Finance and Economic Minister Lee Hun-jai has stepped down amid allegations of irregularities in real-estate transactions that earned him and his wife millions of dollars. Mr Lee, who took office a year ago, denied any wrongdoing, but offered to step down to prevent the allegations from hurting the country's economy. 'I am very sorry to have caused a stir among the public, but my wife and I have never done anything illegal in relation to the transaction,' he said. 'I came to the conclusion that the suspicion and controversy over my personal problem could burden the president and be of no help to the economy.' Despite attempts by the presidential office to throw its weight behind the finance minister, President Roh Moo-hyun was forced to accept his resignation yesterday as calls for the minister's head gained momentum. Mr Lee, who was also deputy prime minister, has been under intense criticism for days following revelations of irregularities in real-estate transactions carried out by his wife, Jin Jin-sook. She claimed falsely to be living in Kwangju, south of the capital, when she bought land in the area in 1979, a common ploy used by land speculators. An annual review of cabinet ministers' assets revealed Mr Lee's wealth had grown by 6.5 billion won ($50 million) in the past seven years, 4.6 billion won of which was due to profits from the real-estate transactions. There are also allegations that Mr Lee's name and status were used to influence a state-run financial institution to lend US$ 1.5 million to a truck driver who ended up buying part of the land. Criticism of Mr Lee was particularly intense as he was spearheading a crackdown on real-estate speculation, which the government has identified as one of its top priorities. His resignation was welcomed by the opposition Grand National Party. 'We hope this case will help our public servants realise what and how much our society asks of them,' a spokeswoman said. Mr Lee's resignation will be a blow to the government. He won widespread respect for his steady handling of the economy. Last month, business confidence had its biggest jump in more than a decade after reports showed consumer spending may be rebounding from a two-year slump Financial Supervisory Service chairman Yoon Jeung-hyun is tipped as a possible successor.