Feb. 25 (UPI) -- An award-winning South Korean actress donated large sums of money to local lawmakers serving on the National Assembly's Defense Committee, according to Seoul's National Election Commission.
Lee Young-ae, 50, star of the 2003 hit drama Jewel in the Palace and crime thriller Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, could be facing a firestorm of controversy after the regulatory body monitoring political funds said Lee donated 15 million won, or about $13,500 to three politicians, Newsis reported Thursday.
The lawmakers, Kim Byung-joo of the ruling Democratic Party, Han Ki-ho and Shin Won-sik of the main opposition People Power Party, each received 5 million won, or about $4,500, according to the report.
Speculation is rising that Lee donated the funds to support her husband Jeong Ho-yeong, who operated a munitions company or supplier. Jeong allegedly left the defense industry, however.
Lee has declined to speak directly to reporters. A spokesperson for the actress told Yonhap Lee's husband "has had nothing to do with the defense industry since more than 10 years ago" and holds a "0% stake" in his former business.
Lee's spokesperson added Lee's family is of military background and the actress has a "love for soldiers." Kim Byung-joo is a former military general; Han is a former army commander.
Kim told Newsis he "checked" with his party regarding the donation, because it was a "large sum of money." Kim also said he does not "know [Lee] well."
South Korea enforces strict regulations against funding politicians. Seoul's Political Fund Law bans donations to individual politicians that exceed 5 million won.
Lee is a well-known celebrity in Asia. Jewel in the Palace became the most-watched television show in Hong Kong in 2005. Chinese President Hu Jintao and Hong Kong film stars Andy Lau and Chow Yun-fat have said they are fans of the show.