Exterior view of the National Assembly (unicameral parliament) of the Republic of Korea, in Seoul, South Korea, 29 May 2020. EFE/EPA/FILE/YONHAP (SOUTH KOREA OUT)

South Korean parliament lifts opposition leader immunity amid corruption accusations

Seoul, Sep 21 (EFE).- South Korea’s National Assembly on Thursday approved the withdrawal of immunity of main opposition party leader Jae-myung over his alleged involvement in several corruption cases.

The parliament decided to lift the immunity of the liberal Democratic Party (PD) leader with 149 votes in favor, 136 against, 6 abstentions and 4 invalid votes.

The voting results showed that Lee has lost the support of many party members considering the PD has a parliamentary majority of 167 seats while the ruling party, the conservative People Power Party (PPP), has 111.

The vote came after the prosecutor’s office requested an arrest warrant for Lee.

Lee is accused of corruption involving an urban development plot in Seongnam, a city on the outskirts of Seoul where he was mayor between 2010 and 2018.

Lee allegedly requested a company to transfer about $8 million to North Korean authorities between 2019 and 2020 – a crime in South Korea without prior authorization – to obtain an invitation to visit the country.

At that time, Lee was governor of Gyeonggi, the province that surrounds Seoul and the most populous in the country with more than 13 million inhabitants; and was emerging as a candidate for the 2022 presidential elections, defending rapprochement between the two Koreas.

The loss of immunity paves the way to a court to grant the arrest warrant.

Lee, who has claimed innocence and been on hunger strike for three weeks to protest against the South Korean government’s policies.

In February, the prosecutor’s office requested Lee’s arrest for alleged links to two other corruption scandals.

The National Assembly had then held a vote and decided not to withdraw his immunity by a single vote, which proved that his leadership had started to crack. EFE