09/20/2023, 19.46
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New arrest motion against opposition leader on hunger strike

Lee Jae-myung, head of the Democratic Party of Korea, is accused of corruption, which he has always denied. He was hospitalised two days ago. Meanwhile, his party has tabled a motion calling on the prime minister to resign. In a deeply divided country, confidence in the Yoon Suk Yeol administration is sinking, driven by its failure to oppose Japan’s release of radioactive waters from the Fukushima plant in the name of the détente with the former colonial power.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) –South Korea’s ruling party, the People Party (PP), today presented a motion in Parliament calling for the arrest of progressive-leaning opposition leader Lee Jae-myung, while the latter’s party, the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) has tabled a motion, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Han Duck-soo. Both motions will be put to a vote in a plenary session tomorrow.

DPK leader Lee Jae-myung has been accused of a series of crimes. He was hospitalised two days ago after going on a hunger strike three weeks ago to protest against what he calls an "incompetent and violent" government.

Some of the allegations Lee faces date back to his time as mayor of Seongnam (2014-2017), a city south of Seoul, and involve charges of abuse of office, bribery, and illegal cash remittance to North Korea.

Under South Korean law, MPs enjoy parliamentary immunity and may not be tried without the consent of the National Assembly.

 Despite the election of conservative Yoon Suk Yeol to the presidency last year, the DPK retains a majority in South Korea’s National Assembly with 167 seats out of 297. As a result, a motion to lift Lee’s immunity was defeated back in February.

It is not clear, however, how lawmakers will vote tomorrow, especially since former President Moon Jae-in visited Lee in hospital yesterday and asked him to end his hunger strike.

Lee himself has said in recent months that he does not expect his party to protect him.

The DPK instead filed a motion calling for Prime Minister Han Duck-soo’s resignation, accusing him of incompetence when he was chief of staff and blaming him for what the failures of the Yoon administration, like South Korea’s response to Japan's release of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant and the mismanagement of last month's World Scout Jamboree

Some political commentators expect President Yoon to reject the opposition’s motion if it is approved by parliament, which he did when the DPK majority vote to have Foreign Minister Park Jin and Home Secretary Lee Sang-min dismissed.

For the DPK, Yoon’s decision to go along with the motion for Lee's arrest while he was in New York at the UN General Assembly meeting was particularly galling. For DPK spokesperson Kang Sun-woo, Yoon’s approval of the arrest motion amounted to “signing a death warrant for a political rival” and “amounts to a declaration asking an opposition party leader to ‘die already’.”

Lee lost to Yoon, a former prosecutor, in last year’s presidential election by a razor-thin margin and has been under criminal investigation ever since.

He has rejected all the allegations, calling the Yoon administration "a dictatorship by prosecutors" in which the judicial system is used to intimidate and discredit political opponents.

In recent weeks, Yoon, whose approval ratings have dropped considerably since his election, has stepped up attacks on progressives, comparing some of them to "anti-state forces”, accusing others of colluding with North Korea or spreading "fake news."

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