Opposition floor leader calls for unity ahead of leader’s questioning

SEOUL-- The floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party on Thursday urged supporters and party members to stand together for party leader Lee Jae-myung as he plans to appear before prosecutors for questioning over development corruption allegations next week.

Lee said Thursday he will appear at the Seoul Central District Office on Jan. 28 for questioning over allegations involving a high-profile property development project in Daejang-dong in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, launched while Lee was serving as mayor of Seongnam.

Lee, who underwent 12 hours of questioning last week as part of a separate investigation into bribery allegations linked to a football club in Seongnam, has claimed innocence and branded the probes as a politically motivated attempt at removing him.

"I believe that the people and party members will come together so that Chairman Lee can bravely overcome the unjust oppression," DP floor leader Park Hong-keun said in a party policy coordination meeting.

Park denounced the prosecution for attempting to charge the party leader without evidence.

"The prosecution, which has failed to find any evidence for the past 16 months, is repeating groundless allegations through the media to bind the leader of the main opposition party," he said.

Claiming that there has been no such case of insulting an opposition leader in history, Park claimed that the prosecution is bent on removing Lee.

He also urged President Yoon Suk Yeol to stop suppressing the opposition party and playing power games and instead focus on livelihood and economic issues.

The ruling People Power Party (PPP), however, ramped up its criticism of the opposition leader in connection to another corruption probe involving Kim Seong-tae, a business tycoon who recently returned to Seoul after months on the run over several high-profile corruption allegations.

Kim, former chairman of underwear maker Ssangbangwool Group, faces multiple charges, including embezzlement, bribery and the illegal transfer of cash to North Korea.

He is also alleged to have paid attorney fees when Lee was standing trial for an election law violation in 2018 when he was the governor of Gyeonggi Province. Several large law firms were appointed at the time, and Lee was eventually acquitted.

Both Lee and Kim have denied the allegations, saying they are not acquainted.

PPP leader Chung Jin-suk claimed that the former Ssangbangwool chairman helped then governor Lee in return for business favors, stressing that the alleged transfer of cash to the North is an "act of treason."

"This is an act of treason that outrightly violates the U.N. sanctions against the North. It is an incident in which Lee's Gyeonggi Province and Kim's Ssangbangwool bribed Kim Yong-chol, the main suspect behind the sinking of the Cheonan warship," Chung said, referring to the former chief of Pyongyang's United Front Department.

PPP spokesperson Yang Kum-hee accused the opposition leader of using his power as party chairman to defend the probes by the prosecution.

Source: Yonhap News Agency