Ex-President Lee Faces Questioning in Corruption Probe

People gather in front of former President Lee Myung-bak's home in Seoul on Wednesday. /Newsis

Ex-President Lee Myung-bak appeared for questioning at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office on Wednesday morning on a slew of corruption charges.

Lee read out a brief statement on arrival. "I am deeply sorry for causing concern to the public at a time of economic woes and when national security is at stake," he said.

"I have lots of things to say as the former president, but I know I need to restrain myself and hold back my words," he added, ending his statement with the hope that this would be "the last time" in Korean history that a president has departed in disgrace.

Lee claims the probe is "political retaliation" for the suicide of former President Roh Moo-hyun, who was investigated for corruption after Lee took office, but prosecutors have about 120 pages of questions for him about what they believe was a systematic campaign to squirrel away slush funds and amass bribes.

They will question him about allegations that he pushed Samsung to pay U.S. legal fees for DAS, an auto parts company nominally owned by his brother on his behalf, and if he received illicit money from the National Intelligence Service while in office.

Lee has agreed for the interviews to be videotaped, which his successor Park Geun-hye, who is also on trial for corruption, refused a year ago.

A prosecutor said, "We'd prefer to interview him just once for security reasons, but the overall probe could take a while."

On Tuesday, Lee and his legal team put their heads together at his home in Nonhyeon-dong, Seoul to prepare for interrogation.

Lee is expected to deny that he was the real owner of DAS, but prosecutors say they have ample evidence that he was.