SEOUL, South Korea -- An opposition lawmaker was arrested on Thursday on charges of plotting an armed rebellion to help overthrow the South Korean government in the event of war on the divided Korean Peninsula.
The lawmaker, Lee Seok-ki, who is affiliated with the far-left United Progressive Party, became the first member of the National Assembly to face treason charges since democratically elected leaders replaced the country's past military dictators. The National Assembly had opened the way for his arrest on Wednesday, when it overwhelmingly approved a bill that removed his legislative immunity.
Mr. Lee, 51, was accused of bringing together 130 followers in May to plot an armed uprising in support of North Korea if war broke out between the North and South. The alleged meeting took place at a time when fears of a possible military conflict on the peninsula surged after the North's nuclear test in February, with the North threatening to attack Washington and the South Korean capital, Seoul, with nuclear and missile strikes and South Korea vowing to retaliate.
Mr. Lee and his party have denied the charges against him. They have instead accused South Korea's National Intelligence Service of starting a "witch hunt" to divert attention from accusations that its agents had used an online smear campaign last year to attack political rivals of President Park Geun-hye, who was then the conservative governing party's candidate for the presidential election in December.
A former director of the spy agency is now on trial on charges of ordering such a campaign.
Hours after the bill was passed in the National Assembly to allow the arrest of Mr. Lee, intelligence agents took him from his parliamentary office amid angry protests from his party members and drove him to a jail in Suwon, south of Seoul.
On Thursday, Mr. Lee faced a judge who called a hearing to decide whether to issue an arrest warrant. Mr. Lee again denied treason charges. But the judge, Oh Sang-yong, issued the warrant, saying that Mr. Lee might flee unless locked behind bars. Then the intelligence agency formally arrested Mr. Lee.
Three other members of the United Progressive Party were arrested on the same charges last week. The intelligence service said it was investigating other party members.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.