Lee’s son summoned over retirement home scandal

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Lee’s son summoned over retirement home scandal


Person of interest - Lee Si-hyung, 34, right, eldest son of President Lee Myung-bak, walks to the office of the independent counsel in Seocho District, southern Seoul, yesterday. The counsel summoned Lee to question him about the purchase of a retirement home for President Lee. It was the first time a child of a president in office was summoned by a special counsel. [NEWS1]

Lee Si-hyung, 34, son of President Lee Myung-bak, was summoned by an independent counsel yesterday for questioning over alleged violations in a land purchase for his father’s retirement home in Naegok-dong, southern Seoul. Si-hyung is the first child of an incumbent president to be summoned by a special counsel in the country’s history.

The president’s son appeared before the office of the special counsel in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul, at 10:10 a.m. with his attorney Lee Dong-myung.

“I will tell everything I know to the investigation team,” the president’s son, surrounded by nearly 400 Korean media reporters, said when he was questioned about his allegations.

The special counsel conducted a thorough investigation about whether the son paid less than his share when he jointly purchased plots in Naegok-dong, worth 5.4 billion won ($4.8 million), with the Presidential Security Service in May last year.

Of the 5.4 billion, 1.12 billion won was paid for by the president’s son as portions of the land were purchased under the son’s name, but it was suspected that the son might have paid less than his share and the taxpayers paid more.

The special counsel also questioned whether Si-hyung violated the country’s real estate law, which says that land must be purchased in the actual name of an owner.

The core part of the investigation was to find out how the president’s son has provided the 1.12 billion won and how they - the son and the presidential security service - have divided the shares for the land’s ownership and payments.

“The probe proceeded calmly,” a spokesman for the special counsel told the JoongAng Ilbo. “He actively testified his stance regarding the case with his attorney.” Sources from the investigation team said he has submitted documents that back up his explanations.

The Seocho-dong office of the special counsel was heavily guarded by the presidential security service. They set up barricades from the office’s gate to 100 meters (328 feet) outside roads. Besides the guards from the security service, 130 additional police officers were also dispatched for security.

The investigation team also questioned the president’s son whether Kim Yoon-ok, the first lady, was involved in the land purchase. Lee chose not to answer the question, according to the special counsel.

Days before the president’s son was summoned, the special counsel secured testimony from Kim Se-wook, 58, former Blue House official, that said the first lady asked Kim Paik-joon, 73, a former senior secretary to the president for administrative affairs and the boss of Se-wook, to provide documents that are necessary for a mortgage application to a Nonghyup Bank.

The Blue House has not provided any official response to the son’s summons.

By Shim Sae-rom, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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