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Opposition leader questioned again over suspected illegal remittance to N. Korea

Sept. 12, 2023 - 20:18 By Yonhap
Lee Jae-myung, leader of the Democratic Party, departs the National Assembly on his way to the Suwon District Prosecutors Office on Sept. 12. (Yonhap)

Opposition leader Lee Jae-myung was grilled by prosecutors again Tuesday over allegations of his involvement in a company's illegal remittance to North Korea in 2019.

Lee, chair of the main opposition Democratic Party, left the Suwon District Prosecutors Office after around five hours of questioning on charges of third-party bribery, three days after he underwent the first round of questioning on Saturday.

"I don't know why (investigators) called me again, as they again failed to put forth even a single piece of evidence," Lee told reporters upon leaving the office.

The investigation centers on allegations that Ssangbangwool Group, an underwear maker, illegally transferred US$8 million to North Korea between January 2019 and January 2020 on behalf of Gyeonggi Province.

Prosecutors suspect that, of the total remittance, $5 million was meant for Gyeonggi's smart farm support program in North Korea while the remaining $3 million was what the North had demanded as the cost of facilitating Lee's visit to North Korea.

Lee has been on a hunger sit-in against the Yoon Suk Yeol administration since Aug. 31.

He squarely rejected all allegations against him.

"I am not foolish enough to commit such a grave crime of having a corrupt businessman pay that much money to North Korea for me," Lee told reporters before entering the prosecution office.

Lee also accused the prosecution of fabricating criminal charges against him, urging the Yoon Suk Yeol government to pay more attention to the national economy and the livelihoods of the people.

Prosecutors plan to have medical workers and an ambulance on standby for Tuesday's questioning, which is expected to focus on the circumstances of the $3 million remittance to North Korea and other suspicions.

Following his questioning on Saturday, Lee told reporters that the investigation team "failed to put forward even a single piece of evidence" and accused the prosecution of "trying to cook up crimes out of what commonsensically would have not been possible." (Yonhap)