Verdict rocks Lee and the UPP

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Verdict rocks Lee and the UPP

In the aftermath of the conviction of Representative Lee Seok-ki for plotting a rebellion against the government, ruling party lawmakers are calling for his expulsion from the National Assembly.

Representative Choi Kyung-hwan, floor leader of the Saenuri Party, also said at a party meeting yesterday that the Democratic Party should apologize for helping Lee get elected.

“The DP should apologize to the people for opening up a route into the National Assembly for those antistate forces including Lee Seok-ki by forming an electoral alliance with them,” Choi said. “As promised, they should cooperate with us in pushing ahead with a bill to kick him out of the legislature and prevent another Lee Seok-ki [from entering the Assembly].”

The DP made an alliance with the much smaller Unified Progressive Party, which Lee belongs to, before the June 2010 general election and promised not to compete in many races. The DP didn’t field candidates even in some of its strongholds, such as some areas of Jeolla. As a result, the UPP won 13 parliamentary seats. Lee was elected as one of its six proportional lawmakers.

The Saenuri Party also demanded the UPP be disbanded following revelations of an underground, antigovernment faction called the Revolutionary Organization (RO).

“We urge the Constitutional Court to make a fast ruling on the case for disbanding the UPP before the June 4 general elections,” Choi said. “We should stop the UPP from receiving the 2.8 billion won [$2.6 million)] in campaign preparation funds [given by the government], paid with taxpayers’ money.”

Representative Chang Yoon-seok, a ruling party lawmaker who chairs the Assembly’s Special Committee on Ethics, said, “There’s no reason for us to drag out the pending bill to expel him from the Assembly. Through negotiations with the leaders of the DP, we will soon convene a general meeting of the ethics committee.”

The UPP protested the move. “The court’s ruling was plotted in advance to lead to our party’s disbanding,” Lee Jung-hee, a UPP chairwoman, said at a press conference. “Let’s hold an anti-Park Geun-hye march, pro-democracy, all together with the people!”

As for the bill to expel Lee, the chairwoman said, “It will not happen if the DP disagrees with the bill. We believe the DP will not easily sympathize with a court ruling that was fabricated by the National Intelligence Service in an attempt to divert attention from the ongoing public demand for reform of the spy agency.”

The UPP argues that Lee was the subject of a “witch hunt” to divert public attention from the ongoing probe by prosecutors over the NIS’s alleged interference in the 2012 presidential race, a case that has challenged the political neutrality of the agency.

But the DP was cautious in responding to the UPP’s plea to block Lee’s expulsion. “We already expressed our respect for the ruling of the judiciary, and the bill on the expulsion should be dealt with carefully,” a DP member told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The Constitutional Court held an open hearing yesterday on the ongoing case calling for the disbanding of the UPP. Two advocates from each side argued over whether the party regulations are antistate and whether UPP members are connected with the RO.

Last November, the Ministry of Justice filed a lawsuit demanding the party’s disbanding. It was unprecedented for the government to request the ending of a political party.

At the hearing, the government claimed the UPP had political connections with the RO and many RO members hold important posts in the UPP. The UPP sides said that although some members used to belong to the RO, they joined as individuals and it had nothing to do with their party activities.

BY PARK SUNG-WOO, KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]


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