Ex-President Lee says sorry for causing concern to people upon return home following pardon

SEOUL– Former President Lee Myung-bak said Friday he is sorry for causing concern to people as he returned home after a special presidential pardon canceled his remaining prison term for corruption.

Lee was put into detention in March 2018 for alleged bribery and embezzlement before the Supreme Court finalized a 17-year prison term in 2020. Since June this year, he had been staying at a hospital after the prosecution suspended his prison term for health reasons.

The special pardon, granted Tuesday, canceled his remaining prison term of roughly 15 years and some 8.2 billion won (US$6.5 million) of unpaid fines.

“I am deeply sorry for causing concern to the people,” the 81-year-old told reporters upon his return home from a Seoul hospital where he had been under treatment for diabetes and other chronic illness.

“I would also like to thank many people, including young people, who have supported and prayed for me over the past five years,” he said with a calm voice in a speech that lasted less than three minutes, ending it with a slight bow.
Lee made the remarks in front of key aides who served in his administration and some 300 supporters who shouted his name and held banners with slogans like “We always love you. Always stay healthy” and “You went through a lot.”

While he appeared to walk with a limp at times, the former president managed to walk some 10 minutes toward his residence to shake hands with supporters waiting for him behind a police line.

At the scene were confidantes like ruling People Power Party (PPP) adviser Lee Jae-oh and Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, who later accompanied Lee to his home, as well as former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and defector-turned-lawmaker Tae Yong-ho of the PPP.

Later in the day, President Yoon Suk Yeol spoke with Lee by phone for about two minutes, according to people close to them.

Wishing Lee a quick recovery, Yoon asked him to play a role for the country and people, while Lee thanked Yoon and said he will sincerely pray for the success of the Yoon administration.

Saying that he would like to offer words of comfort to all those who suffered due to the pandemic, the devout Christian said he will fulfill his role by praying for the country.

“By hoping for the prosperity of the Republic of Korea and praying for it, I will serve my role,” he said.

Lee urged people to come together to overcome a global crisis.

“For the Republic of Korea to overcome a global crisis, every one of our people should unite our strength,” Lee said, stressing the importance of unity for the country to achieve economic prosperity and provide jobs and better welfare for the people.

Lee did not elaborate on how he feels about the special pardon, saying there would be another opportunity to talk about the matter.

No protests were reported on his trip from the hospital to his home.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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