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South Korean president accepts prime minister's resignation after bribery allegations

Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo had just served two months in office when he decided to step down.

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korean president accepts prime minister's resignation after bribery allegations
South Korean Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo, center, resigned last week. South Korean President Park Geun-hye has accepted his decision after allegations surfaced he had received illegal donations from a businessman in 2013. Photo by Yonhap.

SEOUL, April 27 (UPI) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye has accepted her prime minister's resignation after his name surfaced in an ongoing bribery scandal.

Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo offered to resign last Tuesday after he became the target of criticism from South Korea's opposition.

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Lee's name was found on a note left in the pocket of South Korean businessman Sung Wan-jong, who committed suicide on April 9.

The note claimed Lee accepted a bribe of $27,600.

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Sung's body was found in a wooded area in Seoul, hanging from a tree, a few days after he told a South Korean newspaper he gave Lee money in 2013 when he was running for a seat in parliament.

Lee had just served two months in office when he decided to step down. Bloomberg reported Lee was President Park's third pick for prime minster after Chung Hong-won resigned in response to public criticism of his handling of the Sewol ferry sinking.

Firat Unlu, an Asia analyst at global risk adviser Verisk Maplecroft, said Lee's alleged bribe taking has diminished President Park's political capital and "seriously undermines the administration's credibility."

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Hwang Tae-soon, a political analyst at the Wisdom Center in Seoul said, "Lee's resignation offer was the best option possible to minimize repercussion from the scandal."

South Korean news agency Yonhap reported the burden on the government agency responsible for bribery investigations has become lighter after the resignation of the prime minister.

It is the prime minister who presides directly over Seoul's justice ministry, and the case would have been unprecedented. This is the first case of an investigation into the prime minister, who is South Korea's second highest official.

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In conjunction with investigations into the prime minister, provincial governor Hong Jun-pyo is also being probed in connection with an alleged $93,100 bribe that also originated from Keangnam Enterprises, the company of deceased businessman Sung Wan-jong.

South Korean law forbids politicians from accepting more than $93.10 in contributions.

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