SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — FORMER President Roh Tae-woo repeatedly vowed to retire to a humble life. When people were skeptical, he would go on television and urge: ''Why don't you try trusting me!''
Nearly three years after his term ended, the skepticism has been borne out. Locked Thursday into a large cell in a jail outside Seoul, the man credited with some of South Korea's biggest diplomatic successes became the nation's most celebrated prisoner.
Mr. Roh, the first former leader to be arrested, was charged with accepting multimillion-dollar bribes from the country's biggest businessmen in exchange for government contracts. If convicted, he could face 10 years to life in prison.
As he was taken to jail Roh said, '' I'm really sorry.''
It was the latest - but probably not the last - development in the scandal that has rocked the country, confirming long-held fears that politics and industry spent decades in collusion. There is wide speculation that top corporate leaders may be charged with bribery.
Shortly after the story broke a month ago, Roh once again went on TV to tearfully admit he amassed $650 million while in office and that only $230 million was left in his secret bank accounts.