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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on March 9)

All Headlines 07:12 March 09, 2018

Questioning of former leader
: Sad to see another president face corruption probe

The prosecution summoned conservative former President Lee Myung-bak, who served from February 2008 until February 2013, to appear March 14 for questioning as a criminal suspect over a range of irregularities, including bribery.

Lee is at the center of a widening bribery scandal involving the National Intelligence Service. Prosecutors suspect that Lee instructed his aides to take illicit money from the state intelligence agency. They will also look into Lee's involvement in a string of management irregularities at his brother's auto parts manufacturer DAS, which they suspect Lee actually owns. The former president is also facing allegations that he received kickbacks from the Woori Financial Group.

It is truly embarrassing for the nation that all of the living former heads of state have been embroiled in corruption scandals.

If he appears at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office as scheduled, the businessman-turned-politician is the fourth former president to face questioning. The late Roh Moo-hyun was questioned over bribery allegations shortly before his suicide in May 2009. Roh Tae-woo and Park Geun-hye appeared before the prosecution in 1995 and 2017, respectively. Chun Doo-hwan refused to comply with the summons in an infamous address in front of his residence in 1995 and was subsequently arrested. Park was removed early from office in 2017 and is on trial for corruption, with the verdict on charges of bribery and other irregularities due soon. Prosecutors recently demanded 30 years of prison term.

Korean presidents have a tendency to blame political foes when they are faced with corruption charges. Lee has also claimed that the prosecution's probe is political retaliation by the liberal Moon Jae-in administration for Roh's death. He held a press conference in January to make such claims, which triggered outrage from President Moon, who was one of Roh's key aides.

Lee's remarks are a serious affront to the rule of law. As a former leader, he should feel ashamed that he has been linked to corruption allegations and apologize to the people.

Public sentiment is not favorable toward him, as shown by a recent survey which showed that almost 70 percent of the people think he should be detained while the prosecution investigates his case.

Lee's next step should be to comply with the summons and provide only a truthful account regarding all the suspicions against him. He must stop blaming politics for the misfortunes he now faces.

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