Former President Lee Myung-bak showed up for questioning at 9:22 a.m. on Wednesday at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul. He said he hopes this will be the last time there is such an investigation in South Korea. By law, one who is convicted of bribery amounting to 100 million won (about 94,000 USA dollars) is subject to a minimum of 10 years in prison.
"I stand here today feeling wretched", Lee said. "I offer my honest apology to the people of our country for troubling them amid the economic hardship and a serious security crisis on the peninsula".
Prosecutors have prepared about 120 pages of questions for the former president, as they strongly suspect he is the main culprit behind a web of bribery and embezzlement charges involving his former presidential secretaries, state officials and family members.
"As a former president, I have many things I want to say, but I promised to myself that I must save my breath", he said.
Lee's successor Park Geun-hye was ousted a year ago over a massive corruption scandal that emerged in 2016.
After the South embraced democracy in the 1990s former dictator Chun Doo-hwan and his friend and successor Roh Tae-woo were handed sentences of death and life imprisonment respectively for their involvement in a 1979 military coup and for receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes from businesses.
Yoo Seong-min, head of the minor opposition Bareunmirae party, blamed the phenomenon on "the shortfalls of the winner-takes-all presidential government system" that creates opportunities for corruption.
Lee therefore becomes the fifth president in the country's history to be involved in criminal proceedings.More news: Evacuations lifted, but threat of more mudslides continue
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"This will boomerang" on Moon, he wrote on his Facebook account.
Park was grilled by prosecutors in March past year and taken into custody later in the month.
Lee is expected to return home after the questioning, but prosecutors are thought likely to then ask a court for an arrest warrant.
Wednesday's interrogation of Lee comes 358 days after ousted President Park appeared at the prosecution's office to be questioned on March 21 past year.
Kim, who served as senior secretary for administrative affairs to Lee, was arrested on January 17 over allegation of receiving more than 400 million won from the National Intelligence Service between 2008 and 2012 at Lee's order.
Among other suspicions is Samsung's alleged 6 billion-won payment of legal fees owed by DAS to a USA law firm from November 2007 to March 2009, in a suit that sought to recoup DAS' 14 billion-won investment in a US company. Lee has denied all charges levied on him.
According to reports, Lee is also accused of accepting 2.2 billion won from a former CEO of a state-financed banking group for helping him assume the post.
While it is typical practice to end a prosecutorial probe as late as midnight, some expect Lee's questioning to continue to the next day, given the large number of allegations against him.