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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 December 2007, 11:20 GMT
S Korea candidate in fraud denial
Lee Myung-bak gestures to supporters in Seoul, 18/12
Mr Lee is hopeful his party can win power for the first time in a decade
The frontrunner in South Korea's presidential elections has insisted he has nothing to fear from a fresh investigation into corruption claims.

On the last day of campaigning before Wednesday's poll, Lee Myung-bak, who has already been cleared by one inquiry, again denied any wrongdoing.

He accused his opponents of launching a smear campaign after MPs voted for a new probe into the alleged fraud.

Analysts are expecting the 65-year-old former Hyundai executive to win easily.

"I've got nothing to hide," said Mr Lee, a conservative candidate who once served as mayor of Seoul.

I am worried that this country may fall into disgrace by electing a peerless liar as its leader
Chung Dong-Young
Presidential candidate
"The result of the independent counsel probe will not change anything... There is only one truth."

Earlier this month prosecutors had decided there was not enough evidence to charge Mr Lee in connection with allegations of stock market price-fixing, which date back six years.

But the scandal resurfaced on Sunday when a video emerged appearing to show Mr Lee admitting he had set up the company at the centre of the allegations.

'Criminal' jibe

His presidential rivals, who have consistently trailed him in opinion polls, launched stinging attacks over the corruption claims.

AFP news agency quoted Chung Dong-Young, of the liberal United New Democratic Party (UNDP), as saying: "I am worried that this country may fall into disgrace by electing a peerless liar as its leader."

Independent conservative candidate Lee Hoi-chang said: "There has been no country in the world to elect a criminal suspect as a president."

On Sunday, current President Roh Moo-hyun, a rival of Mr Lee, asked the justice ministry to consider reopening the fraud investigation after the video emerged.

The ministry rejected Mr Roh's request, saying prosecutors had already looked into the case. But an official said the ministry would accept an independent counsel "if parliament introduces it".

Rival lawmakers came to blows in parliament as members of Mr Lee's Grand National Party (GNP) tried to stop UNDP lawmakers from voting for the independent counsel.

But on Monday, the vote was passed allowing the new inquiry to take place.

Mr Roh ends his term in office in February and cannot seek re-election. A victory for Mr Lee would see the GNP return to power for the first time in a decade.

Analysts say Mr Lee is seen as the candidate most likely to reinvigorate the country's economy - regarded as the key election issue.

SEE ALSO
S Korea to probe poll frontrunner
17 Dec 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Probe clears S Korean frontrunner
05 Dec 07 |  Asia-Pacific
S Korea election contender picked
20 Aug 07 |  Asia-Pacific
South Korea contender drops out
16 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: South Korea
10 Nov 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: South Korea
17 Oct 06 |  Country profiles

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