Interim leader may take over leftist party
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Rep. Kang Ki-kab is set to take over the leadership of the embattled Unified Progressive Party (UPP) temporarily to spearhead the drive to overhaul the leftist party amid speculation this could spur a split.
Insiders said the far-left party will hold a Steering Committee meeting today to endorse a set of reform measures, including the selection of Kang as an interim leader and the forced resignation of the current leadership.
The “recommendations” were adopted on May 5, despite resistance from radicals who are now controlling the minor party.
If the moderates-driven plan goes ahead, analysts speculate, a division of the UPP would be unavoidable in the long run as radicals, including co-leader Lee Jung-hee, move to boycott it.
During the Thursday meeting, Kang, a second-term lawmaker who unsuccessfully ran in the April 11 elections, will be asked to lead the party until June.
The farmer-turned-politician is supported by moderates who are pushing the reform plan that also calls for the resignation en masse of lawmakers-elect selected on the proportional representation system.
In 2008, Kang hit media headlines after attempting to block the move to ratify the free trade pact with the United States by using physical force at the National Assembly.
As the UPP plans to complete the selection of its new leadership no later than June, the leftist party will prepare for the contest under Kang’s leadership.
If Kang assumes the top post, the current power-sharing regime consisting of three factions — namely moderates, radicals and aides of the late former President Roh Moo-hyun — will end.
Among the three, radicals and moderates represented by Shim Sang-jung, a lawmaker-elect, are major forces whereas pro-Roh figures are a relatively minor group.
Regarding the reshuffle, radicals and moderates are not on the same page. Moderates urged the current leadership to resign to take responsibility for the vote-rigging scandal that tarnished the progressive party’s image.
They claimed Lee Seok-gi, a lawmaker-elect, had masterminded the plot to place his aides onto the list of candidates on the proportional representation system using voting fraud, as otherwise he saw few possibilities to make this happen. Moderates labeled Lee as the real power behind the scenes, having immense political clout.
But radicals deny this. They also rejected the call to resign, insisting they won’t accept the reform plan, based on the investigation results of the vote-rigging scandal conducted by a task force earlier, as they don’t trust it.
Radicals call the findings of the probe “a witch hunt.”
Supported by radicals, Lee called for a reinvestigation of the vote-rigging scandal and held a hearing Tuesday. Moderates didn’t participate.