PPP chief left hanging on sex bribe discipline deliberations
The ethics committee met at the National Assembly Wednesday evening to review whether Lee violated his duty to maintain the standards required of a party leader.
Lee faces allegations that he received sexual services paid for by a businessman in 2013 and abetted an attempt to destroy evidence.
The allegations were raised by a right-wing YouTube channel last December, which accused Lee of receiving sexual services twice in Daejeon in return for a business favor, arranged by Kim Sung-jin, founder and CEO of startup i-KAIST. Kim has been serving a nine-year prison sentence for fraud since 2018 in a separate case.
Lee entered politics in 2011 as a member of the conservative party's interim emergency leadership committee upon the recommendation of former President Park, at the time earning the moniker of one of "Park Geun-hye's kids."
The channel later reported that Lee attempted to cover up any scandal through Kim Cheol-geun, his political affairs chief, who promised an investment of 700 million won ($560,000) to an informant surnamed Jang in exchange for a statement claiming there had not been any sexual favors. Jang, who claims to be a witness to Lee's sexual services, provided a statement to the YouTube channel allegedly handwritten by Kim pledging the money.
The PPP's nine-member ethics committee began disciplinary action against Lee on April 21.
This marks the first time the party chairman's behavior has been referred to an ethics committee.
The committee is chaired by Lee Yang-hee, a child psychology professor from Sungkyunkwan University and a former UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.
After deliberating on the case for five hours Wednesday, the committee delayed any decision to July 7 to give the PPP chairman a chance to explain himself.
It also decided to launch a disciplinary procedure against Lee's aide Kim Cheol-geun, who was summoned as a witness, for allegedly destroying evidence.
Lee Jun-seok, in turn, expressed disgruntlement at the delay, saying it was not conducive to the running of the party.
Lee said Wednesday he had been on standby throughout the day waiting to give his side to the ethics committee but never got the chance.
"Every member of the PPP knows that this lengthy procedure will not help the chaos within the party at all, and I'm curious as to why it's taking so long," said Lee.
The committee's decision could put Lee's political career on the line. It could also cause a shift in leadership, with the party already divided into factions.
The actions the committee can take against Lee range from a light warning, a recommendation he quit the party, a suspension of party membership or an expulsion.
A separately police investigation on the allegations is ongoing.
Lee has denied the allegations and also filed a criminal complaint for defamation against the YouTube channel makers.
Lee's two-year term as chairman runs to next June.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]