South Korean Ex-president’s Private Residence Auctioned Off by Court, Writes Letters From Prison

By Lisa Bian
Lisa Bian
Lisa Bian
July 5, 2021 Updated: July 5, 2021

Recently, the private house of Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who is still serving his sentence, was auctioned off in Seoul for a mortgage penalty. Lee and his wife filed a lawsuit, demanding suspension of the auction. Lee also wrote letters in prison to express his concerns about the current state of South Korea.

Lee was arrested three years ago in an alleged corruption and bribery case. In October of 2020, the court sentenced him to 17 years in prison and 18.78 billion won ($16.6 million) in fines and recovery. The court seized Lee’s private house in Seoul due to failure to pay fines. On July 1, his residence was auctioned at 11.156 billion won ($9.8 million).

There was only one valid and successful bid in the first round of auction bids from June 28 to 30, and the transaction price was only 0.27 percent higher than the starting price.

On July 3, Lee and his wife filed a lawsuit requesting suspension of the auction, arguing that the husband and wife collectively owned the house and the government only has the right to auction off Lee’s half.

On June 30, a letter written by Lee in prison in response to a young alumnus of Korea University, Lee’s alma mater, was published by media and gained public traction.

The alumnus, who is now a plastic surgeon, wrote a letter to Lee. In his letter, he criticized the incompetence of the current Moon Jae-in government and expressed his longing for the Lee Myung-bak government and its people-benefit policies.

“This is all because I didn’t do a good enough job, but I believe that the truth will one day come to light,” Lee said in his reply. “Most importantly, I am sad. Seeing what this country has become,” Lee added. “We can see it with our own eyes. It takes a long time to build this great country, but it only takes a moment to destroy it.”

Lee Myung-bak is currently 79 years old and his 17-year sentence ends in 2036 when he becomes 95. Before he entered politics, he was the president of Hyundai Group, known as the “CEO President.” Lee was the President of South Korea during the global financial tsunami triggered by the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States. People once thought that South Korea would become the second country to go bankrupt after Iceland, but it had become the fastest-recovering economy under Lee’s leadership.

Since the beginning of 2021, there has been increased public support of pardoning Lee Myung-bak and his successor Park Geun-hye, but Moon Jae-in, the current President of South Korea, is still reluctant to issue the pardons.

Park Geun-hye, the Former South Korean President, was impeached and arrested four years ago due to a political scandal involving “trustees in politics.” She still has 18 years of sentence to serve. Like Lee, the court seized her private residence due to failure to pay fines and will soon be auctioned off.

The two former presidents have yet to plead guilty in court for their alleged crimes.

Lisa Bian
Lisa Bian