Main opposition leader Lee calls summons ‘inappropriate’

September 2, 2022

Main opposition Democratic Party (DP) leader Lee Jae-myung on Friday called the prosecution’s summons of him an “inappropriate” attempt to find fault with him after his party condemned the investigation as “political revenge.”

Lee, who lost to President Yoon Suk-yeol by a razor-thin margin in the March presidential election, was asked to appear for questioning by next Tuesday as part of a probe into allegations he lied during the presidential campaign last year.

The main opposition has denounced the summons as “political revenge” against Lee and the party, while a close aide to Lee referred to it as “war” in a text message sent to him that was caught on press cameras.

“After failing to find fault despite dusting me through inside out, they are nitpicking with something absurd. It is inappropriate,” Lee told reporters during his visit to the southwestern city of Gwangju, the home turf of the liberal bloc.

“It seems they have found something in my words after mobilizing the police and prosecution full scale for a long time to attack me with.”

Lee called on the Yoon government to better use its power, hinting the summons may be politically charged.

“The power entrusted by the people should be used to make their lives better, look after their livelihoods and overcome crises,” he said.

Lee did not respond to whether he plans to attend the summons.

Rep. Lee Jae-myung, new leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, speaks during a party supreme council meeting in the southwestern city of Gwangju on Sept. 2, 2022. (Yonhap)

Rep. Lee Jae-myung, new leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, speaks during a party supreme council meeting in the southwestern city of Gwangju on Sept. 2, 2022. (Yonhap)

During a party meeting of supreme council members, the new DP leader pledged to adhere to his promise to build a winning party and protect democracy.

“I pledge to transform the party to a competent and strong DP, and change our frustration and despair into hope and passion, no matter what,” he told a party supreme council meeting, vowing to lead the party to victory in the general elections scheduled for 2024.

Lee, who was elected the DP’s new leader in a landslide victory Sunday, thanked supporters in the region for their votes and said he will take it as an “order to resuscitate crumbling livelihoods and guard democracy.”

Lee is under investigation on suspicion of violating the election law by making an allegedly false claim about a controversial 2015 land development project last October when he was the DP presidential candidate.

Lee told a parliamentary session at the time that the developer of the Baekhyeon-dong project in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, was given special treatment at the request of the land ministry, but the then opposition People Power Party (PPP) disputed the claim, saying the favor was voluntarily awarded by the Seongnam municipal government when Lee was the city’s mayor.

Lee is also accused of making a false statement about a development scandal in Seongnam’s Daejang-dong district that centers on allegations that the city government made dubious arrangements that allowed an asset management firm to collect astronomical profits from the project.

Lee said during a media interview in December that when he was Seongnam’s mayor, he did not know Kim Moon-ki, who took care of the Daejang-dong project as an official of the Seongnam Development Corp. under the city government.

But a civic group accused Lee of lying, saying the two went on an overseas trip together when Lee was mayor and filed a complaint asking the prosecution to investigate Lee on charges of spreading false information ahead of the presidential election.

According to legal sources Friday, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office had attempted written questioning of Lee over the alleged election law violation last month.

But in the absence of Lee’s response to a questionnaire sent to him, prosecutors have decided to summon him to give him a chance to defend himself ahead of the expiration of the statute of limitations for the case next Friday, the legal sources noted.

The DP rejected the claim, saying Lee had submitted written answers in two of the three cases under investigation and was preparing to submit answers for the remaining case when the subpoena arrived.

“It is suspected that the prosecution has already set its plan to indict” Lee regardless of the results of the questioning, DP spokesperson Park Sung-joon said in a text message to the press. “This is clear oppression against the opposition party and political retaliation.”