The Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union has received 4.9 billion won of subsidies from educational authorities for office rental and event expenses, though it controls an annual budget of 20 billion won. Certain branches are using educational administration offices free. The unions Seoul branch occupies for free part of a space dedicated to a childrens library. Another branch is said to have received 1.1 billion won for office supplies and rent. An agreement made between education offices and the union and the Labor Union Law allow each branch to get such assistance, but most dont consider it legitimate given what the union has done. So voices are growing that revision of related law is necessary.
The union has always been at the scene of illegal protests, including those held by a coalition against U.S. base expansion in Pyeongtaek, the Korean Alliance against the Korea-U.S. FTA, and the People`s Association for Measures against Mad Cow Disease. Last month, the union ordered 9,000 elementary, middle and high schools to put up placards protesting U.S. beef imports and sent newsletters to students` families to urge participation in candlelight rallies. One elementary school teacher who was a member of the union in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, had students stage a play featuring candlelight protests and hold a picket reading, Oust Lee Myung-bak.
Seventy-four civic groups affiliated with the anti-mad cow association have received 657 million won out of 800 billion won in government subsidies allocated for this year. The chairman and three members of a committee to select non-profit organizations for public projects and divide the subsidies are members of the association. Under the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration, two major civic groups under the coalition received subsidies despite their involvement in illegal and violent demonstrations. The financial assistance is given based on the Assistance for Nonprofit NGO Act enacted by the Kim Dae-jung administration to foster civic organizations. The law has no provision banning subsidies for NGOs engaged in illegal protests.
Against this backdrop, ruling party lawmaker Shin Ji-ho is spearheading the revision of the law. He said a civic group whose member is sentenced to fines or prison for involvement in illegal protests should be disqualified for subsidies and refund prior money received. Shin said Korean NGOs that contributed to democracy in difficult conditions by eating fried noodles and drinking soju without side dishes turned into satisfied leftist forces who indulged themselves under the previous two liberal administrations. Once civic organizations begin using state funds, they no longer keep their purity and independence, whether liberal or conservative.
Editorial Writer Huh Moon-myeong (firstname.lastname@example.org)