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LKP moves to expel lawmaker over comments

2 others who maligned Gwangju are shielded by status as candidates
Feb 15,2019
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) took a step Thursday toward expelling one of three lawmakers accused of denigrating the 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement.

It postponed judgments against the other two, as they are shielded by internal leadership election rules.

The LKP held a disciplinary committee meeting in the morning to decide the fates of Reps. Kim Jin-tae, Kim Soon-rye and Lee Jong-myeong. They prompted harsh backlash last week by arguing that the May 18 to 27, 1980 democratization movement was a riot influenced by North Korea.

The committee ruled that all three of them had committed serious wrongdoings that violated the spirit of the democratization movement and the LKP’s conservative values and upset the public. It, however, decided to only propose kicking Lee out, and delayed disciplinary actions against the other two, as they are running for leadership posts.

The LKP’s internal regulations state that any disciplinary processes against candidates for its leadership are suspended once they formally register their bids. The LKP will hold a national convention on Feb. 27, and Kim Jin-tae is running for the party chairmanship. Kim Soon-rye is running to become a Supreme Council member.

“As a conservative party that emphasizes constitutional order and rule of law, the ethics committee said it must make a stern legal judgment and prudent decision,” said Kim Byong-joon, the interim head of the party.

The committee also issued a warning to the interim leader for failing to supervise lawmakers properly.

Lee’s expulsion, although decided by the committee, is not final. It requires two-thirds of LKP lawmakers’ votes to go into effect.

Even if Lee is formally expelled, the LKP will not lose a seat, because Lee is a proportional representative. His seat will be taken over by another LKP politician.

It was quickly apparent the two lawmakers took advantage of the party’s rules by registering as candidates after the scandal.

“You can’t take any disciplinary action against me,” Rep. Kim Jin-tae said Wednesday. Rep. Kim Soon-rye also registered her candidacy, despite the interim leadership’s attempt to dissuade her from doing so.

The LKP’s decision invited criticism.

“It is extremely regretful that the LKP postponed the decisions against the two lawmakers,” said Rep. Kwon Mi-hyuk, spokesman of the ruling Democratic Party. “The only way left is expelling the three lawmakers from the National Assembly through cooperation between our party and three opposition parties. If the LKP wishes to apologize to the victims of the democratic movement and the people, it must cooperate with their expulsion from the legislature.”

“If it had any decency, it should have revoked the candidacies of the two lawmakers and issued the same punishment to Lee,” said Justice Party spokesman Choi Seok.

Some LKP members also lamented the latest decision.

“When the party was once headed by Park Geun-hye before she was president, a candidate who denigrated the Gwangju democratization movement and the April 3, 1943, public uprising in Jeju was asked to surrender his nomination [for 2012 lawmaker election,]” said Jung Hyun-ho, a member of the interim leadership.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]