UPP a friend or foe?The Unified Progressive Party (UPP) has officially announced that South Koreans can hardly find fault with North Korea’s imminent plan to launch a long-range missile because it is no different from South Korea’s Naro rocket launch. The statement of the far-left party, which elected former lawmaker Lee Jung-hee as its candidate for the Dec. 19 presidential election, raises a serious question: Isn’t the party a second battalion of North Korean Workers’ Party?
The UPP’s startling comment came right after Pyongyang announced its plan to launch a “commercial satellite” into space. The splinter opposition party’s remarks were made by Kim Mi-hyui, a legislator of the party and spokesperson for Lee’s campaign. Given the leftist party’s exclusive and top-to-bottom culture, the controversial statement could have reflected some directives from its leadership, including Lee Seok-gi, an avid follower of the North’s juche ideology of self reliance.
It is unsettling to think that Lee may reiterate Pyongyang’s persistent claim that the regime merely plans to put a non-military satellite into orbit when she appears in tonight’s first prime-time televised debate with the other two presidential contenders from the ruling and opposition parties. In October, Lee attacked the government’s deal with the United States to extend the range of our short-range missiles to 800 kilometers (497 miles) from 300 kilometers, arguing that it will only worsen our ties with our neighbors by raising tension and armed conflicts on and around the Korean Peninsula. If so, she must first answer a critical question: Why is she so lenient toward the North’s efforts to test-fire a long-range missile capable of striking a target more than 10,000 kilometers away and carrying nuclear warheads?
Lee’s lopsided position creates an uproar at home and abroad. The main opposition Democratic United Party, which has maintained a faintly sympathetic attitude toward the North, urged it to immediately cancel the launch plan, while China’s new leader Xi Jinping stressed that even though Pyongyang retains the right to explore space for peaceful purposes, it is still limited by the United Nations Security Council resolutions. Even the pro-North political party and Beijing defined Pyongyang’s rocket maneuver as a clear violation of international law under the assumption that it has noncommercial purposes.
The UPP has nothing to say when it faces allegations that it probably received an order from the Workers’ Party. But the party has fielded a presidential candidate and received as much as 2.7 billion won ($2.49 million) in subsides from the National Election Commission as it has more than five legislators. Should we accept this uncomfortable reality in the name of democracy?