(ATTN: ADDS statement from Democratic Party in paras 6-7)
By Lee Haye-ah
SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk Yeol on Tuesday signed off on a motion requesting parliamentary consent to opposition leader Lee Jae-myung's arrest over bribery and other charges, his office said.
Lee of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) has been accused of breach of trust, bribery and other charges in connection with a scandal-ridden land development project and his alleged involvement in a company's illegal cash remittance to North Korea.
Prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for Lee on Monday, shortly after the opposition leader was taken to a hospital due to deteriorating health on the 19th day of a hunger strike staged to protest the Yoon government's running of state affairs.
The request was sent to the Seoul Central District Court, which delivered it to the government. Yoon signed off on the motion from New York, where he is set to attend the U.N. General Assembly, according to a presidential official.
Following Yoon's approval, the justice ministry submitted the motion to the National Assembly later Tuesday. The motion is expected to be reported at a plenary session Wednesday and put to a vote the following day.
The DP slammed Yoon's decision as an attempt to "kill a political enemy."
"Eight months before the general elections, the government's move to 'kill a political enemy' is heading to the extreme," Rep. Kang Sun-woo said in a statement.
The Assembly's consent is necessary to arrest Lee, because by law, legislators are immune from arrest while the parliament is in session, a measure designed to shield lawmakers from political persecution.
In order for the motion to pass, it requires a majority of the Assembly members to vote and a majority of those voting to cast their ballots in favor.
The motion can be rejected if DP lawmakers vote against it, as the party holds a majority in the Assembly.
If the motion passes, a court hearing will be held to decide whether to issue a warrant to arrest Lee. Prosecutors will likely indict Lee without detention if the motion is rejected in the National Assembly.
Yoon also signed off on the appointments of Kim Dong-cheol, a former four-term lawmaker, as the new CEO of state utility firm Korea Electric Power Corp., and Bang Moon-kyu, the current minister of government policy coordination, as minister of trade, industry and energy.
Kim's appointment is effective Tuesday, while Bang's is effective Wednesday, the presidential office said.
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