Photo: Lee Jae-myung (center) gives a statement after the prosecutors' application for his arrest was denied. Credit: Yonhap.
A court denied the arrest warrant application for Lee Jae-myung 이재명, reviving the liberal leader’s political fortunes. The Democratic Party chairman 민주당 대표 had faced potential arrest after a significant portion of his own party voted to approve the arrest amid internal dissension ahead of next April’s Assembly Election. (See previous coverage, “Mutiny Against Lee.”) On September 27, however, the Seoul Central District Court 서울중앙지방법원 denied prosecutors’ application for an arrest warrant, following a nine-hour hearing and seven hours of deliberations that began the previous day.
Judge Yu Chang-hun 유창훈 판사 found that prosecutors failed to present any direct evidence of Lee’s alleged involvement in a real estate development in Seongnam, Gyeonggi-do Province 경기도 성남, where he formerly served as mayor, or in the Ssangbangwool Group 쌍방울 그룹’s payment of USD 8m to North Korea. The court also ruled that Lee posed no risk of flight or evidence-tampering, such that prosecutors’ application for an arrest warrant should be denied to protect Lee’s right to defend himself before the court.
Following the ruling, Lee, who is recuperating from a three-week hunger strike, proposed a summit meeting with President Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 대통령 to discuss the economy and pocketbook issues. Yoon, who has to date been the only president to refuse entirely to meet with the opposition leader, declined again. The ruling People Power Party 국민의힘 called the court’s decision “bizarre and self-contradictory,” and said “the judiciary bowed down before Lee Jae-myung’s fans.”
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party held selected Assembly Member Hong Ik-pyo 홍익표 as the new Floor Leader 원내대표 in an internal election, replacing Park Gwang-on 박광온, who resigned after a number of liberal assembly members voted to approve Lee Jae-myung’s arrest. Hong, a three-term legislator, is considered a moderate Lee Jae-myung ally who will be the party’s chief representative in the National Assembly 국회.