Prosecutors have arrested Kim Woo-Chung, one of South Korea's most-wanted fugitives, the former chairman of collapsed conglomerate Daewoo Group, immediately after he returned home early Tuesday following almost six years living abroad. He faces charges related to the late '90s collapse of Daewoo, along with alleged accounting irregularities.

Kim, who fled the country in 1999, is accused of having falsified Daewoo's accounts to draw billions of dollars in illegal bank loans before diverting them overseas. He symbolized the rise and fall of the large industrial conglomerates in Korea - 'chaebols' - that grew on the back of massive loan finance and collapsed spectacularly during the financial crisis of 1997-1998.

The Daewoo meltdown came in 1999 when a dozen sister companies, including flagship Daewoo Corp. and Daewoo Auto, were forced to enter government-sponsored debt workout programs.

The 69-year-old Kim arrived at Incheon International Airport near Seoul from Vietnam, and was immediately surrounded by dozens of prosecution and security officials who jostled with a crowd of waiting journalists.

Kim walked out along a police cordon, invisible to the former Daewoo executives who had lined up to catch a glimpse of him. Police at one instance stopped an unidentified man who attempted to hurl himself toward Kim just before the Daewoo founder was to get into a police car.

"I will take whatever responsibility I am supposed to take over the Daewoo Group incident. I feel deeply sorry," the bespectacled, white-haired tycoon said before being whisked away to the Supreme Prosecutors' Office.

According to an AP report, prosecutors are expected to question Kim for alleged bookkeeping fraud of 41 trillion won (US$40 billion), obtaining 9.2 trillion won (US$9 billion) in illegal financing and diverting 25 trillion won (US$25 billion) out of the country.

Kim could face up to life in prison, though given his age, former stature in South Korea and public expression of remorse upon arrival, it's doubtful he would serve much time if convicted, AP said.

Loyal aides, including his wife, claim that he should be pardoned on account of his contributions to Asia's third-largest economy. Citing figures showing that Daewoo's exports made up 13.3 percent of Korea's total in 1998 to record a trade surplus of $13 billion, aides say the group played a major role in helping the country recover from the Asian currency crisis.