South Korea's constitutional court has ordered that a leftist political party be dissolved amid claims it has "pro-North Korea" views. A court petition was raised last year to disband the Unified Progressive Party.
South Korea's Constitutional Court (photo) ruled on Friday that the leftist Unified Progressive Party's (UPP) principles and activities contradicted the "basic democratic order" of South Korea, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
"The UPP, with a hidden agenda to adopt North Korea's socialism, organized meetings to discuss a rebellion," said Chief Justice Park Han Cheol according to Yonhap. "The act goes against the basic democratic order of the Constitution."
The Justice Ministry in Seoul petitioned the court to disband the UPP in late 2013. The party was accused of supporting North Korea-style socialist systems and posing a threat to South Korea's liberal democracy.
Prior to the petition, key party members were arrested for an alleged plot to stage a pro-Pyongyang coup to overthrow South Korea's government in the event of a war on the Korean Peninsula.
The UPP was founded in 2011 through a merger of small progressive groups. It has five lawmakers who the court ruled should lose their seats.
In the late 1980s, South Korea started to move towards democracy following decades of military-backed dictatorships.
The move to disband the political party has drawn criticism that it could limit freedom of expression in a country once ruled by military dictators who had a history of banning rival political parties.
Human rights group Amnesty International was critical of the court's decision.
"The ban on the UPP raises serious questions as to the authorities' commitment to freedom of expression and association," AI's Roseann Rife said in a statement.
Better diplomatic ties or real rebellion?
Seven UPP members were sentenced to prison terms of up to nine years for either inciting rebellion or violating the South Korean security laws.
The charge levied against the leftist party that it was planning a rebellion against Seoul led to the conviction of seven party members. They are now serving prison terms of up to nine years
UPP members said they wanted increased reconciliation with North Korea, and in turn, accused South Korea's secret services of fabricating the rebellion charges to divert attention from claims spy agents launched illicit online campaigning to help then ruling party candidate, current President Park Geun-hye, win elections in December 2012.
South Korea has shared the world's mostly heavily fortified border with North Korea since their three-year war in the early 1950s.
lw/sms (AP, dpa)