Despite instructions from the UPP to members not to resist, party followers put up a 30-minute fight when 60 NIS agents came to the National Assembly to arrest Rep. Lee Seok-ki.
The UPP, meanwhile, is going into “court battle” mode. More specifically, they’re arguing that the recordings of their meetings were made illegally, and therefore are inadmissible as evidence. This is a legal strategy employed by defense attorneys in other spy cases, too, reports the Chosun. Mind you, UPP head Lee Jung-hee and her husband are both lawyers and, in fact, have joined Lee’s legal team.
It seems everybody can agree that the UPP’s response to this crisis has been, in a word, abysmal. The Chosun, of course, notes that the UPP went from “there was no meeting” to “there was a meeting, but nothing about guns and blowing stuff up was said” to “there was a meeting and ‘guns’ and ‘blowing stuff up’ might have been mentioned, but the NIS is manufacturing the context” to “we were only joking.” You know you’ve truly screwed the pooch, however, when you’ve got UPP members going to the Hankyoreh to bitch about how the party leadership has thrown the party in crisis by a) refusing to apologize for Lee’s bizarre comments and behavior and b) lying to the public despite internal agreements to come clean right at the beginning.
Certain quarters of the party also complain that since the party split, nobody’s been able to keep the Gyeonggi Dongbu-centered leadership in check. Not surprisingly, the Justice Party—composed largely of folk who left the UPP when the Gyeonggi Dongbu-types took over–decided as a party to vote in favor of the arrest.
Just to give you an idea of how toxic the UPP is right now, read what DP chairman Kim Han-gil had to say:
Rep. Kim Han-gil, leader of the liberal party, said that he could not protect someone who denies the Constitution, referring to Lee. Members of the UPP warned that if the DP allows a vote on him, it will be tantamount to “crossing a point of no return.”
“The DP will never accept any irresponsible groups that deny the Republic of Korea. The absurd way of thinking by the North Korean sympathizers can never sway the nation,” said Rep. Kim.
Park Jie-won, a DP heavyweight who previously served as floor leader, even called on Lee to leave the UPP. “Otherwise, the UPP will have to expel him on its own,” he said.
That said, 25 non-UPP lawmakers—most likely from the DP—either voted against the arrest motion or abstained, leading some (mostly conservatives) to ask “WTF, is 10% of the National Assembly really pro-North Korean?”
Naturally enough, Rep. Lee had called on lawmakers to vote down the arrest motion. In doing so, he appealed to none other than the New York Times, claiming that the paper had compared the charges against him to the political repression of the Yusin era. He also claimed the paper said the charges were a witchhunt by the NIS to deflect attention, and that the Park Chung-hee administration had used similar charges to go after dissidents. The problem, notes the Chosun Ilbo, is that the NYT didn’t say that—it just said that Korean politicians were saying that.
One thing the NIS is really worried about is their informant. Much of their case relies on his testimony, but with his personal information spreading around the Internet and some progressives calling him a traitor, officials are worried he a) might have a target on his back and b) he might recant his testimony. At any rate, it looks like the NIS has put him in some sort of witness protection program.