Crime & Justice

Court to rule on arrest warrant against South Korean opposition leader

Seoul, Sep 26 (EFE).- The Seoul Central District Court on Tuesday began deliberating on the arrest warrant prosecutors are seeking against the leader of the country’s main opposition party, Lee Jae-myung, for corruption.

The court’s decision, expected by the end of the day, promises to be fundamental in determining the political landscape in South Korea, where legislative elections are scheduled to be held in April.

Lee, who has just ended a three-week hunger strike, appeared at the court, where hundreds of supporters and opponents have gathered.

Lee, 58, went on the hunger strike in protest of the policies of conservative President Yoon suk-yeol’s government although some critics have called it an attempt to divert attention from the corruption charges against him.

Prosecutors accuse him of causing the city of Seongnam, located south of Seoul, to lose some 20 billion won ($15 million) between 2014 and 2015, after the city’s council suddenly canceled a plan to build social rental housing and allowed a developer to take over the development.

They also suspect that, between 2019 and 2020, Lee requested a company to transfer about $8 million to the North Korean authorities – which is a crime in South Korea without prior authorization – in order to facilitate his visit to the neighboring country.

At that time Lee was governor of Gyeonggi, the province surrounding the capital and the most populated in the country with over 13 million inhabitants, and was emerging as a candidate for the 2022 presidential elections, advocating dialogue and rapprochement between the two Koreas.

On Thursday, the country’s parliament approved the withdrawal of immunity of the Democratic Party leader over his alleged involvement in several corruption cases with 149 votes in favor, 136 against, 6 abstentions and 4 invalid votes.

The voting results showed that Lee has lost the support of many party members considering his party has a parliamentary majority of 167 seats while the ruling party, the conservative People Power Party (PPP), has 111.

In February, the prosecutor’s office requested Lee’s arrest for alleged links to two other corruption scandals.

The National Assembly had then held a vote and decided not to withdraw his immunity by a single vote. EFE


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