Demise of progressives
As feared, the central committee meeting of the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP) ended with factional clashes Saturday as about 100 of the party’s mainstream faction dashed to the stage and halted the proceedings.
Shim Sang-jeong, Ryu Si-min and Cho Joon-ho, the UPP’s co-leaders, were assaulted during the melee. Cho, who headed the party’s internal probe into rigging the candidate selection for last month’s National Assembly elections, allegedly suffered injuries and his clothes were torn. Earlier the same day, Lee Jung-hee, who had led the pro-North Korea Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance, stepped down.
With the eruption of violence, the leftist party is facing an uncertain future with some analysts predicting the party’s collapse or division. The UPP’s survival may be at stake as the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the country’s two labor umbrella organizations, plans to decide whether to withdraw its support for the UPP. About 45,000 KCTU members form the backbone of the party’s 130,000 members.
Considering that the confrontation was triggered by apparent election fraud committed by the mainstreamers before the April 11 parliamentary elections, the key to resolving the latest crisis rests with them.
The UPP’s mainstreamers deserve harsh criticism for their dogmas, irrational claims and backwardness. More than anything else, their rejection of the party’s internal investigation results of the candidate selection rigging scandal is unthinkable because the party’s co-leaders had agreed to accept the results before the investigation started. Their demand to let all party members cast ballots to decide the fate of six elected proportional candidates also appears to have gone too far.
Against this backdrop, the mainstreamers have to find a clue to the solution first by agreeing to let the six candidates resign. Then, the UPP and the mainstream faction should immediately embark on broad-based reforms.
In a plural society, there should be progressive values and progressive parties should exit to reflect them. In this respect, few will deny the raison d’etre of the UPP.
It would not be desirable if the rigging scandal serves as an occasion for the country’s progressive forces to die down. Rather, the UPP should be reborn as a new progressive party that is run democratically and free from anachronistic pro-North Korean forces. Before that, the UPP should discard its old habits from its underground days.