The UPP was dissolved by an unprecedentedConstitutional Court ruling in December 2014 in response to a petition filed by the Park Geun-hye government, which alleged that the party was under orders from North Korea to subvert the South Korean state through violent revolution.
Kim Young-han’s journal, recently released by his family to the media, contains a detailed record of Blue House cabinet meetings while he served as a senior secretary to the president. It has become the focus of the National Assembly’s ongoing “Choi Soon-sil Gate” hearings, broadcast on live television everyday this week, and is fanning public indignation ahead of Friday’s vote on Park Geun-hye’s impeachment in the National Assembly.
Kim Young-han had written on December 17, 2014, “Party dissolution confirmed, proportional representatives lose seats” under a section entitled “Chief,” denoting then-Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon. The Constitutional Court announced its 8 to 1 verdict to dissolve the UPP two days later on December 19.
Kim Young-han had also written, “Split on whether district representatives should lose their seats; chief justice mediating opinion (today). After mediation, 19th, early 22nd.” It appears the Blue House also had insider knowledge of diverging opinions among the judges on whether the UPP’s district representatives to the National Assembly, i.e. elected by the people of their districts, should lose their seats as a result of the court’s ruling. It also apparently knew that the chief justice was in the process of mediating consensus and that the court would deliver its ruling on December 19 or 22.
The Constitutional Court has said in the past that it had reached its final ruling to dissolve the UPP just prior to its announcement on December 19, 2014. But Kim had noted both the verdict and the timing of the announcement two days before it actually occurred. This implies the possibility of illicit contact between the Blue House and the Constitutional Court and raisesserious questions about the political independence of the judiciary.
Other records in the journal indicate that the Blue House kept close track of public opinion on the UPP case and may have collaborated with the Ministry of Justice to exert undue influence. The following are excerpts from the journal:
August 25, 2014— “Find ways to provide support regarding UPP case;” “Trial in progress, __ with Justice Ministry TF (Task Force).”
(What “support” might the Blue House have sought to provide regarding the UPP case and to whom? And did it collaborate with the Ministry of Justice to meddle in the case? The note attributes these comments to Kim Ki-choon, who appears to have played a key role in the dissolution of the UPP.)
November 25, 2014— “Constitutional court trial— public opinion battle, direction of activity established (civil society activity).” (On the same day, right-wing groups gathered outside the Constitutional Court to burn the flag of the UPP and demand the dissolution of the party.)
November 26, 2014— “Persuade constitutional scholar to write column— collaborate with Justice Ministry”
November 28, 2016— “Director of Central Election Management Committee— excludes qualification of local representatives— law— shortcoming— alternative party— legal regulation— formal review— divergent views— revocation lawsuit (administrative). Constitutional litigation.”
(This suggests that even before the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the Blue House knew that a ruling to dissolve the party would not unseat UPP lawmakers in local legislatures, and that it anticipated a legal challenge from the UPP’s local lawmakers and was thus preparing countermeasures.)
December 11, 2014— “New Politics Alliance for Democracy, opposes UPP dissolution — Saenuri rebuttal preparation.” (On the same day, the Supreme Council of the Saenuri Party denounced then-New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) Chair Moon Jae-in for his opposition to dissolving the UPP.)
December 28, 2014— “Post-UPP dissolution follow-up (civic group)”
December, 29, 2014— “UPP follow-up investigation (rank and file)” (This was noted around the time the prosecutor general raised the possibility of investigating and punishing rank and file members of the UPP and suggests the Blue House may have exerted undue pressure on the prosecutor general.)