[Photo by Kim Ho-young]
South Korea’s National Assembly on Thursday passed a motion to arrest Lee Jae-myung, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, after an unexpected number of the controlling party members voted for the move.
The motion was approved by 149 lawmakers and opposed by 136 lawmakers during a plenary session, with six abstained and four invalid votes in a secret ballot with 295 votes cast.
In February, when the first motion for Lee’s arrest was rejected, there was one more vote in favor, but it fell short of a majority.
With the passage of the motion, a court hearing will be held to determine whether to grant the prosecution’s request for an arrest warrant for Lee, who is facing bribery and breach of duty charges in connection with a land development project and a company’s illegal cash remittance to North Korea.
Lee, who is currently hospitalized, had sent a message on the day before calling for the vote to be rejected, and his supporters sent text messages urging Democratic Party lawmakers to reject the motion.
Political insiders believe that Lee’s message before the vote had caused a backlash from the non-mainstream faction lawmakers within the party.
Despite facing criticism, Lee continued his hunger strike while appearing to be reversing his earlier statement about giving up his immunity from arrest.
On Thursday, Park Kwang-on, the floor leader of the Democratic Party, offered to step down to take responsibility for the passage of Lee’s arrest motion.
Lee So-young, the floor spokesperson for the party, told reporters that regarding the motion for Lee’s arrest, “the leadership had requested members to vote against the motion, but we feel regretful that the results came otherwise.”
She went on to explain: “As of now, the entire floor leadership has resigned, with Secretary-General Cho Jeong-sik and all members of the parliamentary staff under his office all expressing their intention to resign.”
Prior to the vote, the Democratic Party forced through a proposal to dismiss Prime Minister Han Duck-soo.
With President Yoon Suk Yeol expected to veto the motion, the dismissal motion proposed by the Democratic Party received 175 votes in favor and 116 against.
By Lee Sang-hoon, Seo Dong-cheol, and Yoon Yeon-hae
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]