The prosecution is expected to question former President Lee Myung-bak after the closing of next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics over allegations of wrongdoing, sources close to the ongoing probe said Sunday.
They said the state prosecution recently judged that it would be difficult to call in the former president during the Feb. 9-25 Olympics, after receiving reports from two district prosecution offices in Seoul about their ongoing probes into various allegations.
The prosecution believes, given the gravity of the case, that it is important to prevent the investigation from sparking a controversy that the current government led by liberal President Moon Jae-in is mounting a "political revenge" campaign against the former conservative leader. The way to avoid such a controversy is to obtain sufficient evidence.
Former liberal president Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide in 2009 during Lee's term in office after being questioned for alleged corruption.
In addition, the prosecution is also known to have concerns that if Lee shows up for questioning it will generate wide media attention that may spark further ideological division and hurt the atmosphere of peace and national unity represented by the nation's first hosting of the Winter Olympics.
"We have a lot of things to check yet," said a prosecution source who is well informed about the probes. "I cannot say for certain when the former president will be summoned, although it would likely be in early March, after the Olympics."
Another prosecution official agreed, saying, "Chances are scant the former president will be questioned soon."
Prosecutors are currently looking into allegations that Lee's presidential office accepted more than 400 million won in bribes from the National Intelligence Service and that the state intelligence agency and the military illegally meddled in politics during his term in office from 2008 to 2013. Lee is also suspected to be the real owner of DAS, an auto parts company under his brother's name that allegedly managed a huge slush fund for the former president.