Two high-profile members leave UPP in protest

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Two high-profile members leave UPP in protest

Two high-profile members defected from the problem-ridden Unified Progressive Party, saying the minor opposition party has failed to represent politics for workers.

Kwon Young-ghil, former chairman of the Democratic Labor Party, and Chun Young-se, former lawmaker of the DLP, yesterday issued a joint statement to declare they were leaving the party, in the midst of an increasing number of members leaving the party that failed to resolve the primary rigging scandal.

“It has become clear that the current system of the UPP can’t represent politics for workers,” they said in the statement.

“We feel guilty and sorry for not meeting the public’s expectation about liberal politics and make an apology for it as the first generation of liberal politicians.”

However, they denounced both the main faction and other members, saying “the collapse of the liberals [in the UPP] is a failure of both defectors and remaining members. It’s not the fault of only a certain faction.”

The UPP’s hard-line members of the largest faction are still denying allegations that the March proportional primary was rigged.

The claims were made by the party’s internal affairs team and the prosecution. The UPP regards the allegations as a political attack against them.

Members outside the largest faction, who have collided with them for years due to different policy stances, particularly in dealing with North Korean affairs, were disappointed by the stubborn resistance of the main faction members.

Those outsiders have defected from the party already or are planning to do so. Kwon’s defection is forecast to provoke a mass defection again, because of his strong presence in the party.

The 70-year-old liberal icon formed the DLP in 2000, which is the first minor liberal party in history.

He was also a renowned labor activist who founded the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the nation’s major labor union umbrella group whose members recently defected from the UPP.

Many of the UPP’s hard-line members joined the DLP under Kwon’s leadership and endorsed him in the 2007 presidential election as a DLP candidate, among other high-profile liberal politicians.

In this sense, Kwon’s defection would have a substantial impact on the liberal minority party. Along with the two political heavyweights, roughly 3,700 members of the UPP who were former members of the People’s Participation Party, also defected from the party.

They said in a joint statement that the UPP has failed to reform the party riddled with factional fights.

Led by another liberal icon Rhyu Si-min, a former health minister under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the former PPP members also fought with the largest faction members.

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

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