South Korean President Park Geun-hye has demanded a "thorough" investigation into a bribery scandal after Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo was accused of accepting bribes worth thousands of dollars. Lee, who has denied the allegations, reportedly conveyed his intention to resign on Monday, days after Sung Wan-jong, a local business mogul killed himself during a corruption investigation, earlier this month, and left behind a long list of high-ranking officials who allegedly accepted bribes from him.
Lee is alleged to have accepted 30 million won (US$27,000) in cash from Sung when he was running for parliament. Lee was pressured to resign after the list named him and seven other former and current senior politicians close to Park. The president is currently in Lima, Peru, during a state visit to four South American countries, and is expected to accept or deny Lee’s resignation when she returns next week, the Korea Herald, a local newspaper reported.
"The prosecution should clearly shed light on everything by conducting a thorough investigation," Park said, in a written statement from Lima, according to the Korea Herald, adding: "I feel the agony of the prime minister."
Lee, who has been in the prime minister's post for only two months, reportedly offered to resign after the opposition said that it will seek his impeachment, Agence France-Presse reported. Lee served three terms as a lawmaker and also as a provincial governor before becoming prime minister, the Wall Street Journal reported.
While Lee has denied the accusations and claimed that he barely knew Sung, local media organizations have published photographs, telephone records and the content of Sung’s diaries, which indicate that the two had spoken on the phone and had met several times, the New York Times reported.
The bribery scandal is the latest issue to hit Park’s administration, which has struggled to recover from the political fallout of the Sewol ferry accident last year that killed 304 people, mostly schoolchildren.