Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - Yoon Geum-soon, a lawmaker-elect of South Korea's Unified Progressive Party (UPP), on Friday withdrew from the party list amid escalating criticism of vote-rigging in the minority party's nomination race.
The civic activist was in the top spot of the UPP's proportional representatives for the April 11 parliamentary elections.
Her exit fell short of containing the crisis as public antipathy is mounting toward the party, which claimed to epitomize grassroots democracy. The prosecution is set to open an investigation into the alleged election fraud.
"I am remorseful that the party had let down many people through mishaps during candidate selection," she said at the press conference at the National Assembly. "Thanks to the support from the female farmers, I was selected as the No. 1 proportional candidate. But as one of the successful candidates, I will take responsibility," she said.
The Korean Women Peasant Association (KWPA), which jointly hosted the briefing, urged the UPP leadership to step down.
"The party needs more than reform. All of the leadership as well as the elected proportional representatives of the party should quit to regain public credibility," Park Jeom-ok, head of the KWPA, said.
Yoon's resolution came as party's co-chairman Cho Jun-ho declared Wednesday that irregularities during the intra-party election for candidate selection were so grave that the selection process, as well as its results, could lose legitimacy.
Announcing the internal investigation result, Cho admitted that vote-rigging was rampant when voters were allowed to cast their ballots in person at a polling station, via the party's website or through their phones.
At the April 11 elections a total of 13 party candidates including six proportional representatives were elected, the largest ever in the far-leftists' history since their debut in the parliament in 2004. Among the six elected proportional candidates, three received their seeds through the primary election.
Yoon's move is expected to place huge stress on the four leaders of the party ? Lee Jung-hee, Rhyu Si-min, Sim Sang-jeong and Cho.
Lee on Friday said that she may resign after the party's central committee meeting is held on May 12. But she refuted the audit report. "I will take responsibility of what I have to take. But the report was all about suspicion and no solid proof to back the allegations," she said at a party meeting in the afternoon.
"I will not accept the report that has not been cross-checked. It could be an insult on many decent party members."
The leaders are also expected to tackle a prosecution investigation into the scandal as a conservative civic group filed a complaint over the irregularities. Lee said the probe is inappropriate since the party is capable of disciplining and reprimanding those responsible. But the investigators said they are studying legal grounds to prosecute wrongdoers.
Moreover, cracks are already appearing among the leadership.
Local newspapers reported that Lee Seok-gi, the No. 2 seed among the proportional candidates, offered Rhyu help in nabbing the party helm in exchange for securing Lee's position and power in the party.
Both Rhyu and Lee denied the report.
"It is a common thing for a party member to consult the party head. There was no discussion about leadership," Lee's secretary said.
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