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Investigation may target ex-President Lee Myung-bak

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By Jung Min-ho

Former President Lee Myung-bak may face investigation after the National Intelligence Service (NIS) revealed that his administration created a blacklist of artists to cut off from state subsidies prior to the Park Geun-hye administration doing the same.

The prosecution said Tuesday that it is considering whether to expand the team investigating illegal activities the NIS allegedly committed under the two conservative governments.

On Monday, the reform committee of the NIS disclosed the list it had of 82 cultural figures, including movie director Park Chan-wook, singer Yoon Do-hyun, comedian Gim Gu-ra and actor Lee Joon-gi. They were among the critics of some of the Lee government's policies.

Following the news, actress Kim Gyu-ri, one of the 82, said, "I can't believe my previous tax money was used to kill me."

Some of the artists claimed they felt "excluded" from TV shows and other commercial activities during President Lee's five-year term, saying the revelation only confirmed their suspicions.

Ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae criticized the Lee government for "violating the constitutional right of free speech and trampling on democracy" and urged the prosecution to investigate the case immediately.

The blacklist allegation alone may well trigger investigations, but more allegations have been brought up against Lee.

DPK Rep. Kim Kyung-hyup claimed that Lee received about 5 billion won ($4.4 million) from the LKe Bank through his account on Feb. 28, 2001. If true, it could be powerful evidence against the results of the prosecution's previous investigation that Lee was not involved in the BBK stock price manipulation scandal.

During the 2007 presidential campaign, Lee was accused of siphoning off money through stock price manipulation, and that he was the de facto owner of LKe and the investment company BBK, both now defunct. The incident reportedly caused 5,500 investors to lose about 100 billion won; but the prosecution later concluded that he was not involved.

Speaking of the fresh allegations, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon also said the prosecution needs to check the facts again.

Meanwhile, the Board of Audit and Inspection has been looking into the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project over the past three months.

The Lee government spent more than 22 trillion won to upgrade and repair the nation's four major rivers — the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan — causing many environmental issues.

An audit of the project was conducted three times — but all under conservative governments when Lee or Park were in office. So many critics believe this is the first true state audit that could reveal more about Lee's motives and possible illegal activities in the process.

Jung Min-ho


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