South Korean President Lee Myung-bak
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's brother, Lee Sang-deuk, is alleged to have received money from troubled banks.
PHOTO: Getty Images

Story highlights

Lee Sang-deuk is seen as a major force in the president's election

He is alleged to have received money from troubled savings banks

Relatives of previous South Korean presidents have also faced charges

The daughter of a former president says she will run for president this year

(CNN) —  

A South Korean court has issued an arrest warrant for the brother of President Lee Myung-bak on bribery charges, a court official said Wednesday, dealing a blow to the governing party ahead of elections later this year.

Lee Sang-deuk, a former six-term lawmaker, has been charged over allegations he received about half a million dollars from the savings banks Solomon and Mirae in exchange for exerting influence over officials investigating the banks, the court official said.

He was taken to a detention center early Wednesday after the issuing of the arrest warrant, said the court official, who declined to be identified because she is not authorized to speak publicly on the case.

Lee Sang-deuk is considered to have been the major force behind Lee Myung-bak’s presidential election in 2007.

The incumbent president won’t be running for re-election later this year because the law limits presidents to only one five-year term, but the arrest taints the image of his governing party.

Lee Sang-deuk’s lawyer did not return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.

The president’s brother said he was sorry as he was taken to the detention center but did not comment further, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

The operations of Solomon and Mirae were suspended in May for six months by the authorities, prompting anger from people who were unable to retrieve money they had deposited in the banks.

Lee Sang-deuk is not the first relative of a South Korean president to face criminal charges.

“Families of former presidents have been misusing power before,” said Kwang Won-taek, professor at Seoul National University. “The current’s president’s term is going to end soon and the suspicions are surfacing.”

Former President Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide in 2009 amid an investigation into a bribery scandal that had tarnished his reputation. His older brother was convicted and sentenced to prison.

And former President Kim Dae-jung’s three sons were also imprisoned for corruption by the end of his presidential term.

Lee Sang-deuk’s arrest came after the announcement by Park Geun-hye, the daughter of former President Park Chung-hee, that she would be running for president this year.

Park Chung-hee, who was shot and killed by his intelligence chief in 1979, stirs mixed reactions among South Koreans.

Some members of older generations consider him a national hero who built up the nation’s economy, but some critics say he was a dictator who abused human rights.

Park Geun-hye said Tuesday that she would aim for “transparent, capable, and service-oriented government” if she were to be elected, Yonhap reported.

Her mother was shot and killed in 1974 by a Japanese-born Korean who had close ties to North Korea.