ROK opposition party faces tough test over leader's arrest warrant

2023-09-26 08:17:53China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

The Republic of Korea's main opposition party is embroiled in turmoil as a court prepares to review an arrest warrant for its leader on Tuesday.

Lee Jae-myung, head of the Democratic Party of Korea, or DP, is facing multiple charges in connection with a real estate development project and involvement in an unauthorized remittance to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The arrest warrant hearing comes just days after Lee ended a 24-day hunger strike.

In protest against the policies of President Yoon Suk-yeol's government, Lee began the hunger strike on Aug 31, but ended it on Saturday after his medical team warned that continuing to do so would severely harm his health.

The arrest motion for Lee was passed on Thursday at a plenary session of the National Assembly with a 149-136 vote. It was a surprising result as it indicated that there were a number of dissenting votes from Lee's party, which holds the most seats at 168 in the 298-member assembly.

The court review will be overseen by Chief Judge Yoo Chang-hoon, a judicial veteran with nearly 30 years of experience.

Lee is expected to temporarily leave hospital to attend the arrest warrant hearing in person, The Korea Times reported citing DP insiders.

The arrest warrant hearing will be held at the Seoul Central District Court, with a decision to be announced on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

The worst-case scenario for the DP will be Lee's arrest, because it would further deepen the disputes between party factions. But some analysts believe that if the arrest warrant is dismissed, Lee may be able to have an opportunity to fight back.

Lee's lawyers have refuted the claims, and Lee described the arrest motion as "illegal and unfair".

At a DP meeting on Monday, Supreme Council member Jung Chung-rae said he was speechless about DP members who have voted to allow the arrest of Lee, and that those members were fooled by the prosecution and the Yoon administration.

"The charges to arrest an opposition leader, which has never happened in the history of the constitution, is also ridiculous," Jung said.

The DP has received more than 400,000 petitions based on an unofficial tally, Jung said, calling for the dismissal of Lee's arrest warrant.

The party is expected to experience turbulence as it works to rebuild its leadership. Its members holding positions in the National Assembly leadership resigned after the arrest motion was passed.

A by-election for the party's representative will be held on Tuesday with four candidates — Kim Minseok, Hong Ik-pyo, Woo Won-shik and Nam In-soon. All candidates are seen as pro-Lee.

Nam, the only female candidate, said in a Facebook post that she decided to devote herself to protect the party and Lee against unfair suppression, and called for DP members to stand united against the prosecution's dictatorship.


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