Prosecutors on Friday indicted former Vice Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Hwa-young on charges of taking bribes from an underwear company in return for business favors related to inter-Korean economic projects.
Lee, a confidant of opposition leader Lee Jae-myung, was accused of pocketing some 260 million won ($180,000) worth of bribes from SBW Inc. in the forms of a corporate credit card and luxury vehicles between 2018 and early 2022, when he was serving as vice Gyeonggi governor for peace.
A vice chair of the firm, suspected of delivering the alleged kickback to Lee, was also indicted, the Suwon District Prosecutors Office said.
Lee, currently the head of the convention and exhibition center KINTEX, had previously served on the underwear maker's board of directors as an outside member.
Prosecutors believe that in return for the bribes, Lee helped SBW sign a business agreement with North Korean organizations in 2019, under which the underwear firm was promised business rights to secure rare earth metals and other mineral resources from North Korea. SBW's stocks had skyrocketed following the deal.
Lee and the SBW executive were arrested late last month on charges that include bribery and political fund law violations. Lee denied the charges.
The case has drawn attention, as it took place while Lee Jae-myung, the chair of the main opposition Democratic Party, was serving as Gyeonggi governor. The prosecution concluded Lee was not involved in the case.