South Korean Ex-President Faces Interrogation Over Corruption Charges

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Former South Korean president Lee Myung-bak appeared for questioning on Wednesday over allegations he took bribes when he was in office, following months of investigations into his family and acquaintances over the graft charges. Cable television channels carried live coverage of Mr.

"We will treat the former president with dignity but we will conduct a through and transparent probe", a senior prosecutor told journalists.

Three lawyers have registered to attend the prosecution questioning to assist Lee.

Mr. Lee's successor, Park Geun-hye, became the first South Korean president to be impeached by Parliament, in a December 2016 vote that came amid a corruption scandal. She was arrested 10 days later.

Former conservative President Park Geun-hye, Lee's successor, was removed from office a year ago for an influence-peddling scandal involving her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil. She is also accused of using her office to coerce South Korea's major corporations into donating almost $70 million to two nonprofit corporations controlled by Choi Soon-sil, her close friend and confidant.

"I offer my deepest apology to the people for causing worry amid times when the economy is in hardship and the situation surrounding the Korean peninsula is serious", Lee said.

In a news conference in January, Mr.

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He has claimed investigations over him and his acquaintances are an act of political revenge by the liberal Moon Jae-in administration.

Lee's own predecessor, the liberal Roh Moo-hyun, committed suicide by jumping off a cliff after being questioned over corruption allegations in 2009. Moon, who was Roh's chief of staff, previously called the Roh investigation by the Lee government politically motivated.

There are also allegations that South Korea's largest conglomerate, the Samsung Group, paid almost 6 million dollars' worth of legal bills for an auto parts maker connected to Lee.

Almost all former presidents in South Korea, their family members and key aides were embroiled in scandals either just before they ended their terms or after they left office.

After the South embraced democracy in the 1990s former dictator Chun Doo-Hwan and his friend and successor Roh Tae-Woo were handed death sentences for their involvement in a 1979 military coup and for receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes from businesses.

Both their sentences were reduced on appeal, and they were eventually pardoned and released after serving about two years each.