LKP’s Hwang cleans up several messes

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LKP’s Hwang cleans up several messes

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) on Friday gave a slap on the wrist to two lawmakers who stirred public outrage by denigrating the 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement.

The Central Ethics Committee of the LKP held a meeting and discussed punishments for the members. It decided to issue a warning to Rep. Kim Jin-tae and a three-month membership suspension to Rep. Kim Soon-rye.

The committee also decided to start disciplinary procedures over remarks by two other members that criticized the families of the victims of the Sewol ferry sinking in 2014.

In February, Reps. Kim Jin-tae and Lee Jong-myeong of the LKP hosted a public forum on the Gwangju uprising of May 18 to 27, 1980, which called for democracy and an end to the junta of Chun Doo Hwan, who had risen to power through a military coup five months earlier. Chun crushed the uprising, and while the official death toll was 193, hundreds more were believed to have been killed or injured by armed soldiers. Other lawmakers, including Rep. Kim Soon-rye, attended the event.

Some participants in the forum, including Kim Jin-tae, argued that the North Korean military was behind the uprising. Lee said, “A riot has been politicized and disguised as a democratization movement.”

Kim Soon-rye gave a congratulatory speech in which she said, “Pro-North leftists have created a monster group called May 18 victims and are wasting our tax money on them.”

Expulsion is the heaviest punishment the committee could recommend, while a warning was the lightest. Finalizing the punishment still needs an approval from a general assembly of LKP lawmakers.

The LKP had decided to expel Lee, but postponed judgments against the other two as they were running for leadership posts, and disciplinary processes against candidates are suspended under internal regulations.

The leadership election was completed on Feb. 27, but the LKP only ended the disciplinary process on Friday. Lee has not been kicked out yet because the party did not hold a general assembly of lawmakers to vote and finalize the expulsion.

Speculation was high that the party wanted to conclude the disciplinary process before the upcoming political anniversary of the May 18, 1980, democratization uprising. LKP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn is reportedly considering a plan to visit Gwangju to attend a commemoration ceremony next month.

If Hwang attends, it will be the first time in four years that an elected head of the LKP does so. In 2015, Chairman Kim Moo-sung of then-Saenuri Party attended the ceremony. Hwang attended the symbolic event in 2016 as prime minister on behalf of then-President Park Geun-hye.

Hwang’s latest moves, including possibly attending the ceremony and wrapping up the controversy surrounding the lawmakers’ remarks, are seen as a strategy to redefine the party’s image before next year’s general election.

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