Lee Myung-bak curses at witness during trial

Posted on : 2019-03-28 17:09 KST Modified on : 2019-03-28 17:09 KST
Former Samsung Vice Chairman Lee Hak-soo testifies Lee ordered him to collect money
Former Samsung Group Vice Chairman Lee Hak-soo enters the Seoul High Court to testify against ex-president Lee Myung-bak regarding bribery and embezzlement charges on Mar. 27. (Yonhap News)
Former Samsung Group Vice Chairman Lee Hak-soo enters the Seoul High Court to testify against ex-president Lee Myung-bak regarding bribery and embezzlement charges on Mar. 27. (Yonhap News)

Ex-president Lee Myung-bak, 78, let fly with expletives while sitting in the defendant’s box on the afternoon of Mar. 27 at Seoul High Court in Seoul’s Seocho neighborhood.

The outburst occurred while he was listening to testimony from former Samsung Group Vice Chairman Lee Hak-soo, 73, who was appearing as a witness in the trial that day. At the time, Lee was testifying that the former president had ordered him to collect money on his behalf. While Hon. Judge Jeong Joon-yeong of Seoul High Court’s first criminal division could not hear him from the bench, the expletives were caught by prosecutors sitting opposite Lee Myung-bak. The judge was then alerted by prosecutors, who expressed concern that the witness might feel intimidated.

“We heard [Lee] repeatedly saying ‘crazy [expletive]’ while the witness was speaking. The proceedings [in the courtroom] are being recorded, so we can confirm that,” they said.

In response, the judge said, “While I did not hear exactly what was said, I would like to remind [the defendant] from the court’s perspective that he could be escorted from the premises.”

Lee replied, “I understand. I do not wish to see the witness.”

Lee’s self-confidence has risen substantially since he was freed on bail during his appellate trial. On Mar. 20, Lee Byeong-mo – who as secretary-general of the Lee Myung-bak & Kim Yoon-ok Foundation is equivalent to the former president’s asset manager – changed his testimony from the first trial and testified in Lee’s support. The cursing occurred while Lee Hak-soo – a key witness on the charges of bribery in connection with proxy payment of DAS (a car parts manufacturer tied to Lee) legal costs, which accounted for the bulk of Lee Myung-bak’s first trial sentence of 15 years – was testifying that Samsung paid the legal costs for DAS on the president’s behalf in accordance with the Blue House’s wishes.

During questioning by prosecutors and Lee Myung-bak’s attorneys that day, Lee Hak-soo recalled, “Kim Suk-han, an attorney with the law firm Akin Gump which was handling the DAS case in the US, came to me in 2007 while Lee Myung-bak was a candidate in the presidential election.”

“He told me, ‘The legal assistance I’m providing the US has incurred some costs, and we’d like Samsung to pay them.’ This was a request from a presidential candidate, so I had no choice but to relay it to Chairman Lee Kun-hee,” he said.

Lee Hak-soo also testified that Kim visited him in 2009 “after meeting with former Blue House general affairs and planning secretary Kim Baek-joon.”

“He told me the president was grateful and asked for continued support,” he said.

Lee administration requested that Samsung pay legal costs for DAS trial

Lee Hak-soo previously submitted a “surrender document” during prosecutors’ investigation last year in which he claimed to have “received a request from the Blue House to pay US legal costs for DAS during the Lee presidency.” He also claimed to have paid over 6.8 billion won (US$5.98 million) in legal costs after reporting the matter to Lee Kun-hee, who “anticipated a pardon and reinstatement.” His account served as a key factor in the first trial ruling convicting Lee Myung-bak.

The possibility of Lee Hak-soo being taken into custody had previously been raised when he did not appear for the January hearing. Appearing in court on Mar. 27, Lee was asked whether he needed a partition put in place during his testimony so that he would not be facing Lee Myung-bak.

“It’s all right,” he replied before beginning his testimony, apparently not anticipating that the former president would unleash expletives during the proceedings.

By Jang Yee-ji, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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