SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to allow the arrest of one of its members accused of conspiracy to overthrow the government and introduce a North Korean-style regime.
Lee Seok-ki, of the far-left United Progressive Party, is under investigation for plotting to overthrow the government and inciting followers to subversion.
Lee, a former student activist, and his party, which has six of 298 seats in parliament, have accused the country’s spy agency of targeting Lee to try to divert attention from a domestic political scandal.
“The NIS has been conducting a medieval witch-hunt with the ominous charge of conspiracy to commit treason against me,” Lee said before the vote, referring to the National Intelligence Service.
Authoritarian and impoverished North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war after their 1950-53 civil conflict ended with a truce, not a treaty.
The South Korean Justice Ministry, which is seeking Lee’s arrest, said it was conducting a legitimate criminal investigation based on evidence and Lee’s conduct at a meeting in May where he made a call to arms to prepare for war.
“Its platform says they will be working to revolutionize the South Korean society under the guiding ideology of Juche,” Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said, referring to North Korea’s state ideology that merges Marxism and extreme nationalism.
South Korean media said Lee, a former student activist who has been previously convicted under the country’s anti-communism law, and his party had plotted to sabotage communications networks and oil refineries.
The party denies the allegations.
Critics of the government probe have accused President Park Geun-hye of resorting to the same tools that her father, Park Chung-hee, used to eliminate dissent when he ruled the country with an iron hand in a drive to build an industrial economy.
Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Nick Macfie