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Fate of yet another progressive heavyweight hangs in balance

Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung (Yonhap)
Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung (Yonhap)

The political life of yet another progressive heavyweight will be decided Thursday, with the Supreme Court set to make the final ruling on Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung’s case.

Lee is on trial on charges of abuse of power and violating the Public Official Election Act for spreading false information.

The charge of abuse of power concerns allegations that he used his authority as the mayor of Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, to institutionalize his brother against his will in 2012. The alleged Public Official Election Act violation occurred in 2018 during a televised debate ahead of the local elections where he stated that he had no part in his brother being admitted to a psychiatric ward.

Lee was acquitted of both charges in the initial trial. The prosecution appealed the ruling, and Lee was found guilty of spreading false information and fined 3 million won ($2,500). Under local regulations, an election is ruled invalid if the winner is sentenced to prison or levied a fine of more than 1 million won.

According to the Supreme Court, whether or not hiding some information can be legally considered as spreading false information is central to Lee’s case.

For his part, Lee claimed in a social media post that not providing information being considered as providing false information violates the Constitution.

If the Supreme Court upholds the previous sentence, Lee will lose his post, and the ruling Democratic Party would lose yet another potential presidential contender.

While former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon is considered the most likely presidential candidate for the ruling party, the Gyeonggi Province governor has a large support base and has been considered a potential candidate for some time.

Lee’s potential downfall could be the third time a high-profile progressive politician falls from grace since President Moon Jae-in took office in 2017.

In 2018, former secretary of South Chungcheong Province Gov. Ahn Hee-jung was accused of using his authority to rape his secretary on numerous occasions. The accusation, which was raised by the victim live on television, led to an investigation and Ahn is currently serving a prison sentence of three years and six months.

The most recent progressive heavyweight to fall was the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. Facing sexual harassment allegations, Park took his own life on July 9.

Park was accused of sexually harassing his secretary over the course of several years, making unwanted physical contact and sexual advances.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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