NATIONAL

[Newsmaker] Gyeonggi governor grilled for power abuse, election law violations

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Oct 29, 2018 - 10:07
  • Updated : Oct 30, 2018 - 11:12

The path seemed to be wide and smooth for lawyer-turned-politician Lee Jae-myung, a two-term mayor of Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, and previously a prominent presidential primary candidate for the ruling party.

Now, Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee stands at the center of public scrutiny over a series of unsavory scandals related to family problems, an extramarital affair and organized crime.

On Monday, Lee appeared at Bundang Police Station in Gyeonggi Province for questioning over a series of allegations involving his family and an actress who claims to have had an affair with Lee.

Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung appears for police questioning (Yonhap)
Appearing at the station at 9:50 a.m., he greeted and shook hands with supporters for 10 minutes before entering.

“(My) one hour as Gyeonggi governor is equal to the one hour of the 13 million (Gyeonggi residents). I am sorry to the people,” Lee said in front of the police station.

“I have not abused my administrative authority for personal affairs. Not all, but some police officials appear to be magnifying this case. There is the prosecution and the court, so I believe it will all work out if the process goes according to reason.”

Lee is the second provincial chief elected this year to be investigated by police. South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Kyoung-soo was questioned in May over his involvement in a power blogger’s alleged rigging of public opinion online. The first hearing for his case also convened Monday.

Days before the June 13 local elections, the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party filed a complaint against Lee alleging he had falsely denied abusing his authority as mayor of Seongnam to force his brother, since deceased, to be forcefully committed to a mental institution in 2012.

The opposition party said that Lee lied about an alleged affair with the actress during the election campaign and pressured local companies to provide more than 16 billion won ($14.2 million) to the city-affiliated pro soccer team in the form of advertising when he was Seongnam mayor.

Actress Kim Bu-seon also lodged a police complaint and filed a lawsuit alleging defamation after Lee denied her claims that he had an extramarital affair with her. To back her argument, she described a mole in a private area of the governor’s body.

Lee flatly denies all allegations. On Oct. 16 he had physicians at a university hospital examine his body for the mole to refute the actress’s claim. Doctors found no evidence of the “black mole.”

But just an hour before Lee’s appearance at the police station, the actress reinforced her claims in a Facebook post.

“You worked hard to remove that mole. You must have forgot the dialogue we had over the mole,” the post read. “Lying more to cover up lies will only add to your sins.”

After 5 1/2 hours of investigation, Lee came out for a late lunch at around 3:30 p.m. To reporters waiting outside, Lee again denied the allegations against him. Before getting into the vehicle that would take him to lunch, he shook hands with his supporters gathered at the entrance of the police station for 15 minutes. The questioning was to resume later in the day.

Bundang Police said a 20-member investigation team had been formed consisting of four lawyer-turned-police officers to look into the scandals.

While adultery itself is not illegal, Lee denied the allegations during an election debate. If the allegations were true, Lee could be convicted of violating election law for lying in the course of the campaign.

On the scene Monday, some 500 Lee supporters held a rally on the left side of the building, as some 30 members of a conservative opposition group protested on the right side of the same building.

Police raided the home and office of Lee on Oct. 12 and completed the review of two cellphones and computer files they seized from Lee and Seongnam City Hall.

Lee also faces some 20 other complaints filed by the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and individuals, and he is accused of having a link with an organized crime syndicate.

Lee, a member of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, became governor of Gyeonggi Province in the local elections in June. Previously, he served as Seongnam mayor and was also a contender in the party’s presidential primary last year.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)