Lee Jae-myung, the head of the main opposition in South Korea, was admitted to the hospital on Monday following a 19-day hunger strike in protest of the government’s policies, according to his party.
Prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for him in connection with corruption allegations hours after he was admitted to the hospital.
The government’s “incompetent and violent” policies, including its failure to object to Japan’s release of treated wastewater from the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor, are what prompted Lee, 58, to start his hunger strike on August 31.
In photographs and videos, Lee, a former candidate for president, appeared frail and pale. Prosecutors continued to try to arrest him despite his admission to the hospital.
South Korea’s Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon said in a parliamentary session that whether or not to fast and how to fast are personal decisions that should not interfere with the investigation or the case.
“Wouldn’t everyone, including minor offenders, start fasting when they get a summons notice if a precedent is set that affects investigations and trials?”
Regarding a company that is allegedly involved in sending $8 million to North Korea illegally, prosecutors have charged Lee with bribery.
He is also accused of violating his obligations, which is said to have cost Seongnam city’s company 20 billion won ($15 million) during his tenure as mayor.
Lee disputes each and every charge.
Lee’s parliamentary immunity would have to be lifted by the 300-member National Assembly, where the Democratic Party—led by Lee—holds the majority, in order for a judge to consider the prosecution’s request for an arrest warrant.
The arrest warrant, according to Lee’s party, is “clear evidence of how violent and oppressive” President Yoon Suk Yeol’s regime is, it said in a statement. Lee’s party criticized the most recent development.
In February, the National Assembly previously rejected a demand for an arrest warrant.
As soon as Lee regains his health, the opposition People Power Party will be willing to discuss Lee’s concerns about policy with him. The People Power Party has asked Lee to break his fast.
In part by emphasizing his rags-to-riches story, Lee, a former child factory worker who suffered an industrial accident as a teenage school dropout, rose to political stardom.
However, a number of scandals have cast a shadow over his campaign for the top job. A dubious land development deal and persistent rumors connecting him to organized crime brought him under fire.
At least five people, some of whom appeared to have committed suicide, who were connected to Lee’s past scandals have been discovered dead.
In the presidential race from the previous year, Yoon defeated him by a 0.7% margin.