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Confidant of S. Korea's Lee faces questioning over bribery allegations

(Xinhua)

14:51, April 25, 2012

SEOUL, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Choi See-joong, a close confidant of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, was summoned Wednesday for questioning by prosecutors over bribery allegations, a scandal that can potentially drive Lee into corner as he nears the end of his term.

On Monday, the 75-year-old former media regulator admitted to have taken money and spent it on conducting public opinion surveys during Lee's 2007 presidential campaign.

Prosecutors suspect Choi, often called Lee's "political mentor, " received kickbacks from a real estate developer in exchange for wielding his influence in a major development project.

Choi stepped down as the head of the state-run Korea Communications Commission to take responsibility for a separate bribery scandal involving his close aide.

The graft scandal follows on the heels of a series of corruption scandals implicating Lee's aides and relatives, an embarrassment for the conservative president who has prided himself on the "morally perfect" administration.

Lee's Saenuri Party, which recently won an upset victory in general elections after having successfully distanced itself from the president, is calling for a thorough investigation into the allegations.

The ruling party is currently headed by Park Geun-hye, a presidential hopeful and political nemesis of Lee, whose five-year term ends early next year.

The main opposition Democratic United Party, meanwhile, says Choi received illegal political funds and the scandal should not be branded as just another corruption case.

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