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President apologizes for graft scandals

Many dismiss Lee's apology for recent series of scandals as vague and insincere

President Lee Myoung-bak goes on TV to apologise over bribery scandals involving his brother and former aides (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Office) President Lee Myoung-bak goes on TV to apologise over bribery scandals involving his brother and former aides (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Office)
  • Stephen Hong, Seoul
  • Korea
  • July 25, 2012
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President Lee Myung-bak apologized to the nation yesterday over a slew of bribery scandals involving his elder brother and former aides.

“Disgraceful incidents have recently happened to my family and surroundings and caused much anxiety to the nation,” Lee said during a short televised speech at the Presidential Office in Seoul.

“I bow my head and extend my apology,” he said.

Lee is in the final year of his presidency, which has become blighted by a series of bribery scandals.

One of them surrounds Choi Si-joong, former chairman of the Korea Communications Commission, who is considered a “mentor” of President Lee.

Choi is accused of allegedly receiving bribes from businessmen while helping Lee’s presidential campaign in 2007.

The latest scandal involves his elder brother who was arrested on July 11.

Former lawmaker, Lee Sang-deuk, allegedly received 700 million won (around US$610,000) from two savings banks in return for helping them avoid an investigating into their business dealings.

Prosecutors are also investigating whether the elder Lee used the money he allegedly received to help boost his younger brother’s presidential campaign in 2007.

Political parties, civic groups and religious leaders were left unconvinced by Lee’s apology, which they said lacked sincerity.

Lee’s popularity ratings have plummeted to just 18 percent, according to latest surveys.

“His apology was just words,” the largest opposition Democratic United Party said in a statement, calling for him to clarify whether funds received from bribes were used for his presidential campaign.

The ruling Saenuri Party also expressed regret, and urged Lee to do more to eradicate corruption.

The scandals threaten to derail the party’s hopes for the upcoming presidential election in December.

The People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy said in a statement that Lee did not clarify “what he was apologizing for,” which cast doubt over his sincerity.

Reverend Lee Hun-sam, director of Justice and Peace Committee of the National Council of Churches in Korea, said Lee needs to demonstrate actions not words.

“Lee should spearhead a thorough investigation into corruption allegations against his aides,” and not provide just words, he said.

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