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Roh questioned over alleged role in scandal

SOUTH Korean Prosecutors grilled former President Roh Moo-hyun for about 13 hours over his alleged involvement in a high-profile corruption scandal, but he denied the allegations against him, an official said yesterday.

Roh, president from 2003-08, is accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from a Seoul businessman while in office.

Prosecutors questioned his family members, including his wife and son, earlier last month regarding allegations that they accepted US$6 million from the businessman.

Roh has acknowledged his wife took US$1 million from Park Yeon-cha, head of a local shoe manufacturer, but suggested it was not a bribe. He also said he was aware that Park gave another US$5 million to a relative but thought it was merely an investment.

Prosecutors suspect that the businessman's US$6 million was eventually conveyed to Roh.

"I did my best to answer questions," Roh said after emerging from the office around 2am yesterday.

Prosecution spokesman Cho Eun-sok said Roh denied the allegations against him. Prosecutors will review investigation records before deciding whether to seek an arrest warrant for Roh, he said.

The scandal is a major blow for Roh, a former human rights lawyer and liberal politician who took office in 2003 as a reformist with a clean image in a country that has struggled to move past a traditional culture of corruption.

Roh earlier apologized to South Koreans for the scandal, bowing as supporters chanted his name.

"I have no face to show to the people. I am sorry for disappointing you," an emotional-looking Roh said as he departed for Seoul from his home in rural Gimhae.

South Korean officials typically apologize when implicated in allegations of wrongdoing, but it does not mean they acknowledge the claims as true.


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