The spy agency’s ongoing investigation into leftist lawmaker Lee Seok-ki on charges of plotting a rebellion threatens to engulf the far left of Korean politics and push his Unified Progressive Party over the edge.
The UPP, which represents the more extreme end of progressive politics in Korea, was founded in November 2011 when the Democratic Labor Party merged with other progressive factions.
Although its formation was aimed at representing a united front in last year’s general and presidential elections, the alliance did not last long.
Following the April general elections, Lee and Rep. Kim Jae-yeon were accused of rigging the primaries for proportional representative nominations. The issue became central to factional infighting, which culminated in the party’s top officials being assaulted by members of a hard-line faction. As a result, some of its most influential figures, including Reps. Sim Sang-jeung, Roh Hoe-chan and Rhyu Si-min broke away to set up the Progressive Justice Party.
In the aftermath, the hardliners, including the East Gyeonggi Coalition, once again rose to hold sway within the party.
The East Gyeonggi Coalition, which the UPP claims does not exist, is thought to be Lee’s main powerbase, formed by left-wing activists.
Although the party has come through numerous crises, the latest event will add weight to the calls for its disbandment should allegations against Lee prove true.
In April, the conservative non-governmental organization National Action Campaign for Freedom and Democracy in Korea petitioned the government to put up UPP’s disbandment for review by the Constitutional Court.
In the petition, the group claimed that the UPP’s stated purpose of establishing an “autonomous democratic government” and introducing “progressive democracy that belongs to the people” are unconstitutional and based on North Korean ideals.
With the East Gyeonggi Coalition having been implicated in the allegations, the party is unlikely to be able to prevent the allegations surrounding Lee from being linked to the party in general.
In addition, the UPP stands alone within the political arena. The main opposition Democratic Party has quickly distanced itself from the UPP, while Sim’s Progressive Justice Party lacks the clout to provide much support.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org