Blame game holds back UPP
The leaders and political heavyweights of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) are ignoring the mounting public and political pressure for their mass resignations Friday, pushing the leftist party deeper into crisis.
None of the co-chairs of the party who pledged Thursday to assume the “heaviest” political and moral responsibility have expressed their intention to step down, or clarify what action will ensue in order to keep their word.
Rather, they were busy shifting the blame to non-mainstreamers of the party, arguing that the investigation into a vote-rigging scandal involving the selection of proportional representative candidates was politically charged.
Kim Seung-kyo, head of the UPP election watchdog, even went so far as calling for a new investigation into the fraudulent candidate selection for the April 11 National Assembly elections.
“The stance of the party’s election commission is that the results of the investigation are grossly exaggerated,” he said. “A new probe will be inevitable.”
The investigation showed a breach of election rules occurred in 128 of 218 polling stations and bogus votes accounted for more than half of the online voting.
Kim argued that all seven members of the fact-finding team were non-mainstreamers of the party who were either hostile toward the incumbent leadership or allegedly involved in the election scandal.
Rep. Lee Jung-hee, one of the four co-chairs of the party with the greatest political influence, also expressed support for the party’s move to launch another fact-finding team to reexamine the case.
“The investigation was biased,” she said noting that she will not seek reelection as party leader.
Lee is widely viewed as a core member of the party’s clandestine pro-North Korean group, which allegedly has firm control over the leftist party and is known as the UPP’s largest faction.
She claims that the pro-North Korean faction _ named the East Gyeonggi Coalition _ a secretive group rooted in the National Liberation group that pursued a pro-North Korea ideology and a radical platform, was dissolved 10 years ago.
Many insiders, however, suspect that the radical group still exists and played a pivotal role in grooming the political heavyweights of the UPP, including Rep. Lee and Lee Seok-gi, who won a seat after being placed second in a primary for the UPP’s proportional representatives.
Lee Seok-gi, known as the head of the UPP’s largest faction, met with the party’s co-chair Rhyu Si-min three days before Wednesday’s announcement of the investigation results allegedly to broker a deal.
Sources say he demanded that Rhyu should allow him to keep his lawmaker seat and protect his factional members, including Rep. Lee Jung-hee, after the disclosure of the investigation results. In return he would ensure Rhyu’s election as party leader at the National Convention on May 29.
Lee Seok-ki admitted to having the talks, but denied having made a shady deal with the former health and welfare minister.
None mainstreamers of the UPP threatened to disclose more details of the in-house probe, including the names of those involved in the vote rigging, if the two Lees and their followers do not take the situation more seriously.
Nevertheless, Lee Seok-gi and other core members of the party have not budged an inch despite growing suspicions that they are deeply implicated in the scandal, which prosecutors have begun to look into.
In contrast, Yoon Geum-soon, who was ranked first on the UPP's proportional representation list and is a non-mainstreamer, offered her resignation to take responsibility for the election fraud scandal.
"I am very ashamed and apologize that the UPP caused disappointment and concern to the public," Yoon said in a press conference at the Assembly, urging other proportional lawmakers-elect and party’s leaders to follow suit.
Observers say the UPP leadership is making the former Nobel peace prize nominee a scapegoat for her failure to guarantee the fairness and transparency of candidate selections.
Yoon served as head of the Korean Women Peasants Association which demands all four co-leaders and all proportional representation candidates to resign to take responsibility for the scandal.