|Police block veterans trying to enter the Unified Progressive Party headquarters Thursday in protest|
of the party members’ alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow the government. (Yonhap News)
The probe into the leftist Unified Progressive Party members has wreaked political havoc, further complicating the partisan wrangling over the spy agency’s alleged interference in last year’s presidential election.
As the investigation of an alleged plot of rebellion continues, the ruling party is focusing on the potential threat to national security, while the main opposition party is scrambling to a work out its stance in the ideological fray.
With lingering questions over the intent and timing of the investigation by the National Intelligence Service and the prosecution, observers said it could aggravate the political turmoil.
“If the case starts to be politically used, this would inevitably bring about the debate (over the perception of Jongbuk or the past political oppression such as Yushin), which will unavoidably lead into a confrontation between the progressives and the conservatives,” said politics professor Yun Seong-yi of Kyung Hee University.
Jongbuk refers to those pursuant to North Korea’s system and goals, and the term was often used in last year’s presidential election by the conservatives against the leftist politicians. The left-wingers in turn have accused the conservatives of using McCarthyism to turn the election in their favor.
Yushin, meanwhile, refers to the Yushin Constitution introduced in 1972 to allow late President Park Chung-hee, father of President Park Geun-hye, to extend his term.
Park Geun-hye’s designation of military man Nam Jae-joon as the NIS chief and her father’s former associate Kim Ki-choon as her chief of staff were criticized by the opposition as a “prelude to the return of an oppressive government.”
The movie-worthy raid of the UPP offices came as the opposition parties have been staging weekly rallies and outdoor protests calling for the NIS reform in the past couple of months alleging its political interference. They have been demanding a sweeping reform of the NIS and an apology from Park.
|Unified Progressive Party chairwoman Lee Jung-hee (center, front row) and civic activists launch a|
committee against the probe into the party Thursday. (Yonhap News)
Political pundits said the cobwebs of the past pose a risk of turning the situation into a heated ideological divide.
“The factual conclusion of the investigation will have varying effects. It is undesirable (for all) if the frame of the controversy turns into that of the cold war,” Yun said.
Politics professor Kim Hyung-joon of Myongji University agreed the political impact of the probe into the UPP’s Rep. Lee Seok-ki would be significant.
“Considering the circumstances, it is possible for the people to doubt whether this is or is not an attempt to break through the current political stalemate.”
He said it was equally likely for the progressive bloc to be forced to reorganize following the UPP probe, citing last year’s break-off of the progressives upon the Jongbuk controversy.
As for the DP, it has fallen into deeper quagmire as it could risk losing its momentum in the fight against the ruling camp by being associated with the alleged Jongbuk forces.
The DP has planned to hold a workshop on Thursday calling for NIS reform, as well as demanding the resignation of NIS chief and an apology from Park over the spy agency’s alleged political interference in last year’s presidential election.
The NIS, in the meantime, is reportedly confident of their investigation.
Saenuri Party sources said the NIS has long been making legal preparations to tackle the suspicions, citing the court’s go-ahead for the search and seizure.
Observers said that if the allegations against Lee are proven, it would add weight to the NIS’ function in domestic politics, which is the main target of the calls for reform.
Some also voiced concern saying that any half-baked investigation will only place the entire ruling camp under heavy scrutiny, particularly concerning the sensitive timing of the raid.
By Lee Joo-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)