Ideology shiftIn their general election campaign, the New Jinbo Party has recommended improving conditions for workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and better human rights on the Korean Peninsula. The party has also promised to help South Koreans kidnapped by the North and prisoners of war from the Korean War (1950-1953) still in the North.
This party was created by lawmakers of the so-called “people’s democracy” faction of the Democratic Labor Party. It includes Roh Hoe-chan and Sim Sang-jeong, who revolted against the party’s pro-North Korea stance.
The upfront reference to human rights in North Korea by a progressive party is a meaningful change in attitude.
Left-wing progressive forces created the Democratic Labor Party in January 2000. The party proudly stepped into the National Assembly during the 2004 general elections with two representatives elected in the districts and eight by proportional representation -- the party won 13 percent of the votes.
But the “national liberation” faction that dominated the party was buried in pro-North Korean ideology, creating conflict with supporters. While declaring that they fought for workers’ rights and the poor in South Korea, they remained silent on human rights in the North.
Two months after the crushing defeat of the liberals in the presidential election last December, Sim put forward a reform measure, insisting on the expulsion of two senior party members accused of espionage and passing information to the North. But the party representatives rejected this measure.
The birth of the New Jinbo Party shows that anachronistic ideologies such as “national liberation” can no longer represent progressive forces.
This holds true for other groups. Hanchongryon, the Federation of All-Korean University Students, is a left-wing student organization led by national liberation ideology. This group actually lacked candidates for its chairmanship for the first time in its 16-year history, and its elections were called off. This may be due to a general decline in student activism, but it also signifies the decline of radical ideological struggles.
The New Jinbo Party defines its change as the “reformation of progressive forces.” This is the right course, but their policies should not stop at just differentiating themselves from the Democratic Labor Party to win votes.
They should fight against human rights abuses in the North Korea, nepotism, concentration camps, poverty and oppression.