South Korea’s main opposition leader Lee Jae-myung was hospitalised Monday after 19 days on hunger strike to protest against government policies, his party said.
Hours after he was transferred to hospital, prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for him over corruption allegations.
Lee, 58, launched his hunger strike on August 31, over what he calls the government’s “incompetent and violent” policies, in particular its failure to protest against Japan’s release of treated wastewater from the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor.
Lee, a former presidential candidate, looked pale and weak in media footage. His transfer to hospital did not stop prosecutors from seeking to arrest him.
“Whether to fast or not and how to fast is a matter of personal freedom, but it should not affect the investigation or trial,” South Korea’s Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon told a parliamentary session.
“If a precedent is set that affects investigations and trials, wouldn’t everyone, including petty criminals, start fasting when they receive a summons notice?”
Prosecutors have accused Lee of bribery in connection with a firm that is suspected of illicitly transferring $8 million to North Korea.
He is also accused of breaching his duties, which allegedly resulted in a loss of 20 billion won ($15 million) for a company owned by Seongnam city during his term as its mayor.
Lee refutes all the allegations.