South Korean opposition leader ends hunger strike, receives treatment amidst arrest warrant investigation

Lee Jae-myung

23rd September 2023 – (Seoul) Lee Jae-myung, the chief of South Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party, has concluded his 24-day hunger strike and has commenced receiving medical treatment, according to local media reports on Saturday.

The hunger strike, initiated by Lee on 31st August, was presented as a “national resistance” against the perceived incompetence and aggression of incumbent President Yoon Suk-yeol’s government. Lee cited grievances related to economic mismanagement and the government’s failure to oppose Japan’s release of radioactive wastewater, among other concerns.

After a few days of fasting, Lee was admitted to the hospital on Monday. His party disclosed that he was experiencing symptoms of dehydration and dizziness, necessitating medical attention.

Shortly after Lee’s hospitalisation, prosecutors announced their application for an arrest warrant as part of an investigation into allegations of bribery and involvement in a development project. Lee has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in relation to these accusations.

In an unexpected turn of events on Thursday, South Korea’s opposition-controlled parliament voted in favour of a motion, proposed by the government, to lift Lee’s immunity from arrest. This decision potentially paves the way for his apprehension.

A court hearing is scheduled for 26th September, during which prosecutors will present their case for Lee’s arrest warrant.

The developments surrounding Lee’s hunger strike and subsequent hospitalisation have generated significant attention and controversy in South Korea. While some view the hunger strike as a bold act of resistance against the government, others criticise it as a political manoeuvre. The investigation into bribery allegations further complicates the situation, with Lee firmly denying any involvement.