(ATTN: UPDATES with resignation of ethics committee member in para 6)
SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- A text conversation between senior members of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) discussing the possibility of expelling former Chairman Lee Jun-seok was caught on press cameras Monday, raising speculation the party may hand down the heaviest disciplinary action in an upcoming meeting.
The text messages, caught on press cameras during a general meeting of lawmakers, shows emergency committee chief Chung Jin-suk and Rep. Yoo Sang-bum, a member of the party's ethics committee, discussing disciplinary action against Lee.
In the messages, Chung said the party should take heavy disciplinary action against Lee, while Yoo said the party should expel him if he is indicted over allegations that he received sexual bribery and attempted to cover it up.
The conversation was caught one day after the PPP began a second disciplinary process against Lee for making remarks hurting his own party. In the first disciplinary action in July, Lee saw his membership suspended for six months over the sexual bribery allegations.
Following the revelations, Chung claimed the conversation took place on Aug. 13 before he took over as chair of the emergency committee and had nothing to do with the ongoing disciplinary action against Lee.
Amid the political kerfuffle, Yoo resigned from the ethics committee, saying the controversy transpired due to his "mistake" and the committee should not face any doubts over its impartiality and objectivity.
The protracted row was seen as a duel largely between Lee and key confidantes of President Yoon Suk-yeol.
After Lee was suspended, the party formed an emergency leadership committee. The move was seen as aimed at removing Lee as party leader, because the emergency committee replaced the then Supreme Council led by Lee, who was automatically removed from office.
Lee filed a series of injunction suits against the emergency committee, and a Seoul court ruled in favor of him last month, making the emergency committee invalid.
The party did not back down and launched a new emergency committee led by Chung.