UPP needs drastic reformKang Ki-kab, former interim leader of the embattled Unified Progressive Party, has been elected the new leader of the party after a nationwide vote. A member of a smaller reformist faction of the liberal party, Kang won by an overwhelming margin over his rival from the radical mainstream faction. The old faction has often created controversy with its support of North Korea’s juche, or self-reliance, philosophy. The group was criticized for its role in vote-rigging during their primary to pick proportional representatives ahead of the April 11 election. With their departure from the control tower, the party now has the opportunity to reform.
Despite citizens’ support for the party - it received 10.3 percent of the vote in April - its approval rating has plunged almost by half, mostly owing to a critical lack of fundamental values as a political party, as evidenced by massive fraud and corruption in the voting process, a collective use of violence against party leadership, a repeatedly malfunctioning Internet voting system and the vehement refusal by then Representatives-elect (now sworn-in) Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon to obey the party’s decision to oust them, not to mention Lee’s notorious negation of our national anthem.
A large number of voters still express deep worries about the party’s radical platform, including its persistent calls for the dissolution of the traditional Korea-U.S. alliance and the pullout of U.S. forces in Korea.
The reform drive led by Kang must begin with restoring the basics of democracy - addressing the issue of ejecting both Lee and Kim from the party and re-establishing the rule of democracy in the party. As the new faction had vowed to amend the party’s radical agenda, it must put them into action and revamp its extreme slogans such as the persistent call for the disintegration of chaebols.
Then there’s the controversy tied to the North. Under such grim circumstances, progressives in the south must throw away their blind allegiance to the self-reliance ideology and instead concentrate their energy on enhancing ordinary citizens’ lives.
One of the best ways to do that is putting a top priority on protecting the underprivileged class, narrowing the economic polarization and expanding social safety networks. As UPP’s new head, Kang must pay back the debt he owes to voters by leading reform efforts in a drastic - and rational - manner.