Nothing ‘normal’ about the UPPThe National Assembly has approved a request to arrest Unified Progressive Party Representative Lee Seok-ki on charges of plotting a rebellion against the state. The legislature has applied the conspiracy charge to an incumbent lawmaker for the first time in Korea’s modern political history. The National Intelligence Service will summon him for interrogation after the arrest warrant is served. After the NIS investigates his motivation for creating a nationwide “Revolution Organization,” its activities and his suspicious remarks in a clandestine meeting in May, a court will deliver a final judgment.
If the transcript of the members’ meeting, which the spy agency has obtained, is accepted as substantial evidence - and if the court hands down a guilty verdict - the far-left party’s legal status will face a grave turning point. Despite the UPP leadership’s persistent claim that the May meeting in Seoul was just a training session for party members, it would constitute a plot for an anti-state rebellion if the court finds the gathering guilty of subversion. If the Ministry of Justice sues the splinter party at the Constitutional Court based on the criminal court’s ruling, our highest court will make a judgment. If the Constitutional Court reaches a different verdict, however, it will drastically reshape the future of liberalism in the country.
Apart from the judicial process, we are dumbfounded by the way the UPP leadership has responded to law enforcement agencies’ effort to bring them to justice. If it were a normal political party, it would have censured troublemakers and apologized. Yet it nonchalantly embraces them and vehemently denounces the authorities.
Lee Jung-hee, chairwoman of the UPP, explained the secret meeting. “Only one or two of more than the 130 members mentioned stealing guns and destroying facilities as a joke,” she said. That makes us wonder if it’s really a registered political party in Korea. It’s the third largest party, which annually receives a 2.7 billion won ($2.47 million) subsidy from the government. After Lee’s speech, members still discussed preparations for war and attacks on core infrastructure, like telecommunication centers, data centers and oil storage facilities. Can they be the butt of the party’s jokes? Our society must think hard about the party’s raison d’etre.