Court issues request to arrest lawmaker

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Court issues request to arrest lawmaker

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Three UPP members (from left), UPP Gyeonggi chapter vice chairman Hong Soon-seok, Gyeonggi Progressives Alliance advisor Lee Sang-ho and UPP’s Suwon city former chapter chairman Han Dong-geun, being taken to vehicles yesterday after hearings at the Suwon District Court to decide whether detention warrants should be issued to hold them during further investigation. [NEWSIS]

A court in Suwon yesterday issued an arrest consent request to the National Assembly targeting an opposition lawmaker accused of conspiring to overthrow the government. The action came only hours after the National Intelligence Service completed raids at the home and office of Representative Lee Seok-gi.

The Suwon District Court’s arrest consent request for Lee, a proportional representative of the Unified Progressive Party, was issued because the National Assembly must approve in advance a waiver of immunity that sitting lawmakers enjoy while the Assembly is in session.

The Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office said it would send the court’s request to the Ministry of Justice, from where it will go to President Park Geun-hye for her approval. The Assembly will then vote on the matter.

Three alleged accomplices have already been the targets of warrants for pretrial detention filed Thursday. They are members of the UPP who were implicated in the same allegations of rebellion that Lee faces.

As of yesterday evening at press time, the court was still reviewing the request for detention orders. The three are Hong Soon-seok, the vice chairman of the UPP’s Gyeonggi chapter; Han Dong-geun, a former chairman of UPP’s Suwon city chapter; and Lee Sang-ho, an advisor to the Gyeonggi Progressives Alliance.

In a move to bolster their case for the warrant for the lawmaker, prosecutors submitted a dialogue transcript from a meeting of a UPP faction calling itself the Revolutionary Organization. The meeting was held on May 12 at a religious group’s education center in Mapo District, central Seoul. More than 130 participants were at the meeting, including Lee and nine other UPP members whose offices and homes were all searched by the intelligence service on Wednesday.

The transcript released by prosecutors contains some eyebrow-raising expressions of loyalty to the Communist regime in North Korea, as well as the determination to assist the North in the event of a war by destroying infrastructure such as oil storage facilities and police stations and urging participants to arm themselves with explosives.

“We need to prepare for [an upcoming battle] with the determination to bring an end to U.S. imperialism and U.S. military presence [on the Korean Peninsula],” Lee was quoted as saying at the meeting. “The North Korean regime is a legitimate governing body. Its behavior is entirely patriotic, and thus they deserve rewards, while everything done in the South is an act of treason.”

“Let’s drive out all these Yankees and build up a new model of a self-reliant society in which there is no exploitation and pretension .?.?. How honorable will that be if we are on the front lines to bring about revolutionary reunification?” asked Lee.

“Let’s bring an end [to the status-quo]. And let’s brace for an upcoming battle that will change the chapter of history and let’s be proud, for it will be done by our own hands,” he continued.

Other participants at the meeting also expressed impassioned support for North Korea should war break out.

“In the event of war or other emergencies, it will be imperative to disrupt communications lines, and gas and oil supplies,” said Lee Sang-ho, according to the transcript. “The most effective strategy is to destroy a control center for railroad systems. For disrupting communications, the biggest communications center is at Hyehwa Station, and the next biggest one is in Bundang.”

“On the question of how we are going to arm ourselves, we can upgrade an imported 800,000 won [$720.406] BB gun into a lethal weapon with some changes,” Lee was quoted as saying. “The world’s biggest oil storage tank is in Pyeongtaek, and its protective wall is nickel alloy that is 90 centimeters [35.4 inches] in thickness .?.?. it cannot be penetrated by a bullet.”

Lee held a press conference in front of his National Assembly office at 7:30 p.m. yesterday.

“I did attend a UPP faction meeting on May 12, when tensions between South and North Korea soared and an outbreak of war seemed like a reality,” Lee said.

“I asked the participants what they would do if such a war broke out. Would they just sit down and do nothing or make a contribution to lasting peace here?”

“I can accept criticism for having different thoughts on geopolitics from others, but it is preposterous to accuse me of a rebellion conspiracy.”

The authorities say the Revolutionary Organization, nominally a hiking club, is part of the UPP and has conducted nationwide efforts to bring down the government.

The ruling Saenuri Party pushed for a quick “yes” vote on Lee’s arrest.

“The latest scandal surrounding Assemblyman Lee over a plot to rebel is just horrible in its nature,” Saenuri’s floor leader, Choi Kyung-hwan, said yesterday. “It is a grave matter of national security, [thus] the Assembly must consent to the arrest. I expect the opposition [Democratic United] party to be bipartisan on this.”

To give Assembly consent, at least half the sitting Assembly members must be present to vote, and more than half of those present must vote in favor of Lee’s arrest.

The Democratic Party had no comment on its position on the scandal, which implicates a smaller party it called an ally in the 2012 Assembly election. Kim Han-gill, the party chairman, added that it would continue to push for an investigation of NIS interference in last year’s presidential election.

The United Progressive Party vehemently denied that Lee was involved in any insurrection plot.

“The meeting was merely a gathering of UPP members with Lee Seok-gi as a lecturer,” Hong Sung-kyu, the UPP spokesman, said yesterday. “Lee did not make a single remark at the meeting implying that he planned a rebellion scheme.”

“All the contents of the transcript were distorted by the NIS,” he continued. “We say there is no content implying an attempt at rebellion.”

“We did not sing a North Korean military anthem,” said Kim Hong-yeol, the head of the UPP’s Gyeonggi branch at a press briefing yesterday afternoon. “We did not discuss disrupting social infrastructure and arming ourselves with guns.”

BY KANG JIN-KYU, KANG IN-SIK [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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