Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was questioned by prosecutors Wednesday in connection to a massive corruption probe, joining a long list of ex-leaders tainted by scandal.
The 76-year-old Lee is suspected of accepting over $10 million in bribes from the National Intelligence Service, the country's main spy agency, as well as Samsung, the country's iconic electronics corporation, and other businesses and individuals. The ex-president is also alleged to have embezzled as much as $30 million from auto parts company DAS. Lee's brother is the largest shareholder in DAS, but prosecutors believe Lee actually owns the company.
The conservative Lee, who served as president from 2008 to 2013, publicly apologized when he arrived at the Seoul Central District Office for questioning. "I am deeply sorry for causing concern to public," he said, while offering hope that he will be "the last former president" to face a criminal probe.
Lee has maintained his innocence throughout the investigation, calling it "political revenge" by current liberal President Moon Jae-in.
Lee Myung-bak is the fifth South Korean president targeted by prosecutors for corruption. His successor, fellow conservative Park Geun-hye, is on trial facing several counts of bribery, abuse of authority, coercion and leaking government secrets. She is also accused of using her office to coerce South Korea's major corporations into donating nearly $70 million to two nonprofit corporations controlled by Choi Soon-sil, her close friend and confidant. Prosecutors are seeking a 30-year prison sentence for Park, who became the first democratically elected South Korean president to be ousted from office in 2017.
Two other ex-presidents, Chun Dioo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, were tried and convicted in the 1990s for bribery, treason and other charges for their involvement in a 1979 military coup and each spent two years in prison.
And Roh Moo-hyun, Lee's immediate predecessor, committed suicide in 2009 after he was questioned in a corruption probe involving his family.