2 controversial UPP reps attend opening ceremony

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2 controversial UPP reps attend opening ceremony


Lee Seok-gi, left, and Kim Jae-yeon, second from right, proportional representatives from the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party, sing the national anthem yesterday at the opening ceremony of the 19th National Assembly. Lee recently caused controversy when he said there is no national anthem in Korea. [YONHAP]

The two newly elected lawmakers of the minor opposition party yesterday attended the swearing in portion of the opening ceremony of the new National Assembly, despite the controversy surrounding their positions.

Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon, who are among the four members of the Unified Progressive Party refusing to forfeit their offices in the wake of an allegedly rigged primary, were sworn in at the new legislature yesterday in Yeouido, western Seoul.

They are at the center of the controversy over the vote-rigging allegations of their proportional primary in March, in which 20 UPP members won seats.

So far, 16 of them have resigned after a party’s internal probe team concluded the primary was manipulated, but the remaining four candidates, including Lee and Kim, who were elected as proportional representatives in the April general election, refused to step down and said the allegations are a political attack against them.

The party’s interim leadership’s spokeswoman, Lee Jeong-mi, yesterday said that they will hold a vote to make a final decision on whether to expel the four members from the party on Thursday.

The party’s disciplinary committee approved the move in their first and second trials.

Out of the party’s 13 new lawmakers, 11 will cast ballots in the Thursday vote - except Lee and Kim, whose voting rights have been suspended by the leadership, spokeswoman Lee said.

For the expulsion to occur, a majority of the 11 lawmakers need to vote in favor of it.

The party’s sources told reporters that out of the 11 lawmakers, four are from the largest faction backing Lee and Kim, and five are from a smaller faction demanding their exit. The remaining two are outside the factions.

Still, even if Lee and Kim are expelled from their party, they can keep their legislative seats as independents under the current law.

The ruling Saenuri Party and main opposition Democratic United Party are taking steps to introduce a bill to specifically evaluate Lee and Kim’s qualifications. Once they propose the bill to the legislature, it will be discussed at a plenary session next month. If more than two-thirds of the incumbent lawmakers agree, the bill will be implemented and they will be expelled from the legislature.

When it comes to the halted leadership election, the party’s interim council said they will launch a new vote between July 9 and 13, after struggling with their malfunctioning online voting servers.

By Kim Hee-jin[heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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