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[Editorial] Gov`t Workers Are Not Politicians

Posted June. 24, 2009 08:57,   


Two of three unions representing government workers are set to join the progressive Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union in issuing anti-government statements. The anti-government manifesto campaign was initiated by Seoul National University professors June 3. The Korean Government Employees’ Union yesterday postponed its decision to join the campaign until next week after the government’s stern warning to punish government unions that issue a statement under law. The Korea Democracy Government Employees’ Union and the Korean Court Employees’ Union are poised to go ahead with their plan, however.

The National Public Official Act and the Public Officials Trade Union Act prohibit government officials from conducting political activity. The Constitution guarantees the status of public servants only when they fulfill their duties for the people. Taking sides with political forces and factions by issuing anti-government statements is not only a clear violation of law but also a reckless collective action perpetrated by those who forget that they serve the public. The unions say their statements are for the country and people, but if the statements are in line with those issued by other anti-government groups, they are breaking the law by engaging in political activity.

The combined membership of the three unions is an estimated 128,500. When announcing May 20 that they will merge in December, they said they will place themselves under the control of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. If this happens, 205,000 public officials, including teachers under the education workers’ union, or 21 percent of the estimated 975,000 public officials nationwide, will belong to the confederation.

The confederation has habitually staged illegal protests and strikes. In last year’s candlelight vigils against the resumption of U.S. beef imports, which turned downtown Seoul into a lawless world for three months, the left-leaning labor group provided trucks and materials for protesters to set a stage and took the lead in mobilizing demonstrators. Though one of the government workers’ unions has “democracy” in its name, it advocates values and principles that run counter to a free democracy and market economy. Worse, it openly declared a struggle to undermine the nation’s international credibility.

No sane government official will attempt to join this extremist and leftist umbrella group. Nobody can rule out that unionized government officials will follow the directions of the confederation while ignoring those from the government. Under such circumstances, administrative services at both the central and provincial governments will grind to a halt when the confederation declares a general strike.

The last thing the people want to see are public servants wearing red bands on their heads at windows for civil petitions. The government must sternly deal under law public workers who sign anti-government statements.