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South Korean lawmakers back arrest of colleague on treason charges

SEOUL — The National Assembly of South Korea on Wednesday voted to allow the arrest of an opposition lawmaker on charges of plotting treason in a case that rekindled fears not only of a pro-North Korean rebellion but also about the actions of a powerful intelligence agency that has been long accused of meddling in domestic politics under the pretext of hunting Communists.

The lawmaker, Lee Seok-ki, a member of the minor United Progressive Party, was accused of gathering 130 followers, some of them drunk and with small children, in two secret late-night meetings in May to plot an armed rebellion in support of the North in case of war. North Korea had heightened military tensions earlier this year by declaring that it would no longer honor the 60-year-old cease-fire that halted the Korean War in 1953.

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In one of the meetings, which lasted till 2 a.m. on May 13 at a religious retreat in Seoul, Lee, 51, said that war could be imminent on the divided Korean Peninsula and that his followers should prepare themselves for a “revolution” against “the world’s most powerful American imperialists” and achieve “a new reunified fatherland,” according to the National Intelligence Service’s charges against him.

“Lee Seok-ki is an enemy of South Korea,” said Kim Jin-tae, a lawmaker from the governing Saenuri Party, calling on fellow legislators to support a bill authorizing the arrest of Lee on Wednesday.

“This is a medieval witch hunt,” Lee told the Assembly, denying hatching a plot to overthrow the South Korean government through an armed rebellion and accusing the intelligence agency of “mobilizing conservative news media” to discredit him and his party.

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