Actress Lee Young-ae in the spotlight for major political donations

South Korean actress Lee Young-Ae (right) donated the maximum amount of political funds to three Korean lawmakers, according to the country’s National Election Commission on Thursday. File photo by Jens Kalaene / EPA

February 25 (UPI) – An award-winning South Korean actress has donated large sums of money to local lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Defense Committee, according to the Seoul National Election Commission.

Lee Young-ae, 50, star of the 2003 hit drama Jewelry in the palace and crime thriller Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, could face a storm of controversy after the regulator overseeing political funds said Lee had donated 15 million won, or about $ 13,500 to three politicians, Newsis reported Thursday.

Lawmakers Kim Byung-joo of the ruling Democratic Party, Han Ki-ho and Shin Won-sik of the main opposition, the People Power Party, each received 5 million won, or about $ 4,500, according to the report.

Speculation is mounting that Lee donated the funds to support her husband Jeong Ho-yeong, who operated a business or ammunition supplier. Jeong is said to have left the defense industry, however.

Lee declined to speak directly to reporters. A spokesperson for the actress said that Yonhap Lee’s husband “had nothing to do with the defense industry for over 10 years” and held “0% stake” in his old company.

Lee’s spokesperson added that Lee’s family is of military origin and the actress has a “love for soldiers.” Kim Byung-joo is a former military general; Han is a former army commander.

Kim told Newsis he “checked” with his party about the donation because it was a “large sum of money.” Kim also said he “didn’t know [Lee] Good.”

South Korea has strict regulations against funding politicians. Seoul’s Political Funds Act prohibits donations to individual politicians that exceed 5 million won.

Lee is a well-known celebrity in Asia. Jewelry in the palace became the most watched TV show in Hong Kong in 2005. Chinese President Hu Jintao and Hong Kong movie stars Andy Lau and Chow Yun-fat said they were fans of the show.