The Final Statement by President Lee Jung-hee of the Unified Progressive Party in the Constitutional Court Deliberating over the Request for Dissolution of the UPP
Please Demonstrate the Progress of Democracy Cannot be Stopped.
The Grand Chamber of the Constitutional Court
- Confidence in the Constitution is the fulcrum of progressive politics.
First of all, I would like to thank everyone in the Constitutional Court including the judges for your work of deliberating over the request for the dissolution of the UPP, which is first in the history of the Constitution. My special thanks also go to those who have observed the proceedings with desperate aspiration for the protection of democracy and those who have testified truth and justice in and out of the court despite lots of obstacles.
Before entering politics, I had several experiences of requesting the Constitutional Court to redress unconstitutional practices on the behalf of claimants and the Constitutional Court accepted these requests. Making the Constitution, which is one of the most significant fruits of the June Struggle for Democracy, a practical reality before us has been the highest rewarding and proud work for me as a person in the legal profession.
I believe the Constitution is a benchmark which diverse opinions in Korean society are commonly built on and which enables reasonable settlements through discussion among members. The Constitution presents the extension of democracy, guarantee of social diversity and political pluralism, and expansion of the freedom of expression and political association. When it is construed and applied in such orientations, the Constitution can further develop and enhance its authority.
My confidence in the Constitution is my trust in the people who created the Constitution and my trust in the history which will continue to develop the Constitution. This belief has never been faltered even after I entered politics. Rather, it has served as a prop for me to carry through my convictions in progressive politics.
- The UPP is a Channel to Realize Dreams of the Underprivileged.
In fact, the very reason why I entered politics as a lawmaker of the Democratic Labor Party was to make the Constitution reality. As an attorney at law, I took cases on the behalf of the victims of crimes committed by the U.S. soldiers, the residents in the neighborhood of the U.S. bombing ranges and the residents whose lands were confiscated to build the U.S. bases.
Sadly, the Korean government failed to fully exercise its criminal jurisdiction, environmental sovereignty, and wartime operational control. Consequently, the people of Korea fell victim to crimes, environmental pollution and even risk of war. I clearly saw the sad reality while defending the victims. I thought for the Republic of Korea to guarantee its people’s human rights and peaceful life, it would be necessary to fully recover the genuine sovereignty which is both “internally the highest and externally independent political authority” in the relations with the U.S. I wanted to speed up the change, so I entered politics.
However, without the Democratic Labor Party, I would not have entered politics. Large political parties, regardless of the ruling party or the opposition parties, are not free from plutocracy, corruption, or expedient. It was an open secret that money does buy elections. It was like that old saying- politics means compromise.
The existing politics was no more than where people gathered in pursuit of fame and power, where corruptions in the powerful and dominant establishment were tolerated and unfair privileges were accepted and enjoyed as practices, and where those who dared to sacrifice the rights of the weak for compromise got credit for competent politicians.
The Democratic Labor Party was different. It was an aggregate of simple dreams of the general public. The DLP was funded by subscriptions and donations of workers and farmers who worked hard and lived honestly with a dream of a better future where at least our children can see their efforts fully rewarded.
Therefore, no corruption involving money or power was possible and no one sold oneself out for bribes-for-political-favors in the party. Winning individual fame at the expense of the human rights of the weak in political compromises could never be allowed. I had the belief in the DLP that there would be no wrongdoings tolerated as a general practice, no conscience betrayed, no temptation for power, and no solicit by dirty money, though it was a weak minority party. That is why I joined the DLP and could become a politician.
The reality I found as a lawmaker was literally death march. I could not dry my tears before inhumane violence by the police in front of Ssangyong Motor during the summer of 2009. For the past six years, 25 people (laid off workers and their family members) have died in the extreme frustration after the massive lay-off. They were the ones who had simple dreams that the DLP promised to realize. It was really painful to see funerals in a row. I felt guilty failing to stop a series of death.
Article 1 (2) “the sovereignty of the Republic of Korea shall reside in the people, and all state authority shall emanate from the people” in the Constitution was no more than empty words in a society where every kind of exclusion, isolation and discrimination was publicly committed on the grounds of being workers, irregular workers or the Reds.
I wanted to build a society where no one will die from frustration. I wanted to present the basis of hope to choose life. I was so desperate as it was a matter of life or death before any policy or election pledge. However, it was beyond the DLP’s power. Perceived as an antiquated and aggressive political party, it had no option but to remain as a very small minority which might say right things but have no power to change the present. We needed to gain more popular support in real politics. Progressive political parties in division should be integrated to expand its scope.
After much meandering, the Unified Progressive Party was born. Then I went to fields where auto workers work. Riding on a conveyer belt that workers work on, I asked for support. The five seconds that a worker too busy to take a breather took off his glove to hold my hand were the most proud moment.
