(LEAD) Tearful opposition leader cries foul over raid on prosecutor’s office

(ATTN: UPDATES with Main Opposition’s decision to reject Yoon’s speech, photo)
By Lee Minji

SEOUL, Oct. 24 (Yonhap) — Seemingly tearful opposition leader Lee Jae-myung cried foul on Monday after prosecutors raided the headquarters of his Democratic Party (DP) as part of a an investigation for corruption which targeted him after the arrest of one of his closest collaborators.

Investigators traveled to DP headquarters to search the office of Kim Yong, a longtime Lee confidant, over allegations that he took 847 million won ($591,000) from property developers in the city. suburban city of Seongnam in violation of the Political Funds Law.

Kim, who was arrested on Saturday, is deputy director of the think tank affiliated with the DP Institute for Democracy. It was the second search attempt at the DP headquarters after a previous attempt failed due to protests from party officials.

“The opposition party central headquarters building was breached in the midst of a parliamentary audit,” Lee told reporters outside the party headquarters. “A terrible incident unprecedented in the history of democracy in the Republic of Korea is unfolding.

While speaking, Lee apparently became in tears, looked up at the sky, and wiped his eyes.

“I hope the people will not forget this scene of history and safeguard the regressing democracy,” he said.

Prosecutors suspect the money given to Kim was used to help fund Lee’s presidential campaign, which lost to President Yoon Suk-yeol by a razor-thin margin in the March presidential election. Lee flatly denied any wrongdoing, saying he had not even received a penny of illegal money.

Earlier in the day, Lee denounced the raid as “violence” against the opposition.

“It is difficult to understand by common sense that a raid was carried out before the president’s parliamentary budget speech,” he said. “It occurs to me that politics is gone and all that’s left is dominance.”

Lee and the DP have called for an investigation by an independent attorney, saying the scandal also involves people close to Yoon. The ruling People Power Party immediately rejected the request, saying Lee was trying to buy time.

The party has threatened to boycott a budget speech Yoon is due to deliver in the National Assembly on Tuesday unless Yoon accepts a special investigation from the prosecutor and apologizes for what the party calls opposition suppression. .

“There is no cooperation. Just threats,” DP representative Jung Chung-rai said, denouncing the prosecution‘s second attempt to raid the DP headquarters. “Unless President Yoon sincerely apologizes, the DP should not hesitate to boycott his budget speech.”

Later Monday, the DP said it could not “accept” Yoon’s budget speech, but refrained from boycotting it.

“We have decided not to accept Yoon’s budget speech, given the attitude of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration that destroys cooperation,” Rep. Oh Yeong-hwan said after a town hall meeting of lawmakers. left. “We will discuss how to refuse it tomorrow morning.”

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