The ruling People Power Party (PPP) suspended the membership of former leader Lee Jun-seok for another year Friday in addition to a six-month suspension imposed earlier, effectively thwarting his run in the 2024 general elections.
The PPP's ethics committee made the decision, holding Lee accountable for criticizing President Yoon Suk-yeol and the party with excessive expressions and filing a series of injunction suits against the party's decision to form an emergency leadership committee.
With Friday's decision, Lee's membership will be suspended for a total of 1 1/2 years. In July, the ethics panel imposed a six-month suspension on Lee over allegations he received sexual services as a bribe and attempted to cover it up.
"Lee Jun-seok engaged in harmful acts against the party, breached the party's regulations he should have kept as a party member and drove out the public's support," committee chief Lee Yang-hee told a press briefing following a five-hour meeting.
Lee has openly gone up against President Yoon Suk-yeol and his core associates, after the PPP suspended his party membership in July and launched an emergency leadership committee that automatically removed him from office.
He has since filed a string of injunctions against the party's new leadership and stepped up criticism of Yoon and party leaders, even likening Yoon to "shingunbu," a term that refers to military officers led by former President Chun Doo-hwan, who came to power through a coup and suppressed democracy movements.
The ethics committee launched a second round of a disciplinary procedure against Lee last month, saying he used "insulting, reprehensible" expressions against party members and lawmakers "without objective grounds," and undermined unity and the party's prestige.
But Lee is unlikely to comply. The former chair did not comply with the committee's request for him to attend the meeting and has claimed that he will file a sixth injunction against the party regardless of the decision.
While Friday's verdict is weaker than an expulsion or a three-year membership suspension that some observers had expected, it is likely to deal a blow to Lee's political career by making it difficult for him to receive the party's nomination to run in the general elections scheduled for April 2024.
This may further trigger views that Lee could officially leave the party and form his own. Lee has dismissed such speculation but a poll by Hangil Research released last month showed that 39.5 percent are willing to support him if he forms a new party.
The committee's decision came hours after the Seoul Southern District Court recognized the effectiveness of a PPP emergency leadership committee, dismissing three separate injunctions filed by Lee against the PPP's new emergency leadership committee.
The committee chief Lee said the court ruling did not affect the ethics committee decision in any way. (Yonhap)