Left-wing party sets up emergency committee to reform itself
The interim head of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) set up an emergency committee Wednesday to revive the left-wing opposition party as it reels from a primary fraud scandal.
"We will immediately embark on activities to reform the party," Kang Ki-kab, chairman of the UPP's emergency committee said in a news conference. The five-month-old party also plans to name outside figures as members of the committee in coming weeks.
However, the move is unlikely to end the internal strife as the party's mainstream faction vowed to boycott the committee and create its own separate emergency committee in protest at online voting by the party earlier this week.
The factional division has deepened since earlier this month when the party announced after an internal investigation that its primary to select the party's proportional representation candidates for the April 11 elections had been rigged.
A key mainstream official said his faction plans to launch the separate emergency committee as early as Thursday. He asked not to be identified, citing the issue's sensitivity.
The party voted Monday to set up the emergency committee and endorsed a resolution calling for the resignation of 14 people who participated in a primary to run for the April parliamentary elections as proportional representation candidates.
Only six of the 14 candidates were elected as UPP lawmakers under the proportional representation system, which allocates seats to parties according to the numbers of votes they receive. Three of the six did not participate in the primary but were recommended by the UPP.
Kang said he will try to meet with the candidates, who ran in the rigged primary, to ask them to resign.
"Even if I (need to) kneel down and beg, I will persuade them to ensure they voluntarily resign sometime soon," Kang said in an interview on local SBS radio.
Yoon Geum-soon, who won the primary and was elected as a lawmaker, resigned earlier this month. Two other lawmakers-elect, who belong to the mainstream faction and took part in the primary, have refused to step down.
The two lawmakers-elect -- Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon -- have allegedly espoused North Korea's guiding "juche" philosophy of self-reliance.
Lee has been a key ideologue of the East Gyeonggi Coalition for about a decade, said Lee Cheong-ho, a UPP official in the southern city of Busan, citing Lee Seok-gi's associate.
Lee Cheong-ho referred to the alleged pro-North Korean bloc that some claim was dissolved a decade ago, though others say it has been active after 2005. The party's mainstream faction is loyal to the coalition.
Lee, the lawmaker-elect, also commands respect from his fellow officials for his unwavering commitment to the coalition, Lee, the UPP official in Busan, said in a separate radio interview, citing the lawmaker-elect's associate.
Also Wednesday, Cho Joon-ho, one of the four former co-chairs of the party, underwent surgery to insert artificial joints into his neck for injuries he suffered on Saturday when he was attacked by some members of the mainstream faction during a party conference, according to the party.
Cho has headed the party's internal investigation into the rigged primary and quit his post along with his three other co-chairs. (Yonhap)