UPP needs a major overhaulAs the world changes, so should its vision. Germany’s Social Democratic Party was founded in 1869 on the dream of creating a worker-led political power based on the pro-revolution sentiments of Karl Marx. It was oppressed under the Nazi government of Adolf Hitler, but regrouped after the end of World War II. Due to its radical ideology, the party fell out of public favor for much of the postwar period.
It returned to the political central stage and won back public support by implementing a series of progressive reforms according to social changes and needs. With the Godesberg Program it announced at the national convention in 1959, the party sought to reach a broader voting base by veering toward a centrist platform. It departed from Marxist hostility to capitalism and a fixation on the working class. Instead it sought freedom, justice and social solidarity for a broader population to build a social democracy. The new platform was born after a long, difficult debate, but ended up transforming the party into one of the largest parties in Germany.
We witnessed a bizarre political incident when four members of the splinter Unified Progressive Party kicked themselves out the party. The four members took part in the vote to expel themselves from the party, which is the only way for them to maintain legislative seats after they depart from the party. The four members won legislative seats through proportional representative nomination from the party. Under the law, proportional representatives lose seats if they quit the party, but can retain their office if they are expelled. It is a cunning method to jump ship without losing the legislative seat, but may have been inevitable for progressive members to divorce from pro-North Korean forces being scolded by the public for their illegal and outmoded ways. UPP head Kang Ki-kab and other lawmakers from the progressive and labor front decided to leave the party and create their own after Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon of the pro-North Korean faction, who won their seats in an allegedly rigged proportional representative primary, refused to relinquish their seats. Lee is now stuck on a sinking ship with just six other members on board.
The new seven-member party with a union and civilian foundation should model itself after the Social Democratic Party’s open-mindedness, creativity and legitimacy. Korean progressive parties have been stigmatized as violent, militant, knee-jerk, anti-government, anti-American and pro-North Korea. They have often created an eyesore by resorting to violence. The new party that runs on taxpayers’ public finances should define its South Korean identity in its platform, pledge allegiance to the flag and sing to the national anthem as ordinary South Korean citizens do. It must pledge to serve the Korean people and country, not any other ideology, if it wants to win back liberal voters.