South Korean opposition leader hospitalised during hunger strike as prosecutors seek arrest warrant over corruption allegations

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Lee Jae-myung

19th September 2023 – (Seoul) Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the Democratic Party of Korea, has been hospitalised on Monday after days of engaging in a hunger strike to protest against government policies, while prosecutors are actively pursuing an arrest warrant against him on charges of corruption.

Having commenced his protest on 31st August, Lee cited various grievances including the government’s economic mismanagement, threats to media freedom, and its failure to oppose the release of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The former presidential candidate was admitted to a hospital from the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday morning, as his party confirmed that he was suffering from dehydration and dizziness.

Kim Gi-hyeon, the head of the ruling People Power Party, has appealed to Lee to cease his fasting, expressing his readiness to engage in discussions with the opposition leader regarding policy matters.

Shortly after Lee’s hospitalization, prosecutors announced their request for an arrest warrant, as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of corruption involving a development project and instances of bribery.

Prosecutors have accused Lee of neglecting his duty, leading to losses of 20 billion won ($15 million) incurred by Seongnam Development Corporation during his tenure as mayor of Seongnam city.

Additionally, Lee is facing accusations of bribery in connection with a company suspected of illegally transferring $8 million to North Korea.

Lee vehemently denies any wrongdoing, dismissing the allegations as “fiction” and labelling them a “political conspiracy.”

In order to review the prosecution’s request, a Seoul court requires the approval of the 300-member parliament, where the Democrats currently hold a majority.

It’s worth noting that a previous request for an arrest warrant was rejected by the parliament in February.

Lee suffered a defeat in the 2022 presidential election, losing to President Yoon Suk Yeol, a former prosecutor-general, by a narrow margin of 0.7%.