Now Two Former Presidents of South Korea Are Under Investigation

Mr. Lee is the fifth former president to have been questioned by prosecutors on corruption allegations since the 1990s. Cable television channels carried live coverage of Mr. Lee’s short ride from his home to the prosecutors’ office.

“Arrest him!” some people shouted as Mr. Lee’s car pulled up to the prosecutors’ building on Wednesday.

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 formally removed from office and arrested last March.

Now Two Former Presidents of South Korea Are Under Investigation
Now Two Former Presidents of South Korea Are Under Investigation

Last month, prosecutors asked a Seoul court to sentence Ms. Park to 30 years in prison on charges of collecting or demanding $21 million in bribes from big businesses like Samsung. Separately, she is accused of coercing businesses into making donations worth $71 million to two foundations that a friend controlled.

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A three-judge panel is scheduled to announce its ruling on Ms. Park on April 6.

Mr. Lee was expected to be questioned on allegations that he collected more than $10 million in illegal funds, including bribes, from various sources, like Samsung and the government’s National Intelligence Service, when he was a presidential candidate and after he took office.

In a news conference in January, Mr. Lee called the investigation politically motivated and accused President Moon Jae-in of using state prosecutors as a tool of “political revenge.” Mr. Moon has rejected the accusation.

Mr. Moon’s best friend, former President Roh Moo-hyun, took his own life in 2009 shortly after being questioned by prosecutors on corruption allegations involving his family.

Mr. Moon and other supporters of Mr. Roh have accused Mr. Lee, a conservative who was then president, of investigating Mr. Roh to humiliate him and discredit liberals. Even after his death, Mr. Roh remains an iconic figure among many liberal South Koreans.

Allegations of corruption against Mr. Lee first surfaced when he was running in the 2007 election to succeed Mr. Roh.

They included claims that Mr. Lee, a former Hyundai executive, hid his ownership of a lucrative auto-parts maker in the names of his relatives. He was also accused of using his presidential power to help settle a legal case implicating that auto-parts business, and getting Samsung to pay $5 million in lawyer fees.

Three of South Korea’s former presidents have spent time in jail, including Ms. Park.

The former military dictator Chun Doo-hwan was sentenced to death and his friend and successor, Roh Tae-woo, was sentenced to 22½ years in prison on bribery, mutiny and sedition charges in 1996. Their sentences were later reduced, and they were pardoned and released in 1997.

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