In an unprecedented move, the government has filed a petition with the Constitutional Court to dissolve the United Progressive Party, which it views as an “unconstitutional and dangerous” pro-North Korea political party.
The government’s action is in compliance with the Constitution, which empowers it to pursue the disbandment of a political party if its “purposes or activities are contrary to the fundamental democratic order.”
In September, the Ministry of Justice launched a task force to examine the constitutionality of the UPP, a party with six lawmakers. What prompted the ministry to scrutinize the minority party’s platform and activities was the arrest of its legislator, Lee Seok-ki, and his followers in August for plotting a rebellion.
Lee was accused of forming an anti-state underground organization, dubbed the “Revolutionary Organization,” and inciting its members to stage an armed revolt against the Seoul government in the event of a war between the two Koreas.
After two months of in-depth study, the ministry has concluded that the UPP is an anti-state political party that pursues North Korean-style socialism under the control of hard-core pro-Pyongyang forces, called the National Liberation.
Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-an asserted that the RO, which he described as the inner core of the party, had undertaken activities, such as plotting a rebellion, in accordance with North Korea’s strategy to revolutionize the South.
The ministry also pointed out that the party’s unification doctrine, which calls for a peace treaty after abolishing the present armistice treaty, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Korea, and the unraveling of the Seoul-Washington military alliance, is in line with North Korea’s unification policy.
It also noted that the party’s doctrine of the sovereignty of the proletariat goes against the democratic principle that sovereign power resides with the people, not with a certain class.
These and other aspects of the UPP led the ministry to define it as a serious threat to South Korean society. To get rid of it, the ministry decided to invoke its constitutional power for the first time.
It is unfortunate that the government had to resort to using this power, which has thus far been regarded as largely notional. But the UPP’s undemocratic activities since its creation in 2011 fully justify the ministry’s action.
Now it is up to the Constitutional Court to determine the UPP’s fate. The central issue is whether the party’s objectives and activities are in violation of the democratic basic order.
The court has 180 days to adjudicate the case. The time may not be enough in light of the lack of any precedent to refer to. But we believe there is enough evidence that supports the government’s action against the UPP.
The court should handle the case prudently, given its political implications and the lack of any remedy after its adjudication. Yet it needs to reach a conclusion early in light of the divisive nature of the case.
Before embarking on the adjudication process, the court needs to decide whether to accept the government’s request that it suspend the activities of the UPP until final decision is pronounced.
The court also needs to decide, if it orders the dissolution of the UPP, whether to deprive its six lawmakers of their parliamentary seats.
We hope the government’s unprecedented action brings an opportunity to rein in anachronistic pro-North Korea elements in the South.