Opposition leader Lee asked to appear again for questioning

January 16, 2023

Prosecutors have asked Rep. Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), to appear again for questioning in a corruption investigation less than a week after he was quizzed in a separate bribery case.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office asked Lee to show up for questioning on Jan. 27 as part of an investigation into corruption allegations involving a high-profile property development project, according to legal sources.

The case centers on the allegations that a private asset management company, Hwacheon Daeyu, was allowed to reap huge investment profits from the development project in Daejang-dong in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, launched while Lee was serving as the Seongnam mayor.

Prosecutors suspect Hwacheon Daeyu was able to collect about 404 billion won (US$327 million) of profits from the Daejang-dong project thanks to dubious arrangements approved by then Mayor Lee. Lee is suspected of breach of trust during the process.

Lee is also suspected of involvement in the alleged wrongdoing by Jeong Jin-sang, a longtime close confidant of his. Jeong was indicted for allegedly providing the partners with business favors in exchange for their promise to give him dozens of billions of won in kickbacks.

Jeong was also suspected of taking election funds from them.

Last week, Lee underwent 12 hours of questioning as part of a separate investigation into allegations that the Seongnam city government attracted 17 billion won in corporate donations to its municipal football club in return for administrative favors between 2016 and 2018 while he was the mayor.

It was not immediately known if Lee would comply with the planned questioning.

He has vehemently refuted allegations surrounding the development project, saying he has “not taken a penny for personal interest.” Lee has also accused the prosecution of a politically-oriented investigation.

Prosecutors are reportedly considering combining the two separate cases involving Lee to file for an arrest warrant for him following the second round of questioning.

Even if prosecutors seek an arrest warrant for him, Lee is expected to avoid arrest because, by law, prosecutors need parliamentary consent to arrest a lawmaker while the assembly is in session, and the National Assembly, where the DP has a majority, is expected to refuse to consent to Lee’s arrest.

Democratic Party Chair Rep. Lee Jae-myung (C) gives a speech during a forum at the National Assembly on Jan. 16, 2023. (Yonhap)
Democratic Party Chair Rep. Lee Jae-myung (C) gives a speech during a forum at the National Assembly on Jan. 16, 2023. (Yonhap)