Opposition leader blames prosecution for death of former aide
SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) leader Lee Jae-myung on Friday blamed the prosecution for the death of one of his former chiefs of staff, saying he cannot forgive what he calls the prosecution's "excessive" investigation.
The former aide, surnamed Jeon who served as Lee's chief of staff during his term as the Gyeonggi governor, was found dead in an apparent suicide at his home in Seongnam, south of Seoul, on Thursday. If confirmed, Jeon would be the fifth person around Lee to commit suicide since corruption allegations involving Lee surfaced in 2021.
Jeon is known to have undergone questioning by prosecutors in recent months in connection with allegations of Lee's third-party bribery surrounding corporate donations to the municipal football club Seongnam FC. He left a suicide note in which he reportedly urged Lee to give up politics.
"This happened because of the prosecution's investigation that applied excessive pressure, not because of Lee Jae-myung," the DP chairman said in a party meeting. "The way the Yoon Suk Yeol prosecution conducts investigations is a hunt. It picks a target, and the hunt never ends until the target is caught."
Lee said Jeon was the "most upright, most diligent, most dedicated and most capable public servant" he has ever met, claiming that he appears to have taken his own life because the prosecution kept on fabricating evidence.
"If prosecutors use state power for political retaliation, they are gangsters, not prosecutors," Lee said.
Lee has denounced the prosecution's investigation into his corruption allegations in a high-profile land development scandal and corporate donation case, claiming his innocence.
But Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, newly elected chair of the ruling People Power Party (PPP), questioned Lee's suitability as the DP leader, saying people cannot understand the deaths of those related to Lee.
PPP floor leader Joo Ho-young refuted Lee's claim they died because of the prosecution's excessive investigation, saying the deceased did not make claims of torture or cruel treatment.
"Five people have died because of one person's efforts to keep his place," PPP's top policymaker Sung Il-jong said, calling on Lee to take responsibility for the tragic deaths.
U.S. military stages 'Elephant Walk' training with F-16 fighters
S. Korea slams N. Korea's planned satellite launch, warns of consequences
(LEAD) Japanese warship arrives in S. Korea for multinational WMD-interception naval drill
N. Korea open to high-level talks with Japan if Tokyo unshackled by past: vice FM
(LEAD) N. Korea says it will launch 1st military spy satellite in June