UPP takes step to tone down pro-North rhetoric

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UPP takes step to tone down pro-North rhetoric

In a move to distance itself from being labeled as pro-Pyongyang, the Unified Progressive Party yesterday announced its reform plan, outlining unprecedented criticism toward North Korea’s nuclear arms programs, human rights abuses and dynastic power succession.

The special reform committee under the emergency committee led by Kang Ki-kab has created a plan, which recommended toning down the left-wing party’s hardcore stance against the United States, while ending its conspicuous silence on North Korean issues.

Admitting that public sentiment toward the UPP has grown cold, Representative Park Won-suk, chairman of the special reform committee, presented the reform tasks to end the factionalism inside the party while redefining the new liberal values and visions.

“We will end the old practices that hindered us in the past,” Park said. “We will lay bare our problems and remove them.”

The reform plan called for the left-wing party to answer the people’s questions about its views toward North Korea, Seoul’s North Korean policy and the Korea-U.S. alliance.

“The party must state its positions more clearly about human rights in the North, Pyongyang’s nuclear arms programs and third-generation power succession,” the reform committee said.

Ending its hardcore members’ support for the North’s argument that its atomic weapons serve the purpose of self-defense against U.S. aggression, the UPP made it clear that it opposes the North’s nuclear development. It said the nuclear arms programs are a realistic threat to the South, and the party must not turn a blind eye to the issue.

The UPP still said Pyongyang’s nuclear development is an outcome of the confrontations between the North and the United States, adding that the priority is mediating an improvement of the two countries’ relationships.

The party also said the North’s human rights conditions are extremely dire and the issue cannot be justified by the peculiar situation of the country.

It also said the dynastic power succession in the North must be criticized based on the principles of democracy, but it is unwise for the South Korean government and political parties to lead the criticism because they need to talk to the communist regime for peace and unification.

The reform plan also called for the left-wing party to reconsider the hardcore progressives’ staunch demands of the immediate withdrawal of the U.S. Forces Korea and the dissolution of the Korea-U.S. alliance.

The committee said the party wants the alliance ended and American troops withdrawn after peace and denuclearization are reached on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, but the goals are often misunderstood as demands for the immediate end of the alliance and troop withdrawal.

The committee also called on the UPP to rethink the role of the alliance in the perspective of the regional security.

Article 44 of the UPP’s platform said the party seeks to achieve the withdrawal of the U.S. forces in Korea, dissolution of the country’s subordinate alliance with the United States in order to change into a multilateral regime of peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia.

“Demands of immediate withdrawal of the USFK and complete rejection of the alliance do not go with public sentiment,” an emergency committee official told the JoongAng Ilbo Sunday. “They are nothing more than just slogans that fail to reflect the reality. To achieve the goals, the East Asia policy of the United States must be taken into account comprehensively, so we decided to approach the matter gradually, not radically.”

The committee also said the party should establish a system to operate the party with transparency and responsibility. To end the deeply rooted factionalism, the committee suggested the factions publicly identify themselves and present their policies.

The reform plan also urged the party to hold open primaries to select its candidates in the presidential and local government elections.

For the legislative elections, the party was recommended to have a system of strategic nominations with the endorsements of party members.

The plan appeared to be influenced by the controversy over the proportional representative primaries’ vote rigging before the April 11 legislative elections.
The committee also recommended the party improve its cooperation with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions for policy consultation.

The report was submitted to the emergency leadership yesterday, said UPP spokeswoman Lee Jeong-mi. “The emergency committee will present it to the next leadership for implementation,” she said.

The UPP will have its chairmanship election next week, and the new leadership will officially launch on June 8. The reform measures, however, could be scrapped if the hardcore members of the party, often labeled pro-Pyongyang, win the party election.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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