Those who have a simple but earnest desire of “live together, live with human dignity” have created and supported the DLP and the UPP. Their dream is based upon the spirit of the Constitution that every person is the equal owner of Korea no matter if he or she is educated or not, is rich or poor, and is criticized of being the Reds.
I respect the people who are dedicated to creating a world where everybody becomes a genuine owner of oneself despite all the restraints including the status of irregular worker or the division system branding someone as a communist. I believe they are the driving force to realize the Constitution. What led me to protect the DLP and the UPP among all kinds of difficulties is because my self-esteem as a jurist dedicated to the realization of the Constitution can be fully maintained in the political sphere only through the DLP and the UPP.
As you saw in the video, the UPP is a channel to realize dreams of those who have been effectively excluded from politics, and an aggregate of their aspirations. In this regards, the consequence of the government’s request for dissolution of the UPP is not limited to deciding the existence of the UPP or the status of its representatives.
The request for dissolution of the UPP is no less than depriving workers, farmers, and low-income people, who wanted to have the sovereignty of the Republic of Korea by voting for the UPP, of their right to freedom of political opinions and right to vote. Please further take account of the fact that the dissolution of the UPP will essentially violate the people’s political rights which have been realized through the UPP.
- Why do you conclude the UPP is unconstitutional without any grounds?
The principle and starting point of my political life as a lawmaker of the DLP and the UPP has been the realization of the spirit of the Constitution. Everything I did can be said to integrate the provisions of the Constitution into laws and policies, including the realization of people’s fundamental human rights such as labor’s three primary rights and freedom of assembly and association, and the implementation of economic policies for shared and balanced growth of every economic subject.
In terms of fundamental human rights, I promoted the guarantee of the fundamental human rights by presenting bills to amend problematic laws such as the amendment bill of the Assembly and Demonstration Act to abolish the provision of punishing night-time outdoor assembly. Also in economic issues, I presented laws and policies prioritizing the principle of proportionality prescribed by Article 37 (2) in the Constitution.
While the DLP gained attention with somewhat exceptional opinions in the beginning, I thought now it was time to earn confidence in the people through its bills and policies, and to that end, the bill or policy should pass the proportionality test of Article 37 (2) in the Constitution. Even after the Comprehensive Real Estate Tax Law was found unconstitutional in 2008, I suggested an amendment bill to recover the existing tax revenue by integrating only the factors that the Constitutional Court found compatible with the principle of proportionality.
Since September 2008, I have been the chairperson of the party’s policy committee supervising official policies of the party. And I have served as the president of the party from August 2010 to April 2012, and from March 2013 to present, supervising all activities of the party. Every bill moved by Representatives of the DLP and the UPP was reviewed by me.
In proposing legislations, which is the most important activity of a political party, I always kept Article 37 (2) in the Constitution in mind and in fact, not a single bill was criticized of unconstitutionality. Rather I had to bear unconstitutional situations when the bills designed in line with the principle of equity of Article 11 in the Constitution such as the one to enhance tax equity by eliminating excessive tax reduction granted to big companies were ignored by the consistent big company-friendly economic policy of the government.
During the above period, all discussions of the party have been about bills, policies, election pledges, responses to current issues, and ways of integration and solidarity. No revolutionary theory such as the so-called National Liberation Democratic Revolution theory or the Colonized Semi-Capitalism theory was on the table.
A political party is neither for establishing a revolutionary theory nor planning a violent revolution. It is where people discuss how to win elections and carry out election campaigns on the assumption of the current election system, and develop policies to reform the election system in order to better reflect the public opinion.
I don’t understand how the government concludes the UPP is an unconstitutional party receiving instructions from North Korea with the basis of a revolutionary theory which is not created by the UPP, while it fails to say any of bills, election pledges and campaigns of the DLP and the UPP is contrary to the Constitution.
I have supervised all major activities of the party as the chairperson of the policy committee and the president of the party since 2008 and I have never attempted, prepared, and discussed a violent revolution, then why the government is assuming the UPP is planning a violent revolution without any evidence?
The government’s move not to withdraw its request for dissolution of the UPP and force the Constitutional Court even after the acquittal of the insurrection conspiracy charge fabricated by the National Intelligence Service’s unlawful surveillance over the UPP is undermining democracy and the constitutional order in itself.
- A Political Party Should Not be Dissolved Only with Suspicions and Assumptions.
This place is not to determine whether the UPP is supportable or not, but to determine whether the UPP is unconstitutional to be forced of dissolution. It is true that the number of people who support the UPP remains small today. However, I am sure only the minority of people thinks the UPP should be dissolved by the request of the government. People also understand that accusing the difference in political opinions of hostile acts in itself destroys democracy.
