Indictment of DP leader Lee Jae-myung roils political waters
Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle wrangled over Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Lee Jae-myung’s indictment during the Chuseok holidays as President Yoon Suk-yeol’s approval rating inched up by less than half a percentage point in the latest weekly Realmeter poll.
Last Thursday, prosecutors indicted Lee for violating election laws by making false statements about controversial land development projects while running for president.
Lee, a former presidential candidate for the DP, was defeated by the People Power Party’s Yoon last March in Korea’s tightest presidential election.
In June, Lee was elected to the National Assembly by Incheon’s Gyeyang-B district. At the end of August, he was named DP leader by a party convention.
People Power Party (PPP) lawmakers have accused Lee of seeking elected office to get immunity from prosecution. Lawmakers can’t be arrested or detained while the National Assembly is in session unless more than half the assembly gives consent.
Fishy profit structures at two controversial land development projects, called Daejang-dong and Baekhyeon-dong, were troublesome issues for Lee during the presidential campaign, although Lee denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors summoned Lee for questioning on Sept. 6, two days before the indictment, but Lee didn’t show up. Instead he submitted written responses.
The statute of limitations for possible charges on election law violations would have expired on Friday midnight.
After prosecutors indicted Lee without physical detention, they told reporters they had evidence indicating Lee intentionally lied about the scandals.
The DP blasted the Yoon administration for taking “political revenge” on Lee to divert public attention from its own problems, calling the indictment move “political repression” worse than that of the authoritarian governments of Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan in the 1960s through the ‘80s.
The DP last week already filed a complaint with the prosecution against President Yoon for making false statements during the presidential campaign about stock manipulation allegations involving his wife, first lady Kim Keon-hee. The liberal party is also pushing for a special probe on the allegations against the first lady.
In response to Lee’s indictment, the PPP said, “What goes around comes around.”
“The prosecution’s indictment is a common-sense decision that shows everyone is equal before the law, even the chairman of a majority party in the National Assembly, and that if [someone] commits a crime, they should be punished without exception,” said Rep. Park Hyeung-soo, a PPP spokesperson.
Park urged the police and prosecution to get to the bottom of “every case” linked to Lee.
One major issue of contention in the scandals is whether Lee knew Kim moon-gi, a key figure in the Daejang-dong development project, during his time as Seongnam mayor.
In a television interview on Dec. 22, Lee denied knowing Kim while serving as Seongnam mayor and only got to know him after he became Gyeonggi governor.
But photos were released by local media showing Lee with Kim and several other people during an overseas business trip in January 2015, when Lee was Seongnam mayor.
Kim, head of the Seongnam Development Corporation’s project development team, had been under investigation over allegations of preferential treatment tied to the Daejang development project.
Kim was found dead in an apparent suicide on Dec. 21.
Meanwhile, a Realmeter poll published Sunday showed Yoon’s approval rating rose by 0.3 percentage point last week to 32.6 percent compared to a week earlier, thanks in part to his government’s response to Typhoon Hinnamnor.
Yoon’s disapproval rating also dropped by 0.3 percentage point to 64.6 percent.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]