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South Korea's Opposition Leader Lee Indicted for Alleged Funds Transfer to North Korea

Published On Wed, 12 Jun 2024
Tanvi Purohit
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SEOUL — South Korea's primary opposition leader faced indictment on Wednesday (June 12) over bribery accusations linked to an alleged plot involving an underwear manufacturer to transfer funds to North Korea, facilitating a visit to Pyongyang during his tenure as a provincial governor, as per reports. Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung's subordinate, during his time as Gyeonggi province governor, had previously been convicted of bribery and illicit fund transfers in collaboration with Ssangbangwool Group, aimed at sending $8 million to North Korea.
Ssangbangwool, initially an underwear manufacturer, diversified its operations later on. Attempts to reach the public affairs office at the Suwon District Prosecutors' Office remained unanswered. Lee has consistently denied any involvement or awareness of the scheme, which transpired in 2019 and 2020, intending to support a commercial initiative with North Korea and facilitate Lee's visit to Pyongyang, seen as enhancing his profile as a burgeoning political figure.
"I am not that naïve," Lee remarked last year, dismissing the allegations against him as "fiction," as a court rejected a warrant for his arrest. Following Wednesday's indictment, he remarked, "The prosecutors' imagination seems to be declining." Lee was the Democratic Party's presidential nominee in 2022, narrowly losing to Yoon Suk-yeol, a seasoned prosecutor. Lee is widely viewed as a significant contender for the upcoming presidential election in 2027.
He is concurrently undergoing a separate trial on corruption charges stemming from his tenure as mayor of a city near Seoul. The initial summit between North and South Korea in 2000, heralded for initiating an era of engagement, was marred by officials' convictions for channeling funds to Pyongyang via Hyundai Group, which subsequently gained near-exclusive rights to major business ventures in the North.
Disclaimer: This image is taken from Reuters.
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