The government raised all kinds of suspicions about the UPP in requesting its dissolution and the media exaggerated them in report without reviewing the facts. The significant number of people has cast doubt on the UPP, making the popular support for and confidence in the party drop sharply.
The request for dissolution of the UPP already caused the party huge damage. If the government wants to obtain the Constitutional Court’s decision to dissolve the UPP, it should provide a decisive proof not a mere suspicion, doubt, or inference. However, the government’s argumentations provided in the court are only groundless doubts and inferences.
(1) The UPP is not manipulated by instructions from North Korea.
The government claims that the UPP has been manipulated by instructions from North Korea. However, as a lawmaker and the president of the party, I have never received any instructions from North Korea or anyone who says it is ordered by North Korea. Moreover, I have never been requested to accept anything said to be decided by a certain faction of the party.
When deciding important things such as the revision of the party platform or constitution, internal discussions of the party may last several months, even a few years. Some bills may be rejected or voted down even after long discussions. For example, in the party’s convention in September 2011, the bill to establish the UPP was voted down. It can never happen if the UPP blindly follows instructions from North Korea or decisions made by a certain faction.
The government’s claim that the UPP is controlled by the small remaining members of the National Democratic Revolutionary Party is far from the truth. The DLP and the UPP have been the first and only political party in Korea which has held the general policy convention where any member can participate in to discuss the party policies and future plans for seven years in a row, as an effort to overcome the concentration of power in the governing body composed of the party executives.
Moreover, we continue to seek for new communication means by paying attention to criticisms of the lack of internal communication and unilateral decision by the leadership of the party and considering the introduction of a sortition system for the party representatives in order to enhance the participation of new comers and grass roots of the party.
(2) There is No Reason for the UPP to Choose North Korean Style Socialism.
At the center of the government’s argumentations, lies the assumption that the UPP will choose North Korean style socialism after reunifying the Korean Peninsula in federation. It is totally groundless assumption. North Korea’s socialism is only the system of North Korea. It is not and cannot be the institution of South Korea. The government also argues that the Suryeong ( Supreme leadership) system is the heart of North Korea’s socialism.
However, there is no reason for the people of the Republic of Korea, who rejected the prolonged Yushin dictatorship of President Park Jung-hee and the indirect presidential election of the Chun Doo-hwan administration, achieved the direct presidential election with the single term system through the Gwangju People’s Democratic Movement and the June Democratic Struggle, and made the horizontal change of government, to choose the Suryeong system, discarding the outcomes.
The majority of the UPP’s executives and members had participated in and dedicated themselves to the democratic movement. The platform of the UPP prescribes that it succeeds to the tradition of democratic struggles such as the Gwangju and the June movements.
The UPP’s reunification formula is to establish the Constitution of the reunified Korea through a referendum at the final stage of the reunification. There is no doubt that no one will vote for the draft constitution to adopt the Suryeong system in Korea.
That is to say, there is no possibility in practice that North Korean style socialism will be introduced in Korea by the reunified constitution in accordance with the UPP’s reunification formula. The government’s claim is a dismal slander accusing someone of hidden aims in no comment when it was not spoken simply because it was pretty obvious.
The UPP has continued to promote a popular progressive political party despite any difficulties since it was the DLP. The reason why the term “socialist ideals and principles” in the founding platform of the DLP was eliminated in 2011 was also to close the distance between the party and the people.
Furthermore, the creation of the UPP was a part of our efforts to become more popular. Then why should the UPP aim North Korean style socialism which will never be accepted by the people? It is also not possible to hide such aims.
The government argues that ‘progressive democracy’ introduced in the platform of the DLP was originated from Kim Il-sung, the late leader of North Korea. However, historical documents and statements of historians confirming the origin of the term dates back to Kim Koo, premier of the Korean Provisional Government and the Provisional Assembly were presented to this court as evidence. The Constitution states that it “upholds the cause of the Provisional Government.” Then does the government denounce the Provisional Government of following orders of Kim Il-sung?
The government’s another claim that the UPP will deprive the handful of the privileged of sovereignty after adopting North Korean style socialism is also mere the combination of groundless assumptions. The principle that “no essential aspect of the freedom or right shall be violated” in Article 37 (2) should be observed however the Constitution is amended. Since the days of the DLP, the UPP has established its policies in compatible with Article 37 (2) in the Constitution.
(3) The UPP Promotes Dialogue and Peace.
The conservative media infused the distorted impression that the UPP blindly follows North Korea into people. The main tools of the National Intelligence Service’s unlawful intervention in the presidential election were also the so-called “Jongbuk (blind followers of North Korea)” discourse. The media play by the NIS and the conservative media was too overwhelming to stop.
