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[Editorial] Teachers` Union Must Be Punished

Posted July. 04, 2009 10:02,   


Police yesterday raided the offices of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers` Union. The Education, Science and Technology Ministry filed a complaint with prosecutors June 18 against some 17,000 union members who signed an anti-government statement, a violation of the National Public Officials Act that bans political activities by public servants. The raids were conducted under prosecutors` direction to seize evidence for their investigation.

In defiance of the Education Ministry’s disciplinary measures, the union announced June 26 that it will issue another manifesto critical of the Lee Myung-bak administration. By doing so, the union is undermining law and order, taunting government organizations, and spoiling the future of the younger generation.

Claiming prosecutors ordered the raids to find fault with the union after failing to find any crime in the its anti-government statement, the union announced a meeting of its branch heads Sunday in protest of the ministry’s disciplinary measures and to push for a second statement.

Instead of soul searching, the union is determined to fight squarely with the government. Worse, its members are criticizing the police raids as political suppression while justifying their political activities.

Union members, excluding those at private schools, are public servants. Article 66 of the National Public Officials Act prohibits public servants from taking collective action and a law governing teacher unions bans them from conducting political activities unrelated to working conditions. The union says its statement is legal because teachers have the right to freely express their opinions. This argument is meant to avoid responsibility, however. The widespread manifesto campaign among leftist groups constitutes an anti-government political activity.

This is not the first time that unionized teachers, who are supposed to teach students to follow the law, to flout rules. Since the union`s legalization in 1999, teachers have gotten a collective day off 12 times to stage massive protests. The Seoul High Court ruled such protests illegal in November last year, saying they violated a student’s right to study.

Leaders of the union`s Seoul branch are on trial for giving illegal election funds to Ju Gyeong-bok, a candidate who backs the union, in the election for Seoul`s education superintendent last year. The union`s reputation was further tainted after its ex-leader Chung Jin-hwa was dismissed over an alleged cover-up of sexual abuse by a member of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.

The habitual breach of law by the teachers` union is blamed on the previous left-leaning government`s tolerance of illegal activities. The incumbent administration must sternly deal with this violation.