Opposition leader Lee Jae-myung appeared before prosecutors Saturday for questioning over allegations that he was involved in a company's alleged illegal money transfers to North Korea.
Lee, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), showed up at the Suwon District Prosecutors Office in Suwon, 30 kilometers south of Seoul, at 10:18 a.m., marking his fifth appearance for prosecution questioning. He was last questioned on Aug. 17 over a separate case.
Lee has been under investigation over a series of corruption allegations that he claims were fabricated.
The latest probe centers on allegations that Ssangbangwool Group, an underwear manufacturer, unlawfully remitted US$8 million to North Korea between January 2019 and January 2020 on behalf of Gyeonggi Province.
Prosecutors suspect that $3 million was intended to facilitate Lee's planned visit to Pyongyang, while the remainder was meant for Gyeonggi's smart farm support program in North Korea.
Upon arriving at the prosecutors office, Lee told reporters that the truth cannot stay covered up forever, although the government may be able to fabricate the case using what he calls the "political prosecution."
He urged President Yoon Suk Yeol to apologize to the people for his acts of "destroying democracy" and "denying the sovereignty" of the people. He also called on the Cabinet members to resign en masse for a complete change of government affairs.
Lee also uploaded a written statement on social media shortly after his appearance for questioning, flatly denying the charges against him.
"I tried to do business with the North for humanitarian support and exchanges when I was Gyeonggi governor but did not provide, or ask to provide, money and goods to the North in violation of South Korean laws and the United Nations' sanctions," Lee said.
Lee left the prosecutors office after some 11 hours of questioning. He told reporters the investigation team "failed to produce even a single piece of evidence" that incriminated him.
The questioning came amid his indefinite hunger sit-in against the Yoon administration. He launched the strike on Aug. 31, calling on the president to apologize to the people for "destroying" their livelihoods and democracy, express opposition to Japan's release of radioactive water into the ocean and thoroughly shake up the Cabinet to improve state affairs.
The prosecution had medical staff and an ambulance on standby at its Suwon office in case the politician's health worsens due to his hunger strike.
The DP chairman was already indicted in two corruption cases in March.
He currently faces charges of breach of duty, bribery and other counts related to an apartment development project in the city of Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.
He was also charged with third-party bribery over allegations that while serving as the head of Seongnam FC during his Seongnam mayorship, he secured 13.3 billion won in corporate donations for the football club from four companies in exchange for administrative favors between 2014 and 2016. Lee served as Seongnam mayor from 2010 to 2018.
Source: Yonhap News Agency