Tearful opposition leader cries foul over prosecution raid

October 24, 2022

 An apparently tearful opposition leader Lee Jae-myung cried foul Monday after prosecutors raided the headquarters of his Democratic Party (DP) in a corruption investigation that is zeroing in on him after the arrest of one of his closest aides.

Investigators made their way into the DP headquarters to search the office of Kim Yong, a longtime confidant of Lee, over allegations that he took 847 million won (US$591,000) from property developers in the suburban city of Seongnam in violation of the political fund law.

Kim, who was arrested Saturday, is deputy head of the DP-affiliated Institute for Democracy think tank. It was the second attempt to raid the DP headquarters after an earlier attempt fell through due to protests from party officials.

“The central headquarters building of the opposition party was violated in the middle of a parliamentary audit,” Lee told reporters in front of the party headquarters. “A terrible incident unprecedented in the history of democracy in the Republic of Korea is happening now.”

While speaking, Lee apparently became tearful, looked up at the sky and wiped his eye.

“I hope the people will not forget this scene of history and safeguard the regressing democracy,” he said.

Prosecutors suspect the money given to Kim was used to help fund the presidential campaign of Lee, who lost to President Yoon Suk-yeol by a razor-thin margin in the March presidential election. Lee has flatly denied any wrongdoing, saying he did not receive even a penny of illegal money.

Earlier in the day, Lee denounced the raid as “violence” against the opposition.

“It is hard to understand from common sense that a raid was conducted ahead of the president’s parliamentary budget speech,” he said. “It comes to my mind that politics are gone and all that’s left is domination.”

Lee and the DP have called for an independent counsel probe, claiming the scandal also involves those close to Yoon. The ruling People Power Party immediately rejected the request, saying Lee is trying to stall for time.

The party has threatened to boycott a budget speech that Yoon is scheduled to deliver at the National Assembly on Tuesday unless Yoon agrees to a special prosecutor investigation and apologizes for what the party calls suppression of the opposition.

“There is no cooperation. Just threats,” DP Rep. Jung Chung-rai said, denouncing the prosecution’s second attempt to raid the DP headquarters. “Unless President Yoon sincerely apologizes, the DP should not hesitate to boycott his budget speech.”

Later Monday, the DP said it cannot “accept” Yoon’s budget speech but stopped short of boycotting it.

“We have decided not to accept Yoon’s budget speech, given the Yoon Suk-yeol administration’s attitude of destroying cooperation,” Rep. Oh Yeong-hwan said after a general meeting of party lawmakers. “We will discuss how to refuse it tomorrow morning.”

Main opposition Democratic Party Chairman Lee Jae-myung speaks during the party's Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly on Oct. 24, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)
Main opposition Democratic Party lawmakers attend an urgent general meeting of lawmakers at the National Assembly following a prosecution raid of party headquarters on Oct. 24, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Main opposition Democratic Party Chairman Lee Jae-myung speaks during the party’s Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly on Oct. 24, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)