South Korean lawmakers "voted overwhelmingly" to support the arrest of one of their colleagues on Wednesday after he was accused by the country's intelligence service of trying to overthrow the government if war broke out with North Korea, Reuters reports.
South Korea's National Assembly voted to approve the arrest of 51-year-old Lee Seok-ki (above), a member of South Korea's far-left United Progressive Party, for charges of "sedition and praising North Korea," according to The Wall Street Journal. In South Korea, a legislator can only be arrested pending approval from his fellow lawmakers while the Assembly is in session. Three other members of the party were arrested last week following raids of party offices last week. So the charges have to be grand enough, with enough evidence presented by the National Intelligence Service, to really drive home the point.
Lee is primarily accused of rounding up 130 members of his United Progressive Party, "some of them drunk and with small children," according to The New York Times, for two secret meetings last May when the tensions between the North and South were at their highest, and plotting to attack the country's communications systems and oil refineries. The Times has the details:
In one of the meetings, which lasted till 2 a.m. on May 13 at a religious retreat in the South Korean capital, Seoul, Mr. Lee, 51, said that war could be imminent on the divided Korean Peninsula and that his followers should prepare themselves for a “revolution” against “the world’s most powerful American imperialists” and achieve “a new reunified fatherland,” according to the National Intelligence Service’s charges against him.
At one point, he said the manual for making the pressure cooker bomb used in the Boston Marathon attack was available on the Internet....
Another member suggested attacking South Korea’s communications, oil, train and other key facilities in case of war. The man, Lee Sang-ho, suggested turning “toy guns” into arms. But he also called the idea of buying sniper rifles and using hacking skills to attack military radar facilities “outlandish.”
Lee claims the charges are simply an effort by the ruling Saenuri Party to silence critics and distract from a separate domestic political scandal. "The NIS has been conducting a medieval witch-hunt with the ominous charge of conspiracy to commit treason against me," Lee told his fellow legislators before they voted to approve his arrest.
Fellow members of the United Progressive Party, which holds six of the 298 seats in parliament, are passing what Lee said at the meetings off as jokes, claiming the NIS are taking his comments out of context to discredit the party. Party head Lee Jung-hee said the comments about sabotaging state facilities were "like jokes and were laughed away." "If this is treason, we are living in a society no one can dare crack a joke." she said.
Too bad the rest of parliament didn't buy that excuse.