Opposition leader denies speaking by phone with underwear tycoon accused of money transfer to N.K.
By Kim Na-young
SEOUL, Feb. 6 (Yonhap) -- Opposition leader Lee Jae-myung on Monday rejected allegations he spoke by phone with an underwear tycoon accused of sending millions of dollars to North Korea for inter-Korean projects, including Lee's possible visit to the North, once again disavowing knowing the tycoon.
News reports have said that Kim Seong-tae, former chairman of underwear maker Ssangbangwool Group, told prosecutors that Lee said "thank you" to him over the phone for transferring US$8 million to the North in 2019 on behalf of Lee's Gyeonggi provincial government for his possible visit to the North and other projects.
The reported remark was seen as evidence countering Lee's claims he does not know Kim.
Kim reportedly told investigators the phone conversation took place on Jan. 17, 2019, when he was having dinner in China with former Gyeonggi Province Vice Gov. Lee Hwa-young and an official at North Korea's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee handling inter-Korean affairs.
The vice governor reportedly spoke first with Lee before putting Kim on the line.
On Monday, Lee rejected the claims as groundless, saying he was in a court hearing at the time.
"The dinner was reported to have lasted between around 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.," Lee said during a party meeting. "Vice Gov. Lee departed (for China) that day, and would he put me on the phone while knowing that I would be away for a court hearing?"
Lee said the court hearing lasted for about six hours from 2 p.m.
Lee called the allegations a "new novel" by the prosecution, saying he and Gyeonggi Province had no involvement in Ssangbangwool's lobbying of North Korea.
In recent months, Lee has faced prosecution investigation into multiple cases involving a land development scandal and corporate fund donation to a municipal football club. He has denied his involvement in all the cases.
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