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South Korean president-elect meets incumbent amid tensions over fraud probe

South Korean president-elect meets incumbent amid tensions over fraud probe

South Korean President-elect Lee Myung-bak and President Roh Moo-hyun held talks Friday, two days after Roh approved a special probe of Lee over fraud allegations.
The conservative Lee, a former high-powered construction executive and Seoul mayor, won last week's election by a landslide on pledges to boost South Korea's economy.
On Wednesday, however, Roh approved setting up a special prosecutor to probe allegations Lee was involved in a massive stock price manipulation case. Lee, who denies wrongdoing, has said he would abandon the presidency if he is found to have been at fault.
Roh did not run in the election as South Korean presidents are constitutionally limited to one five-year term.
State prosecutors had already cleared Lee of any wrongdoing earlier this month. But the scandal resurfaced after rivals released a video just days before the Dec. 19 vote showing Lee saying he created the investment firm at the center of the allegations. Lee said his comments in the video were taken out of context.
By South Korean law, Lee, as president-elect, can be prosecuted and indicted, but would have immunity from most criminal lawsuits, except for treason, following his Feb. 25 inauguration.
At their meeting, their first since the election, Lee and Roh discussed the upcoming transition of power and the need for parliamentary ratification of a pending free trade deal with the United States, their offices said in separate statements.
"It will be good for the FTA to be passed during your tenure," Lee said, according to the statement from Roh's presidential Blue House, adding that he would help persuade members of his Grand National Party opposed to the deal to vote in favor of it.
"I don't know if I can be a help but I share the view and I'll also do my best for the ratification of the FTA," Roh replied, according to the statement.
South Korea and the United States concluded the ambitious deal to slash tariffs and other barriers to trade earlier this year, but it still needs to be approved by lawmakers in both countries to take effect.
The statements also said that Roh and Lee discussed education and real estate policies, but did not say whether they talked about other issues, such as the fraud investigation and North Korea's nuclear program.


Updated : 2021-01-19 04:23 GMT+08:00