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A new progressive party before the general election
Lee Yunwon, Reporter
On February 17th, the Democratic Labor Party’s lawmaker Shim Sang-jung officially declared her defection from the party and proposed the formation of a new progressive political party, vowing “to pursue a new path of a truly progressive party.”

Shim held a press conference at the National Assembly and said “I have to confess the dismal fact that the DLP has hit the ceiling that makes it hard to pursue a truly progressive political party and to make the future of progressive politics hopeful.”

About the schedule of the new party, she commented “At first, I suggest a coalition named ‘Solidarity for Building a New Progressive Party’ as a base camp against the Lee Government.” and “It is to be registered before the general election, and the substantial steps towards the formation of the party might be taken after the election.”

In a meeting with key figures of the Equality faction including lawmaker Noh Hoi-chan held on February 13th, a definite timetable of promoting the new party was set up; temporary formation before the general election, then official inauguration. With the timetable, the efforts towards new party would shift into high gear.

  Lawmaker Shim Sang-jung declared defection.

“The DLP is not one to defeat, we should reflect on ourselves”

Shim told the reporters “All we need is not a hut. Of course, that might be for the present a shelter from rain and wind but we need a firm house that may takes time and can endure test of the time,” and “this is the only steps we should take, for not repeating the mistakes committed before by the DLP.”

And she added “I’m not scrapping the core of the progressive party, outcomes of the past and passion for the new world, I’m scrapping the old structure of the DLP,” and “I’m not concerned with confrontation against and defeating the DLP.” She seems to want the formation of new party to avoid being seen as a factional scandal.

Shim also leaves open the possibility of coalition with Movement to New Progressive Party led by former DLP lawmaker Cho Seung-soo, saying “We’re ready to be with everyone who seceded from DLP and wants to join a new movement.” But she also added “The failure of the DLP is not committed exclusively by the NL faction. Those who are leaving the party now might not feel free form the failure of DLP. In that sense Equality faction should take their responsibility in not repeating the mistakes by reflecting on the DLP’s experiences.”

She stressed “New party we are to make should overcome the era of DLP and be responsible and accountable for the vision of lone term. Pragmatic approach to the general election cannot be allowed,” and “we have to have discussion with civic movement groups and progressive political groups over such subjects as the value, subjects and practices of progressive politics for equipping us with wider reflections than the DLP.” These might be some of the new party’s foundation statement, which has the new one distinctive from the old one.

Shim also said “I will run as a candidate of the Solidarity for Building a New Progressive Party in general election in April. Principles and directions guiding the party’s nomination for proportional representative will be what I should have applied to the DLP as the chairwoman of the emergency committee.” That is, the new party would woo well-known figures outside the party. She negated the possibility of being nominated for proportional representative herself, pointing out “I consider running as a candidate in my district as the first option.”

Shim plans to determine the party’s frameworks in detail with lawmaker Noh and announce it on February 20th, and officially propose the formation in an open forum.

If the party gets less than 2% of votes and is deregistered, it might suffer a severe political blow. “I have no idea about what result the party will get. Time is not on our side. All I can do is doing my best. That’s what I can say.” said Shim.

The split prompting the KCTU to divide

On February 16, Jun-jin (means ‘forward’), the biggest group in Equality faction, held a general meeting and decided ‘to defect from the DLP and make a new progressive party before April election through building regional committees.’ Defector group Movement to New Progressive is also known to join the Shim’s party, if Shim and Noh agree on founding a new party before the general election.

As Shim has revealed her plan of establishing the new party before the election, the leftist groups would be rapidly reorganized. Since the Jun-jin group has many union members in KCTU, which is so-called Centralists, the conflicts in KCTU between NL faction-inclined group and the Centralists inclined to Equality faction will be fuelled. Former and present leaders of KCTU including vice president Kim Eun-joo, who is known to be Centralist, are reported to declare secession from the DLP. If the KCTU divides, KCTU’s political directive of exclusive support for the DLP loses its substantial meaning.

Responding to that, Shim said “The KCTU’s line of exclusive support for the DLP has already been practically denied by union members in the last election. DLP got only about 3% of all votes,” and “withdrawal of the unilateral political line doesn’t mean negation of progressive labor politics, but that workers should participate in labor politics by themselves.”

Shim is reportedly going to bolt after extraordinary session of the National Assembly in February to deal with the immediate issues like ratification of FTA and special legislation for Tae-an residents. Shim added “Noh would keep steps with me.”

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