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Launching hunger strike, opposition chief says Yoon is ‘ruining Korea’

By Kim Arin

Published : Aug. 31, 2023 - 17:25

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Democratic Party of Korea leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung sits inside a tent installed outside the National Assembly building on Thursday, as he stages an indefinite hunger strike in protest against the Yoon Suk Yeol administration. (Yonhap) Democratic Party of Korea leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung sits inside a tent installed outside the National Assembly building on Thursday, as he stages an indefinite hunger strike in protest against the Yoon Suk Yeol administration. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s legally troubled main opposition leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung announced he was going on an indefinite hunger strike on Thursday, his first anniversary in office as chairman of the Democratic Party of Korea, saying President Yoon Suk Yeol was “ruining the country.”

At a press conference, Lee said stopping Yoon from “undermining democracy, destroying the Korean middle class and failing to stand up against the Japanese government” was a “life or death matter.”

He said that as the leader of the opposition, he too was “responsible for loss of livelihoods and collapse of democratic order” more than a year into Yoon's presidency.

With this hunger strike, he said he was opening what would be a nationwide protest against Yoon and his administration.

“Together with the people, I am kicking off a national protest against the incompetent administration in power,” he said.

He demanded the president apologize to Koreans for his “assault on democracy” and reshuffle his Cabinet for a “complete makeover” in how his administration is running the country.

He also said Yoon must take a stand against Japan’s “pollution of our waters with the discharge of radioactive wastewater” and file a case against the Japanese government with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

The hunger strike announcement comes as he is due to appear before prosecutors for the fourth time this year in a string of criminal charges against him, two for which he is being tried in court.

Lee said he was a victim of a “political vendetta” being waged by the president, whom he ran against as the Democratic Party candidate in the presidential election last year. On the ongoing investigations, he claimed he was “being stalked by prosecutors.”

Minister of Justice Han Dong-hoon, appearing at the National Assembly on Thursday, said the opposition leader’s hunger strike would not affect the remainder of the investigations against him or his aides.

For the past several months, he has been under trial for his possible role in a public real estate development project from which his close aides are accused of illicitly benefiting. In a separate trial, he is being accused of making false testimony before the Assembly as a presidential candidate over the same project.