|Saenuri Party Chairman Hwang Woo-yea (right) shakes hands with Unified Progressive Party leader Kang Ki-kab during a ceremony in Gwangju, South Jeolla Province on Friday to mark the 32th anniversary of the outbreak of the Gwangju Uprising. (Yonhap News)|
Reeling from a devastating vote-rigging row, the Unified Progressive Party is now under siege over accusations of pro-communist views among its key figures.
The party’s “mainstream” faction derives from the so-called National Liberation crusaders who fought dictatorship in the 1980s and followed North Korea’s political ideology. Some were convicted of pro-North Korean activities and even accused of spying for the communists in the 1990s.
The ruling Saenuri Party threatened to veto the UPP lawmakers-elect who are involved in voting irregularities or suspected of having supported the North Korean regime.
The main opposition Democratic United Party also moved to discontinue its political alliance with the UPP. It fears being affected by the pro-North image of the minority party, which would alienate its traditional center-left voters.
“We are examining whether it is possible under the current law to expel the disputed UPP lawmakers-elect from the parliament,” said newly elected Saenuri floor leader Lee Hahn-koo Thursday.
The right-wing party also argued that the existence of pro-communist figures in the legislature may pose a serious threat to national security.
The party may submit a new bill for the purpose, should the current clauses turn out to be insufficient, he added.
“Those who pay respects to the portrait of Kim Jong-il should not gain political power,” said new party chief Rep. Hwang Woo-yea in the national convention earlier this week.
Supreme Council member Rep. Shim Jae-chul also claimed that “covert communists” may abuse their legislative authorities to leak key information to North Koreans.
The liberal DUP at first remained cautious over the scandal but has started to go into damage control mode.
“The DUP is more tolerant than the UPP over the Korea-Japan military alliance,” said Rep. Park Jie-won, the DUP’s floor leader and interim chief, in a recent party meting.
He is thus set to distance the party from their troubled ally, underlining their policy gap and its opposition to the UPP’s far-left stances.
The two parties showed dissenting views over a range of key issues such as the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement but formed an alliance earlier this year for the sake of the April elections.
However, voices have grown within the DUP that the unity brought little benefit to the liberal party and even caused it to lose center-left supporters due to the UPP’s communist-friendly image.
Skepticism grew even more as the pro-North faction was disgraced by the vote-rigging allegations and the violent clash during a party meeting last weekend.
In response to the pressure, the UPP’s emergency panel chief Kang Ki-kab delivered an ultimatum to proportional representative-elect Lee Seog-gi and Kim Jae-yeon, demanding that they step down by Monday.
The resignation of the two figures is considered a top priority in solving the ongoing problem.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, after a heated discussion on Thursday, decided to temporarily withdraw its political support for the party until Lee and Kim give up their elected posts.
“We shall severe all ties with the UPP and create a new political group, unless all disputed members step down and the party achieves fundamental reforms,” said KCTU chairman Kim Young-hoon.
The influential umbrella group will thus quit its extensive funding for the party and stay out of Kang’s emergency panel.
“The conditional withdrawal was based on our decision to offer the UPP one last chance,” Kim said, thus pressing the party to deal with the two disputed figures.
The faction, however, continued to resist and pledged to launch a separate emergency panel next week, a move which may lead to the breakup of the party.
By Bae Hyun-jung