Hardcore UPP faction to pick its own leaders
The schism in the opposition Unified Progressive Party widened yesterday after its largest faction rejected an emergency leadership appointed last weekend - and said it would form its own leadership council for the party.
The pro-North Korean faction of the party, the Gyeonggi Dongbu Allliance, criticized the interim leadership of Representative Kang Ki-kab appointed over the weekend. It said it would appoint its own interim leadership by today. They particularly condemned the leadership’s demand that two of the faction’s proportional representatives to the National Assembly give up their positions after revelations that the March primary that elected them was rigged.
In the April 11 general elections, the UPP won seven geographical constituencies and six proportional representative seats. Among the six proportional representatives-elect, three were candidates chosen through the rigged primary, while the other three were appointed.
While Yoon Geum-soon, a farmer-turned-politician, gave up her proportional representative seat in the upcoming National Assembly, Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon, both members of the hard-line faction, refused to do so.
Revelations of the primary rigging threw the party into crisis and prompted its leadership to step down. A Central Steering Committee last Saturday chose a new interim leadership, but the hard-line faction disrupted the meeting. In the resultant melee, one former co-chair, Cho Joon-ho, sustained a serious neck injury which required surgery on Wednesday.
The Gyeonggi Dongbu Allliance denies that the primary was rigged.
In a press conference Wednesday, Kang said the top priority of his emergency council will be to persuade all 14 proportional representative candidates elected in the rigged primary to step down. He continued to pressure the hard-liners yesterday.
“I will meet with Lee and Kim today and make earnest appeals to persuade them to forfeit their lawmaker positions,” Kang said. “I have a faith that Lee and Kim will accept the party members and the people’s demands.”
Kang did not rule out the possibility that the party may kick them out if they continue to resist. “Even if I have to get on my knees, I will try to persuade them,” he said. “And I will make a decision by collecting the opinions of the public and party members.”
Even if the party expels them, Lee and Kim will be able to keep their lawmaker posts without the UPP affiliation.
“Stepping down means a catastrophe,” Lee said in an interview with the YTN Radio yesterday morning.
He also denied that he has promulgated the ideology of the Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance, the progeny of a pro-North Korean student activist group, over the previous decade. “It is a fiction,” he said, blaming the conservative media for spreading lies.
He also dismissed any connection with North Korea. “I didn’t have any connection in the past,” Lee said. “And I have no connection with the North today.”
Lee said the small faction of the party brought on the violence at the Central Steering Committee by pushing through the emergency council plan against his faction’s wishes.
Kang said there was only one leadership representing the UPP and described the hard-liners’ plan as a frontal assault on the party.
Other senior members of the party also said they approved the Central Steering Committee’s decision to reform the UPP under Kang’s interim leadership. In a joint press conference yesterday, three former chairmen of the Democratic Labor Party, a predecessor of the UPP, said they support Kang’s emergency council.
Calling the crisis within the UPP a crisis for liberal politics, they urged Kang’s leadership to lay bare the UPP’s shortcomings and resolve them with fundamental reforms.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the country’s largest left-wing coalition of labor unions, is one of the largest powers inside the UPP. The confederation yesterday held its Central Steering Committee meeting to decide its next move. If it decides to withdraw support for the UPP or leave it, its 45,000 members who joined the UPP will defect from the party, a huge loss for the minor opposition party.
By Ser Myo-ja [firstname.lastname@example.org ]