Major union withdraws UPP support

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Major union withdraws UPP support

The country’s second-largest labor union has withdrawn its support for the Unified Progressive Party, striking a significant blow to the minority liberal party that is on the verge of dissolution.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions held an 11-hour meeting starting on Monday that concluded in a 27-12 vote in favor of withdrawing support for the UPP.

About half of the dues-paying members of the UPP also belong to the KCTU, meaning the move could lead to a mass exodus of party members.

“The UPP’s reform platform didn’t satisfy our conditions to meet public expectations and take on labor issues as a top priority, which we demanded at a conference in May,” the KCTU said in a statement released yesterday. The confederation added that it would stop political donations and sponsorships of UPP events.

In May, the KCTU officially warned that it would no longer support the party if the UPP failed to make significant reforms, which apparently meant the resignation of the candidates who came to office through a rigged primary election.

Two incumbent lawmakers, Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon, have refused to step down from their proportional representative seats while all other candidates involved in the scandal have resigned, frustrating party members. Backed by the party’s largest faction, Lee and Kim have said they won’t step down because they don’t think the primary was rigged.

The KCTU, which had previously maintained close ties to the country’s minor liberal party, is a so-called “major shareholder” of the UPP as roughly 35,000 of the party’s 75,000 dues-paying members also belong to the union.

Many members of the party were already planning to defect, disappointed in the recent botched vote to expel the two lawmakers from the party. The largest faction is still protesting party reform and opposing splits or dissolutions.

The confederation said the decision was “an independent and autonomous one free from any interests of a faction in the UPP,” showing no official support for the minority members’ move to form a new party.

Another meeting was held in the afternoon to discuss whether an alliance will be formed with other labor groups to create a new political party by themselves.


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

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