A party at a crossroads

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A party at a crossroads

The shameful violence of the mainstream faction of the Unified Progressive Party that broke out at an intraparty meeting last Saturday poses a fundamental threat to liberal politics in Korea. It is a downright attack on our democracy, far beyond controversies over the massive vote rigging in a primary for proportional representatives in the last general election.

The core sect of the party not only obstructed the meeting of the Central Steering Committee but also grabbed a co-chair by the collar, yanked his hair and even tore apart his jacket in defiance of an investigation by a truth-finding committee. Another co-chair, Rhyu Si-min, had his glasses broken in the brawl after denouncing the corruption. Later, the meeting was put off indefinitely in a chorus of insults and yelling.

The severity of the incident rings sharp alarm bells since it destroyed the principle of democracy as did the excruciating violence in 1987 when an organized gang was hired to sabotage the establishment of the Unified Democratic Party. Even in the days of authoritarian government, however, nothing like party members resorting to violence occurred. Popular liberal pundit Chin Jung-kwon compared it to the “frenzy of a cult group.”

After the truth-finding committee labeled the rigged primary a “colossal fraud,” the Central Steering Committee recommended that all the party’s executive members and representatives-elect step down. After that, four co-chairs resigned, but the party is still in limbo faced with the mainstream faction’s vehement refusal to accept an emergency leadership committee and the resignation of the representatives-elect. If the members are in a normal political party, they must cooperate with the investigation. Yet the mainstream faction still shuns any responsibility for the fraud in what amounts to tyranny.

Was it right for the main opposition Democratic United Party to form a policy coalition with the UPP and is such a blind political alliance good for the country? Is it also OK for such a disparate mixture to continue a perilous cohabitation until the presidential election in December? And, with the 19th National Assembly convening soon, should citizens keep paying taxes to subsidize the monstrous entity? A reported 10.3 percent of voters supported the UPP, but can such a morally bankrupt party take the helm of progressive politics in the future?

The mainstream faction must respect the decision of the majority, and the elected proportional candidates must bow out. A credible emergency committee should take over to address the crisis.

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