Consent for opposition leader arrest reported to Assembly

February 24, 2023

A motion requesting parliamentary consent to opposition leader Lee Jae-myung’s arrest was reported in the National Assembly on Friday in the last step ahead of a vote on the motion next week.

Lee, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), faces corruption and bribery charges in connection with development projects and donations to a municipal football club dating back to his time as the mayor of Seongnam, south of Seoul, from 2010-2018.

Last week, prosecutors sought a warrant to arrest him, marking the first such move ever against a leader of the country’s largest opposition party. The justice ministry has since asked for parliamentary consent to his arrest as required by law to detain a lawmaker while parliament is in session.

Such consent is necessary in order to arrest lawmakers while the Assembly is in session.

The Assembly is scheduled to put the motion to an anonymous vote on Monday under a law that stipulates that such a motion be put to a vote within the following 72 hours but after the elapse of 24 hours.

Main opposition Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung attends the party's Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly on Feb. 24, 2023. (Yonhap)
Main opposition Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung attends the party’s Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly on Feb. 24, 2023. (Yonhap)

Lee has rejected all allegations as fabrication, claiming there is no evidence he received illicit money.

DP floor leader Park Hong-keun again denounced the motion on Friday, calling it a politically motivated warrant that “will be shamefully recorded in history as tyranny.”

With the DP holding majority power in parliament, controlling 169 out of the 299 seats, the request is unlikely to pass parliament.

The ruling People Power Party (PPP) has urged Lee to give up his immunity from arrest and show up for a court hearing on the arrest warrant. It has also criticized the DP for opening temporary parliamentary sessions to protect its leader from arrest.

“Chairman Lee says there is no evidence and he is confident, then he should receive that judgment in front of a judge,” PPP floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young said.

If prosecutors fail to win parliamentary consent to Lee’s arrest, their arrest warrant request against him is automatically dismissed. In that case, prosecutors are widely expected to indict the opposition leader without detention.

In a parliamentary speech, Rep. Lee Eun-ju, the floor leader of the minor opposition Justice Party, also called on Lee to give up his immunity as he promised during the presidential election campaign last year.