South Korea’s ruling party is seeking to expel a minor opposition lawmaker from parliament after a court ordered his arrest on suspicion of leading a plot to overthrow the government.
The ruling Saenuri Party, which has 153 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, will submit a motion today calling for the removal of Lee Seok Ki, its spokesman Yoo Il Ho said by phone.
Lee was arrested last night on suspicion of leading a May meeting where members of his United Progressive Party talked about stealing firearms and destroying infrastructure in the South in the event of war with North Korea. During his transfer to a jail after a court issued an arrest warrant for him last night, Lee shouted to reporters that the allegation against him amounted to a “complete fabrication.”
“If what Lee is accused of is true, the public simply can’t accept it,” Lee Ho Chul, a political science professor at Incheon National University, said by phone. “But if authorities fail to prove their allegations in the coming trial, it could spell trouble for them and the government.”
South and North Korea share a heavily armed border and remain technically at war after their 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.
Lee was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in 2003 for his role in a pro-North Korean organization. He was later pardoned. South Korean lawmakers tried and failed last year to oust him from parliament after his own party found irregularities in its primaries.
Expelling Lee from parliament would require approval from two thirds of lawmakers, Yoo said. Earlier this week, the National Assembly, in which the UPP has six seats, voted to lift Lee’s immunity to clear the way for the National Intelligence Service and prosecutors to take him into custody for questioning.
The allegation against Lee and his party has the effect of shifting public and media attention away from the NIS’s alleged intervention in presidential elections last year, professor Lee said.
Former NIS chief Won Sei Hoon is being tried on charges of meddling in the elections in which Park Geun Hye won the presidency. Agents from the intelligence agency allegedly posted comments that criticized opposition figures and praised Park in a bid to influence the outcome.
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