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South Korean prime minister resigns after businessman's suicide

Lee Wan-koo has been the target of criticism from South Korea’s opposition since his name was found on a note left in the pocket of a businessman who hanged himself.

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korean prime minister resigns after businessman's suicide
South Korean Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo's offer of resignation came on Tuesday. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, April 21 (UPI) -- South Korean Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo has offered to resign from office Tuesday as he faced growing allegations for accepting bribes related to South Korea energy projects.

Lee has been the target of criticism from South Korea's opposition since his name was found on a note left in the pocket of South Korean businessman Sung Wan-jong, who committed suicide April 9.

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The note, according to The Los Angeles Times, claimed Lee accepted a bribe of $27,600 that was hidden in boxes of a vitamin drink.

Sung, the former chairman of Keangnam Enterprises, was under investigation for misuse of government loans and the creation of a multimillion-dollar slush fund before his untimely death. He was one of several private business executives who participated in the acquisition of energy assets overseas through heavy borrowing at the behest of former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

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The project, however, resulted in the loss of public funds and charges of corruption. According to Seoul's board of audit and inspection on April 3, business ventures between South Korean private companies and state-controlled corporations have led to a $3.1 billion net loss for South Korean taxpayers.

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South Korean President Park Geun-hye has faced challenges filling the prime minister position since April 2014, when then Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned in response to attacks on his handling of the Sewol ferry disaster.

Last week during a Sewol memorial, indignant family members who have demanded a proper investigation into the causes of the ferry sinking blocked Lee from paying respects to the deceased, many of whom were high school students.

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In a statement, the South Korean president said she found it "regrettable" Lee had offered to resign, reported the BBC.

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