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Former South Korean Aide Defends Controversial Memoir

FILE - South Korean President Lee Myung-bak delivers a speech during a ceremony to celebrate Korean Liberation Day from Japanese colonial rule, Aug. 15, 2012.

A former South Korean presidential aide has defended a controversial memoir in which former President Lee Myung-bak accused North Korea of seeking massive amounts of aid, including billions of dollars in cash, in exchange for holding an inter-Korean summit.

Shortly after Lee's book was released last month, Pyongyang slammed the memoir, calling it "deceitful." The communist country denied making such demands, claiming Lee had “begged” for a meeting with its leader.

In a phone interview with the VOA Korean Service, Kim Tae-hyo, a top national security aide for Lee, repeated the allegations in the book that North Korea demanded $10 billion and large shipments of food and fertilizer in exchange for a summit with then leader Kim Jong Il.

He dismissed Pyongyang's criticism of the memoir, saying, “North Korea has never raised an issue about the specific content of the book. If North Koreans present specific facts that they are not happy with, I am willing to provide further information."

Kim said Lee’s government rejected Pyongyang’s proposal because of the demand for large amounts of cash.

“North Koreans wanted large [amount of] cash, food, and strategic material in return for a summit. We could not accept such a summit,” Kim said.

Sought aid

According to the former presidential aide, the communist country sought such a deal multiple times between 2009 and 2011. “They (North Koreans) consistently sought to get huge aid from us to enhance the leader’s power to rule,” Kim elaborated.

Lee served as president from 2008 to 2013. After taking office, he distanced himself from his predecessors, who had favored attempted reconciliation with the North.

The former president sought denuclearization of North Korea in exchange for large-scale economic aid, which was rejected by the North. But relations deteriorated further after the fatal 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship, which claimed the lives of 46 sailors.

Seoul blamed Pyongyang for torpedoing the ship, but Pyongyang has denied involvement in the sinking.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.