Crime & Justice

South Korean prosecutors request arrest warrant for opposition leader

Seoul, Sep 18 (EFE).- South Korean prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for the main opposition party leader, Lee Jae-myung, who faces several charges including fraud and bribery.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office made the request shortly after Lee, 58, was taken to a hospital due to deteriorating health as his hunger strike in protest of the policies of conservative President Yoon suk-yeol’s government entered the 19th day.

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.

A court hearing on the arrest warrant can only be held once it is approved by the parliament as under South Korean law, a lawmaker’s arrest requires parliamentary approval.

In February, the parliament, where the DP has a clear majority, approved by one vote to reject the prosecution’s request to arrest Lee, whom the prosecutors accused of being linked to two other corruption scandals.

Lee, who has been questioned several times by the prosecution, has claimed he is innocent, arguing that it is a politically motivated investigation by the office of President Yoon Suk-yeol, who was the country’s prosecutor general between 2019 and 2021 and who defeated Lee in the May 2021 presidential election by just a few hundred thousand votes.

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