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S. Korea leader's son faces special prosecutor

SEOUL--South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's only son appeared before a special prosecutor Thursday to face questioning over alleged irregularities in a project to build his father's retirement home.

Accompanied by his lawyer and dressed in a dark suit and a tie, Lee Si-hyung, 34, had to make his way through a media scrum as he arrived at the prosecutor's office in southern Seoul.

“I'll sincerely answer any questions,” the bespectacled Lee told reporters before entering the building.

The case centers around the joint purchase last year — by Lee Si-hyung and the presidential security service — of a plot of land on the southern edge of Seoul.

As well as a retirement residence for the president, who leaves office at the beginning of next year, the site would have included facilities for security personnel.

But the cost was allegedly not shared evenly, with suggestions that the security service paid too high a price for its share, while Lee's son got a below-market rate for the residential plot.

The special prosecutor last week requested that Lee Si-hyung and 10 other people linked to the now-defunct project be barred from leaving the country while the investigation is ongoing.

Investigators also raided the home of the president's eldest brother Lee Sang-eun as well as his offices at auto seat maker DAS, where he serves as chairman, in the southeastern city of Gyeongju.

Lee Sang-eun reportedly loaned his nephew 600 million won (US$542,000) for the land plot purchase.

The presidential Blue House has denied opposition claims of financial chicanery. But in the face of criticism, Lee scrapped the whole project and decided to move into his existing private house in southern Seoul after leaving office.

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