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[Newsmaker] Lee no stranger to legal run-ins

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Published : 2013-08-28 20:38
Updated : 2013-08-28 21:22

The minor Unified Progressive Party’s Rep. Lee Seok-ki has never been free from controversy having been accused of election fraud, illegal funding and leftist ideology.

But the investigation of the progressive lawmaker unveiled Wednesday was stunning to the public: He faces the first charge of revolt in 30 years.

The first-term lawmaker has been at the center of one of the largest scandals to engulf the left-wing party in the past year. 
Lee Seok-ki

Lee gained his parliamentary seat as a proportional representative of the UPP last year over allegations of fraud, for which he is currently on trial. Lee is accused of using his promotion company CNC to illegally obtain election subsidies of about 400 million won ($360,000) from the government for the Gwangju education superintendent and Gyeonggi Province governor elections between 2010 and 2011.

Lee has also been accused of buying his way into the UPP, developments surrounding which led the more moderate members to break away last year.

The first-term lawmaker has also been singled out as the core of the East Gyeonggi Coalition, the mainstream faction of the left-wing party. Despite claims of having been disbanded a number of years ago, the East Gyeonggi Coalition is thought to have played a critical role in power shifts within the left-wing bloc.

The organization was the mainstream faction within the now-defunct Democratic Labor Party, and its friction with other factions led to the party’s disintegration in 2008. From then on elements of the far left have come together only to again part ways, and give rise to today’s UPP.

However, unusual developments in Lee’s life are not limited to his political career.

In the 1980s, Lee was deeply involved in student activism while attending Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, and his activities from that time laid the grounds for him to become a central member of the East Gyeonggi Coalition.

In 2002, Lee was involved in the espionage case centered on the People’s Democratic Revolutionary Party, and in 2003 he was sentenced to 30 months in prison for violating the National Security Act.

The People’s Democratic Revolutionary Party was an underground organization founded by activists that was found to have been working under directions from Pyongyang. In the investigation, Lee was found to have served as the chief of the organization’s branch for southern Gyeonggi Province.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)

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