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Democratic Party of Korea asks prosecutors to investigate Yoon

President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks to reporters at the lobby of the presidential office in Yongsan, central Seoul, on Monday morning. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks to reporters at the lobby of the presidential office in Yongsan, central Seoul, on Monday morning. (Yonhap)

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea reported President Yoon Suk-yeol to Seoul prosecutors on Monday, claiming that his denial of criminal allegations surrounding first lady Kim Keon-hee during the election campaign amounted to promulgation of false information.

The Democratic Party filed a report asking the prosecutors’ office to look into whether Yoon had lied while he was a presidential candidate by saying his wife, Kim, was not culpable in the Deutsch Motors stock price manipulation scandal.

The party’s spokesperson Rep. Park Sung-joon told reporters that “while President Yoon as a candidate had denied the allegations related to stock price manipulation, they are turning out to be true.” “In which case he would have violated election laws by promulgating false information,” he said.

The Constitution exempts presidents from criminal prosecution during his term of office unless the offense concerns insurrection or treason.

The party spokesperson said seeking a criminal investigation of the president was “a politically symbolic gesture.” “It wouldn’t go through now, but after five years (of his term as president) he can be investigated,” he said.

Also on Monday, the Democratic Party called a meeting of its members and decided to seek a passage of laws to launch a special counsel investigation of the first lady.

The party’s floor leader Rep. Park Hong-keun’s argued that the police and prosecutors were “going easy on the first lady” and that an “impartial investigation appointing a special counsel appeared to be necessary.”

He added that the party has “come to an almost unanimous decision” to ask its legally embattled leader, Rep. Lee Jae-myung, to resist prosecutors’ request to summon him for questioning.

“Whether to accede to the request is up to him, but he is likely to accept the decision reached by the rest of the party,” he said.

On the day of the new National Assembly session on Friday, prosecutors asked to call Lee in for questioning after police handed his case over for possible indictment earlier that week.

Lee, who ran against Yoon in April’s presidential election as the Democratic Party candidate, is under investigation over a controversial real estate development project he had undertaken while he was mayor of Seongnam, a city in Gyeonggi Province.

In a parliamentary questioning in October last year, Lee said he was “pressured” by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to have a commercial apartment complex built in an area which had been initially cleared for public housing.

Large amounts of the profits from the project were later found to have gone to private business people, who are suspected of having close ties to Lee.

The police have concluded that there is no evidence suggesting the Land Ministry had pressured anyone into the decision. The ministry had also immediately denied the claims raised by Lee.

The ruling People Power Party immediately hit back in a statement saying that the opposition was “sowing distrust of law enforcement authorities” by claiming that the police or prosecution were not being fair.

“Allegations raised against the first lady had already been scrutinized by prosecutors under the Moon administration’s Justice Ministry,” the party said, referring to the ministry under former President Moon Jae-in.

The Democratic Party leadership has been demanding a special counsel investigation of the first lady, saying that the police and prosecutors were “politically influenced” and “biased.”

Most notably, Kim is under investigation by the police over allegations that she fabricated her credentials to land faculty positions at universities.

Her stock dealings have also come under scrutiny in connection with the ex-chairperson of Deutsch Motors, Kwon Oh-soo, who was arrested last year over suspicions of violating capital market law. Kwon allegedly manipulated stock prices using over 1 billion won ($742,000) financed by Kim between 2012 and 2013.

After Yoon's election, she has also sparked ethical questions after her personal friends and acquaintances were found to have been given jobs at the presidential office.

By Kim Arin (arin@heraldcorp.com)

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