Whenever we tried to correct distortion, they kept picking at what we said, resulting in adverse effects. Later we became to avoid the issue. But finally the government requested the forced dissolution of the UPP based on this distorted image of the UPP.
After the Korean Peninsula was divided into two Koreas by the collusion of the U.S. and the former Soviet Union in 1945, every Korean has been forced to choose between the South and the North. A number of people came down to south or went up to north and even had a fratricidal war in choosing one.
Next year marks the 70 years of division. How long do we have to live in division and confrontation? Should we live another 100 years or 200 years, sacrificing our youths in the division line drew by the super powers for their own interests?
Without our own commitments to change the options themselves, there will be no progress in history. It is time to change the question. Now we have to have a choice of the 21st century to make between peace and war, not that of 1945 between the South and the North. Any political power that is determined to be responsible for the Korean Peninsula of the 21st century should choose peace and endeavor to lead both the South and North governments to peaceful future.
The government is accusing the effort to change the options of siding with North Korea. It is like arguing that the only option given to the people today and tomorrow is that of 1945. I understand some people agree with the government’s position. I also understand the concerns of those to whom a simple dialogue with North Korea, that they fought against in a war, opens up new wounds.
However, until when will you live in the pain of war? The efforts to write new history of peace and reconciliation beyond the wounds of war and confrontation are to heal the sufferings deep in our mind caused by the division. It is neither acts benefiting the enemy nor provocations of the South-South conflicts.
There should be no more war. It is the same to both the two Koreas. Moreover, the Constitution of the Republic of Korea prohibits mobilizing warfare in achieving reunification. The reunification is what the Constitution aims for. According to the principle of pacifism in the Constitution, the only means to bring reunification is peace. What of my words promoting peace not war and dialogue not confrontation violate the Constitution?
I have maintained the principle of peaceful co-existence in relation with North Korea. On the behalf of the party, I criticized all the stakeholders including the South, the North, and the U.S. of causing military conflicts on the Korean Peninsula and requested to stop. My first remark at the supreme council of the party after I became the president of the DLP was criticizing North Korea’s aggressions.
Also in April 2013 in a war crisis, as the president of the UPP, I consistently requested the cease of North Korea’s missile launching and the joint military drill between the South and the U.S. Moreover, when the South Korean government proposed the inter-Korean dialogue, I welcomed the decision and declared I would help.
(4) We Promote the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the Realization of the Universal Human Rights.
The UPP clearly states the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as one of its purposes in its platform. The official position of the UPP is to abolish any nuclear weapon programs in North Korea and to remove South Korea from the nuclear umbrella of the U.S. There is no reservation or condition in the policy.
In fact, those who accuse anyone who seeks for early and effective solutions of defending North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons are the one who compels North Korea to develop nuclear weapons and hinders the resolution of the problem.
Realizing the universal human rights throughout the Korean Peninsula is another imperative aim of progressive politics. However, in terms of methodologies to achieve it, it is the reality in the inter-Korean relations that acts provoking a war under the name of human rights are prevailing without the minimum level of mutual trust to discuss human rights issues seriously.
A war is the most critical act against human rights, violating everyone’s human rights. Human Rights can bloom only in peace. The UPP will continue to endeavor to build the foundation of peace with the aim of universally realizing human rights.
(5) Independence, Democracy, Equity, and Peaceful Reunification are the Spirit of the Constitution.
The UPP has gone through a lot of difficulties in the course of being divided. I humbly accept the criticism that the leadership of the UPP including myself is responsible for that. We failed to move forward beyond instant greed toward more comprehensive tolerance and engagement as we were overzealous though we were not ready yet.
I realize keenly that we disappointed all the people who had support and expectation for progressive politics. I am the one who should take the major responsibility. However, how can a failure be a reason for the forced dissolution of the UPP?
We all want a world where every person’s human rights are fully guaranteed and every person can enjoy peace. Independence, democracy, equity and peaceful reunification, the orientation of the UPP are the ways to realize our children who are far more valuable than us can live with human dignity in Korean society.
The orientation to create a world where every person can be respected as the sovereign power of the country is completely in accord with the spirit of the Constitution, and the Constitution should be further developed in such direction.
I believe in the continuous progress of history despite individual failures. I sincerely appeal to the Constitutional Court to be a stepping stone for the progress of history. Please demonstrate that the progress of democracy in Korea will never stop, by dismissing the government’s request for dissolution of the UPP. Please confirm that even the pain and antagonism of the division cannot set back Korea’s democracy.
Thank you for your attention for a long time.
25 Nov. 2014
President Lee Jung of the UPP