A court rejected an arrest warrant for Lee Jae-myung, head of the opposition Democratic Party of Korea, on Wednesday, citing that it did not see any need or reasons to put him under detention that would exclude the principle of leaving the defendant free during investigations. Judge Yoo Chang-hoon, in charge of handling warrants in the Seoul Central District Court, deliberated the case for 9 hours and 17 minutes starting from Tuesday night until he announced at around 2:23 a.m. the next morning that the arrest warrant request was rejected.
Regarding the allegations that Lee got involved in subornation of perjury and special treatments given to businesses concerned with the Baekhyun-dong development project, the judge concluded that there are no reasonable grounds enough to suspect that he may attempt destruction of evidence given all the personal and physical documentations obtained as of now. Similarly, he decided concerning the suspicions of helping send money from Ssangbangwool to North Korea that it is difficult to suspect that he may destroy evidence considering that he is the current head of the main opposition who can be put under public surveillance and criticism.
Early Wednesday morning, Lee said in a press conference in front of the Seoul Detention Center, “I deeply appreciate the court safeguarding the country’s constitutional order and making a wise decision.” After speaking to the reporters, he returned to Green Hospital in Jungnang District, Seoul where he had been hospitalized to recover from a fast.
Aiming at the administration and the ruling People Power Party, the opposition demanded that President Yoon Suk-yeol make an official apology and Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon step down. The same day the party issued a statement jointly agreed upon by all its National Assembly members, criticizing that the decision sternly made by the court got in the way of political maneuvering. They said in a united voice, “President Yoon should apologize for unfairly targeting Lee and making a reckless attempt to put him under arrest. We demand that Minister Han be sacked immediately for virtually being behind the targeted investigation.
The ruling party, seemingly baffled, pointed a finger at the court, saying, “The rejection of the arrest warrant is not synonymous with Lee being innocent or exonerated. It added that the court surrendered itself to Lee’s avid fans nicknamed “gaeddal.” The presidential office said, albeit ostensibly, that it has nothing to mention regarding the court’s dismissal of the request. However, as it had expected, off the record, that the requested arrest would likely be issued, it appeared somewhat confused internally. An insider said, “We did not see it coming. From the perspective of the administration and the ruling party, the decision will have a negative influence on their efforts to win over the hearts of citizens with Chuseok holidays just around the corner. The presidential office said no to the opposition’s demand for President Yoon’s apology and Minister Han’s resignation. Reportedly, President Yoon did not make any significant comments on the arrest warrant turned down by the court.
The court’s refusal was faced with a backlash from the prosecution as well. Prosecutor General Lee Won-seok told reporters on his way to work on Wednesday morning that he saw a considerable gap between the court’s decision and the prosecution’s viewpoint, suspecting that the focus might have been put merely on granting Lee the right to defense because he leads the party. However, he did not clarify his views of whether another request of an arrest warrant will be made or Lee will be investigated at liberty. Asked if the prosecution plans to request another arrest warrant, he only gave a reply of a mere formality, saying, “We will do our best to have a deeper review of the case to make sure that any criminal act, if found true, is met with proper punishment.”
Sung-Hwi Kang email@example.com