President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday apologized to the nation for a string of corruption scandals involving his older brother and former aides. It was his sixth apology during his five-year term in office that is now fizzling to a close.
"Disgraceful incidents have recently happened in my family and surroundings and caused great anxiety to people," Lee said in a nationally televised address. "The more I think about it, the more it crushes my heart. But whom can I blame now? It's all because of my negligence. I bow my head and apologize for causing anxiety to people due to these incidents."
The address, delivered from Cheong Wa Dae, lasted four minutes.
Lee's older brother and ex-lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk was arrested earlier this month for taking W760 million (US$1=W1,149) in kickbacks from the heads of Solomon and Mirae savings banks to help them escape closure, as well as textile maker Kolon. The former lawmaker was considered to be the most powerful figure behind the throne. The president's former secretary Kim Hee-joong, who had assisted him for 15 years, was arrested on Tuesday for accepting around W100 million in kickbacks from Solomon.
The decision to deliver the apology was made at the last minute. As a result, broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS were unable to cover it live, and only four 24-hour news channels including YTN broadcast it at the time.
Lee bowed his head twice as he read his apology but said he needs to continue his job as president due to the difficulties facing the country. "The situation inside and outside the country is bad, so I cannot neglect my duties as president."
Lee apologized to the nation twice in 2008, during his first year in office, over the public outcry over the resumption of U.S. beef imports which paralyzed the government for months. He also apologized in 2009 and in 2011 for revising plans to build the administrative city of Sejong in South Chungcheong Province and scrapping plans to build a new airport. He apologized again in February this year over a dubious land purchase for his retirement home by Cheong Wa Dae officials.