The Unified Progressive Party (UPP) has been targeted by South Korea’s main spy agency, the hated National Intelligence Service (NIS). On 28 August, three of its leaders were arrested on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government and of expressing sympathy for North Korea. Subsequently a fourth, Lee Seok-ki, a member of the National Assembly, has also been arrested.
The UPP, which has close ties to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, won ten percent of the votes for the National Assembly in the last elections, making it the third largest party. Its leadership seeks to increase its influence through the classic Stalinist popular frontist strategy of preaching the importance of uniting with openly pro-capitalist formations in order to control the revolutionary impulses of its working-class base. The UPP leadership is occasionally opposed to the imperialist strategy in the region and in February boycotted a session of the legislature voting to condemn a North Korean nuclear test, but is no real threat to the Southern regime.
While the top layer of the UPP is the product of a degenerated Stalinism that has devolved into pro-imperialist liberalism, part of its base remains committed to the idea of pursuing class struggle. This working-class core must break with the politics of its rotten leadership and embrace a class-struggle program that advance its interests, not those of the liberal wing of the boss class.
Since the foundation of the South Korean state, the NIS, formerly known as the KCIA, has been responsible for locking up generations of the best and most politically conscious workers, students and leftists under the National Security Law. It is still not safe to be a leftist in South Korea, but conditions are changing. Political momentum for reigning in the NIS is gathering, and only two days before this current witch hunt was launched President Park Gun-hye publicly acknowledged that the NIS needed an overhaul. The subsequent arrests were clearly intended to weaken the forces in the legislature seeking to curtail their activities.
Many South Korean leftists have contempt for the UPP, but they would be sorely mistaken to let the NIS get away with locking up their political opponents. What is necessary is for the entire left to come to the defense of the democratic rights of the UPP on the grounds that “An injury to one is an injury to all!”
Drop the charges! Stop the repression of the UPP!
Defend the right to political organization!
Down with the NIS!
Down with the National Security Law!
For united-front defense of democratic rights!