, claiming Lee never used his political funds for personal interest during his term at the National Assembly from 2004 to 2008.
An SBS report Monday alleged that Lee had used political funds inappropriately at department stores near his home in southern Seoul on weekends, and reported them as expenditures for official meetings. The report said the spending amounted to 14.8 million won ($10,000) over 163 occasions from 2005 to 2008.
The ministry refuted the allegations.
"Sinsa-dong and Apgujeong-dong in southern Seoul are areas near Lee’s home where people typically meet others at," the ministry said. "It was only for the convenience of the people who attended the meetings.”
The meetings were held on the weekends to cater to the schedules of the professors, teachers and experts whom Lee met. They were held at cafes and bakeries at department stores as Lee prefers to hold meetings over refreshments rather than dinner, it added.
The ministry also denied allegations that Lee gave out incentives to his staff and repaired his car before resigning from the lawmaker post to use up leftover funds.
“Lee was thorough in using his political funds as a lawmaker than anyone else. If there was any case of private use, it would have been brought up at the confirmation hearing when Lee became the now-defunct minister of education, science and technology in 2010. But no such allegations were raised,” the statement read.
Lee has yet to go through the confirmation hearing at the National Assembly after being nominated to the education minister post in late September.
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org)