(2nd LD) Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup appears to have expressed willingness to resign: source

South Korea's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup appears to have expressed his willingness to resign, a senior government source said Tuesday, amid calls for his impeachment by the main opposition party.

The move came as the main opposition Democratic Party has said it will push for Lee's impeachment over allegations he unfairly interfered with a military investigation into the death of a young Marine.

"I heard that Minister Lee has expressed his intention to resign," the source said. "I understand that he made the decision out of concern for a possible security vacuum amid the recent talks of impeachment."

Another source said Lee appeared to be "very concerned" about the possible vacuum and is considering offering his resignation.

The defense ministry declined to comment on Lee's possible resignation offer.

The presidential office said it would not comment on personnel issues until a decision is made, but one presidential official said President Yoon Suk Yeol "will have no choice but to accept Minister Lee's resignation."

"It's the only way to prevent a prolonged security vacuum," the official told Yonhap News Agency.

Yoon is also expected to carry out a partial Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday affecting the ministers of defense, culture and gender equality.

Lee has recently been under fire over his handling of the Marine Corps investigation into what contributed to the death of Cpl. Chae Su-geun, who was swept away by an overflowing stream during a mission to search for victims of downpours on July 19.

Chae's death sparked criticism that his commanders pushed for the risky operation without safety measures.

The Marine Corps investigation found eight people, including the commander of the 1st Marine Division, responsible for negligent homicide and other charges, and the chief investigator, Col. Park Jung-hun, reported to Lee on July 30 that he will transfer the findings to civilian police as required by law.

Lee approved the decision at first but reversed his decision a day later and ordered Park to hold off on the transfer, citing a need for further review. But Park transferred the records anyway and has since been under investigation on the charge of disobeying orders.

Lee took office in May last year as the Yoon Suk Yeol administration's first defense minister.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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