(2nd LD) Ex-President Lee Myung-bak jailed again following Supreme Court’s ruling in corruption case

November 2, 2020

Former President Lee Myung-bak was put behind bars again on Monday afternoon, following the Supreme Court’s decision last week to confirm a 17-year jail sentence handed down by an appeals court in a corruption case.

The 78-year-old has been out of jail since February, as he appealed a court’s decision to deny him bail.

The former president, who governed the country from 2008-2013, was taken to Seoul Dongbu Detention Center in eastern Seoul, where he had served time for about a year after his arrest on March 22, 2018, in a 13.07-square-meter single cell.

His term will be 16 years, as he already served about one year behind bars.

From early Monday, around 100 reporters, supporters and protestors gathered in front of Lee’s house in southern Seoul to get a glimpse of the former president before he was taken away for incarceration possibly for the rest of his life. Around 170 police officers were dispatched to keep order and prevent a possible clash.

Lee left his house at around 1:46 p.m. after meeting his former staff members and aides, and arrived at the detention center at around 2:40 p.m.

“They can arrest me but they cannot lock up the truth,” his lawyer Kang Hoon quoted Lee as saying.

Former President Lee Myung-bak is taken to the Seoul District Prosecutors Office on Nov. 2, 2020. (Yonhap)
A vehicle carrying former President Lee Myung-bak arrives at Seoul Dongbu Detention Center in Seoul on Nov. 2. 2020. (Yonhap)
A black sedan carrying former President Lee Myung-bak leaves for the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office on Nov. 2, 2020. (Yonhap)
Former President Lee Myung-bak, helped by his wife, Kim Yoon-ok, arrives at Seoul National University Hospital in Seoul on Oct. 30, 2020, to see a doctor.(Yonhap)
Stepladders are set up in front of the residence of former President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul on Nov. 2, 2020, as media crews prepare to shoot Lee's reincarceration the same day following a Supreme Court ruling on Oct. 29 that confirmed a 17-year prison sentence for Lee for embezzlement and bribery. (Yonhap)
The file photo, taken Feb. 19, 2020, shows former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak greeting his supporters before attending his trial at the Seoul High Court. (Yonhap)

Former President Lee Myung-bak is taken to the Seoul District Prosecutors Office on Nov. 2, 2020. (Yonhap)

Lee was placed in solitary confinement in a cell on the 12th floor of the center. The room is fitted with a television, a mirror, a table, a cabinet and a sink. A prison officer will be assigned to help him with his prison life out of deference to his former president status.

According to an official from the Ministry of Justice, there is a chance that the former president may serve his time in the detention center, given his age and underlying health conditions, rather than being transferred to a prison, in line with precedents applied to two former presidents, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo.

Many high-profile convicts were locked up in the detention center, including Kim Ki-choon, a former chief of staff to ex-President Park Geun-hye, and former lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk, Lee’s elder brother, who was convicted of taking bribes. Choi Soon-sil, former President Park’s longtime confidante, is currently serving her time there.

Lee’s imprisonment came four days after the Supreme Court upheld an appeals court’s ruling that sentenced the 78-year-old to 17 years in jail and ordered him to pay 13 billion won (US$10.9 million) in fines and forfeit 5.7 billion won on embezzlement and bribery charges.

The top court also rejected Lee’s appeal against a lower court’s decision to cancel his bail.

He was convicted of embezzling 25.2 billion won from corporate funds of DAS, an auto parts company that he effectively owned, and accepting bribes totaling 9.4 billion won from companies, including Samsung Electronics Co.

A district court sentenced him to 15 years in jail in October 2018, making him the fourth ex-South Korean leader to be criminally convicted. Lee, however, was bailed out of jail five months later, citing health and other reasons. But he was jailed again in February this year after an appeals court handed down the 17-year term and canceled his bail.

He was released again six days later, after he challenged the cancellation and the court decided to suspend the execution of the jail sentence until the highest court’s ruling on the appeal was made.