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[Newsmaker] Progressive party leader highlights failings

Rep. Sim Sang-jeung of the Progressive Justice Partymakes a parliamentary address on Tuesday.(Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Rep. Sim Sang-jeung of the Progressive Justice Partymakes a parliamentary address on Tuesday.(Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Candid soul-searching by a progressive leader is reverberating around Korea’s political circles more usually criticized for defying public calls for reform.

Rep. Sim Sang-jeung, chief of the minor opposition Progressive Justice Party, on Tuesday spoke out about the failings of progressive politics in her address to the parliament.

The former union leader dedicated much of her 10-minute address to highlight her and colleagues’ radical views on North Korea and politics that were far removed from reality and public opinion.

“Trapped within the worn-out molds of old thinking, (the progressives) failed to respond to the public’s demands,” Sim said, adding that she feels responsible for failing to achieve reform.

She added that the progressives did not “have the tools to operate democratically” and that hegemonic behavior seen in the progressive bloc had earned the distrust of the public.

The two-term lawmaker went on to address the issue of progressives’ stance on North Korea and national security, highly sensitive topics for minor opposition parties.

While saying that progressive parties have concentrated on fighting prejudices based on ideological differences, Sim admitted that they did not respond properly to Koreans’ “ideological trauma and security concerns.”

The PJP will begin anew after the party convention on June 16, when a new name will be chosen, she pledged.

The lawmaker has played a central role in a series of reshuffles among minor opposition parties, as a result of which the PJP was formed.

The PJP has its roots in the minority party Sim and Roh Hoe-chan formed in 2008 when they broke away from the defunct Democratic Labor Party in protest of its pro-North Korean ideals and factionalism. Although the two sides merged briefly last year to form the Unified Progressive Party, the group led by Sim and Roh once again broke off following the scandal surrounding irregularities in the UPP’s proportional representative selection.

However, Sim’s role has not been limited to the more extreme end of the progressive bloc.

During her first terms in office from 2004 to 2008, Sim received recognition for her activities, for which she was voted one of the most effective legislators by nongovernmental organizations and lawmakers on six occasions.

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