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Venice Commission has no intention of disputing UPP ruling

The Venice Commission, an advisory group to the Council of Europe, has said that it has no intention to dispute last Friday’s unprecedented ruling by South Korea’s Constitutional court to disband the far-left Unified Progressive Party.

Speculation has been escalating that the commission requested an English version of the ruling to challenge the ruling or express concerns over it, as critics have argued that the ruling has undermined the country’s political pluralism, a key element of liberal democracy.

“There was only a request from us to the (Constitutional) Court whether the text would be available in English to include it in our database on constitutional case law codices,” Tatyana Mychelova, in charge of external relations at the commission, told The Korea Herald.

“The commission has no mandate and no intention to take a position on the judgment of the Court, which is final and binding.”

The commission maintains the database codices, which currently contains full texts of 10,374 key-judgments and 8,383 summaries from 139 courts, Mychelova explained.

Constitutional Court president Park Han-chul announces its ruling against the UPP on Friday. (Yonhap)
Constitutional Court president Park Han-chul announces its ruling against the UPP on Friday. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s Constitutional Court ruled last Friday that the Unified Progressive Party’s aim was to establish a socialist state modelled on North Korea through violence in breach of the Constitution. It also pointed out that the party was led mainly by members associated with former pro-North Korean entities, and that the UPP’s fundamentals were based on Pyongyang’s ideals.

With the ruling having taken immediate effect, the party was dismantled, and five UPP lawmakers including two proportional representatives were stripped of their status.

The Constitutional Court said that it had received only a verbal request from the Venice Commission, and that it had yet to determine whether to translate the ruling on the UPP disbandment, although it has posted an English press release about the ruling on its website.

“We have published an English book carrying key rulings of each year. We are now in the process of wrapping up the translation work for 2013 rulings, meaning we have yet to determine what we will translate for the English book for key 2014 rulings,” a court official said.

The unprecedented ruling on the UPP dissolution has 347 pages, and the translation work is expected to take more than half a year.

Amid the speculation over the intensions behind the translation request, the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy apparently used the request to ratchet up its offensive against the ruling conservative camp.

“Following the ruling by the Constitutional Court, international concerns over South Korea’s democracy are growing,” NPAD leader Rep. Moon Hee-sang said on Monday during a meeting with party officials.

“The Venice Commission made the request for an English version of the ruling, and this is a move by the international community to vet the level of our democracy. This really hurts our pride in our democracy that we have achieved on our own.”

Pointing to a series of guidelines for the dissolution of political parties that the commission put forward in its 2000 report, local news media forecast that the English version of the ruling put South Korea’s democratic system under international scrutiny.

The commission’s report said that prohibition or enforced dissolution of political parties may only be justified in the case of parties which advocate the use of violence or use violence as a political means to overthrow the democratic constitutional order.

It also said that the prohibition or dissolution of political parties as a particularly far-reaching measure should be used with “utmost restraint.”

The Venice Commission, formally known as the European Commission for Democracy through Law, is a consultative organization of members of constitutional courts in 47 countries. 

By Song Sang-ho


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