UPP members gripe about leaders

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UPP members gripe about leaders

Members of the Unified Progressive Party are openly complaining about the hard-line pro-North Korea faction following allegations that Representative Lee Seok-ki and associates plotted a rebellion against the South Korean government.

Posts appearing on the UPP Web site’s bulletin board, which is only open to party members, criticized the pro-North Korean stance of Lee and his associates.

A party member identified by the username “Defection” wrote, “I was so disappointed with Lee Seok-ki when he said [last year] that the Aegukga [the official national anthem of South Korea] is not the national anthem of our country.

“I was so disappointed with Lee, whom I had never heard of, and who has a childish sense of politics,” Defection wrote. “I think our party will have no future with this kind of a lawmaker.”

At a meeting with reporters in June 2012, Lee said he disapproved of Korea’s national anthem.

A party member named Choe Tae-jun wrote on the board that it was shameful that the party was stigmatized as “pro-North Korea.”

“If you ask the people around you what they think about the UPP, I’m sure more than 90 percent of them would say UPP members are ‘Commie’ or insane,” Choe wrote. “However, we have our own causes, and we should pursue them within the boundaries of the law.”

A member with the username “Janggo” wrote, “If we want to sincerely help the public … we should refrain from an excessive pro-North Korea attitude. Criticizing North Korea’s faults doesn’t mean that we are not liberal.”

In fact, a number of UPP members who disagreed with the pro-Pyongyang stance of the party’s core faction, so-called Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance, already left the party in the spring of 2012, when the UPP was under fire for alleged rigging of a primary before the April 2012 general election.

In that allegedly rigged primary, Representative Lee, known as the ring-leader of the far-left faction, obtained the largest number of votes and was named a proportional representative in the National Assembly.

At its worst, about 2,000 members defected from the party every day because party leaders, including current Chairwoman Lee Jung-hee, denied the rigging of the primary. At the time, seven of the party’s 13 lawmakers left the party because of the Gyeonggi Dongbu faction to form the Progressive Justice Party, and an estimated 19,000 members left, most of them defecting to the new party.

The rift in the UPP stems from ideological differences among party members, mostly former student activists in the 1970s and 1980s who were against the Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan dictatorships.

The Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance was formed by former university activists who studied in underdeveloped areas in the eastern region of Gyeonggi, particularly Seongnam City and the Yongin campus of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. They were radically anti-U.S. and pro-North Korea.

They keep those positions today, claiming that the only way to reunify the two Koreas is to kick out U.S. forces and support the North Korean regime.

“The mentality and the language of the underground organizations founded in 1970s or 1980s still remain in the party,” a UPP member told the JoongAng Ilbo on the condition of anonymity yesterday.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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