UPP must shed dissident mantleThe Unified Progressive Party (UPP) secured 13 seats in the 300-seat legislature after the April 11 election. Considering the fact that it can form a coalition with the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) comprising 127 seats, the party can no longer be overlooked when it comes to making laws. It now needs to devise the kind of platforms and leadership suitable for its newfound status. But by judging its response to the recent rocket launch by Pyongyang, which Seoul and the international community have condemned as a long-range missile test, the party does not appear to have outgrown its rebellious streak. Instead of joining the chorus of condemnation, a spokesman for the UPP said it opposes any further international sanctions. But even the main opposition DUP criticized the North for making “various wrong” choices, while the New Progressive Party, which split from the Democratic Labor Party, also urged the North to stop playing dangerous military games.
The UPP’s platforms on security and North Korea are quite alarming. The party wants the Korea-U.S. security alliance dismantled and U.S. troops withdrawn from the country. It also opposes sending Korean forces overseas, and demands that construction be halted on a naval base in Jeju. The party has also vowed to scrap the nation’s reserve forces, which were established in 1968 after a special combat team from the North attempted to assassinate the South Korean president. The reserve forces have helped shore up awareness of the threat posed by the North, but the party views them as a hangover from former undemocratic and totalitarian regimes. In a society like Israel, which deals with interracial conflict on a daily basis, the UPP would never have survived this long.
Meanwhile, Lee Jung-hee, one of the party’s leaders, baffled the public during a radio interview by declining to comment on whether the 1950-53 Korean War was sparked by an invasion from the North. Lee Seok-gi, who joins the legislature as a proportional representative from the party, previously endured a prison sentence for his involvement with a pro-North Korean activist group. The party is irking many people with its policies and members. We agree that we must demonstrate more efforts in dialogue and aid to engage the North as a member of international society, but we must make the country relinquish its military ambitions and provocations first. On the defense and security front, parties must unite regardless of their ideological differences. This would be the most effective way of helping North Korean citizens.