The embattled Unified Progressive Party showed signs of imploding following its failure to expel two lawmakers involved in a vote-rigging scandal.
Former co-chair Rhyu Si-min and his aides hinted at his faction’s imminent defection in droves. The largest supporting group of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is also considering severing ties with the party.
Of 58,000 UPP members, Rhyu’s followers make up 8,000 and the KCTU accounts for 35,000.
Some 200 former members of the People’s Participation Party led by Rhyu gathered in Daejeon on Sunday to discuss their course of action.
“The UPP, by rejecting the motion to expel Reps. Lee Seok-ki and Kim Jae-yeon, has committed a grave sin to history and to the people,” they said in a statement.
“We can neither accept the result (of the vote) nor may we recognize the two as representatives of our party.”
They also alluded that they may defect en masse and establish a new political group.
“Our greatest task is to accomplish the transfer of regime through comprehensive liberal unity,” they said.
“However, the current UPP is no longer capable of living up to such expectations.”
Their effective leader Rhyu Si-min likewise mentioned the possibility of defecting from the UPP or dissolving the party.
“There is no point in struggling any further if the party is not likely to change,” he wrote on the party’s webpage before Sunday’s meeting.
Some even said that they should join the main opposition Democratic United Party.
“The idea of joining the DUP has often been suggested as a means of left-wing unity and is still feasible,” said Rep. Kang Dong-won, the only PPP-affiliated lawmaker of the party, though he underlined that the given scenario was still premature.
The minority PPP clique makes up less than 15 percent of the UPP’s member register but their mass defection would still deliver a fatal blow to the party.
“The KCTU is also to hold a meeting around next week to discuss whether to withdraw its support for the UPP and have its members defect en masse,” Rhyu said.
The influential umbrella union pledged back in May to temporarily call off its political allegiance to the UPP until it proves to have achieved bold reforms. By this, the KCTU demanded that Lee and Kim be expelled from the party.
The UPP was established last December through the political merger of the minority Democratic Labor Party, the PPP and defectors from the New Progressive Party.
It formed an alliance with the main opposition Democratic United Party prior to the April general elections and managed to win itself 13 parliamentary seats.
The party, however, was turned upside down when its proportional representative primary turned out to have been rigged.
After months of internal conflict, the motion to expel the two key figures of the scandal, Lee and Kim, was put to vote last week but was rejected due to the opposition from former mainstream leaders.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)