By Yujiro Okabe / Yomiuri Shimbun CorrespondentSEOUL — A former chief of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service was arrested Tuesday morning on suspicion of giving agency funds to the Blue House when former President Park Geun-hye was in office.
Similar allegations have emerged against other former NIS chiefs, and former high-ranking officials under Park’s administration are likely to be investigated.
Former NIS chief Lee Byung Kee, 70, was the ambassador to Japan in 2013 and 2014 and is known to be well-versed in this nation. After serving as the NIS director from 2014 through February 2015, he became the presidential chief of staff late that month.
Lee worked with Japan’s Shotaro Yachi, secretary general of the National Security Secretariat, toward the Japan-South Korea agreement reached in 2015 to resolve the issue of comfort women.
The agreement is currently being examined under the administration of President Moon Jae In. South Korea’s ruling party criticizes the agreement as the result of secret negotiations between Yachi and Lee. There are concerns that Lee’s arrest on Tuesday may affect the outcome of the examination.
When turning himself in at a prosecutors office Monday, Lee said he was “sorry for disappointing and worrying the public over the problem that NIS funds were given to the presidential office.”
According to South Korean media reports, Lee and other former NIS directors gave the Park side secret funds totalling about 4 billion won (¥400 million) to cover “expenses for special activities.”