President Lee Myung-bak urged aides Friday to exercise greater ethical self-control, saying he wants to make his administration the cleanest in South Korean history, although a series of top secretaries have been implicated in corruption scandals.
"We have to keep in mind that our administration was born without taking any money," Lee said during an unscheduled attendance at a meeting of presidential secretaries presided over by Chief of Staff Yim Tae-hee. The president stressed that his 2007 election campaign involved no illegal political funds.
"This is an ethically perfect government and we shouldn't leave even a small blemish," he said.
Lee's remarks came after former top presidential press secretary Kim Du-woo was arrested earlier this week on charges of taking bribes from a lobbyist for a troubled savings bank. Last week, a local businessman also claimed that he gave huge amounts of money to former Vice Culture Minister Shin Jae-min over the past decade, and offered bribes to other aides.
All the officials involved have denied the allegations against them.
On Tuesday, Lee also called for stern handling of the alleged corruption cases.
The allegations were yet another blow to the Lee administration after another former aide was arrested earlier this year over bribery charges and raised concerns that Lee's government could face the fate of predecessors plagued heavily by corruption by top officials and aides in their final years in office.
Lee stressed that presidential officials are required to maintain the "highest-level of ethical standards."
"Cheong Wa Dae (the presidential office) should be cool-headed. We have to try to find pride and a sense of reward from hard work," he said.