The brother of South Korea's president's was arrested and taken to a detention centre after a court approved a warrant on bribery allegations.

The arrest on Wednesday was a major embarrassment to the ruling party in a presidential election year, and the first time in South Korean political history that a sitting president's brother has been jailed.

The Seoul Central District Court issued the arrest warrant for Lee Sang-deuk, the elder brother of President Lee Myung-bak, late on Tuesday.

Hours earlier, as the suspect entered the court for questioning, enraged protesters threw eggs at him, grabbed his tie and jostled him.

Lee was taken early on Wednesday from the prosecutors' office to the Seoul Detention Centre, according to an official who declined to provide further details, including his name, citing office rules.

As he left the prosecutors' office, Lee said he was "sorry" when asked by a reporter if he had anything to say to the country's president and the South Korean people.

The former lawmaker is accused of taking half-a-million dollars in bribes over four years from two detained bankers with the intent of using his influence to help the bankers avoid punishment.

The parliament has also voted not to allow an arrest warrant for Chung Doo-un, a current member of parliament accused of introducing Sang-deuk to the chairman of one of the two saving banks that gave him money. 

Both banks were suspended earlier this year.

Lee Myung-bak ends his single, five-year presidential term early next year, and elections for the next president are in December.

Source: Agencies