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[Editorial] Neglect of Duty by Provincial Gov`t Heads

Posted September. 30, 2009 07:08,   


South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Tae-ho yesterday blasted mayors and governors who glossed over the illegal activities, anti-government protests, and support for a certain political party in the run-up to next year’s local elections by the consolidated government employees’ union. Kim also criticized the union for joining the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. Unlike most officials who turn a blind eye to what public servants’ unions do for fear of the consequences, Kim had the courage to speak on the problems surrounding unions and provincial government heads.

It is no exaggeration to say provincial government officials who curried favor with such unions got the consolidated union to join the hard-line confederation. They were probably accomplices in the consolidated union’s illegal activities and abuse of authority. Public discipline will collapse if such officials fail to perform their duties and rein in the union, which has openly ignored law and order after joining the confederation.

The Public Administration and Security Ministry has named 105 public officials who violated political neutrality by joining an anti-government protest led by opposition parties in July. The ministry has urged punishment for them but just 16 such officials belonging to five provincial governments have been disciplined. Provincial governments have also avoided punishing 25 members of the Korean Government Employees’ Union for occupying the venue of a hearing on pension reform for public servants in October last year. No punishment also went to five ranking union members, including leader Sohn Yeong-tae, who refused to perform administrative work and pushed a no-confidence vote on President Lee Myung-bak at the candlelight vigils last year.

The ministry investigated 97 public organizations that registered collective agreements with the Labor Ministry, and found 78 of them (80.4 percent) paid wages to full-time union members. Ninety-two (94.8 percent) allowed union activities during office hours. Certain cities and counties in North Jeolla Province also glossed over participation by Korean Government Employees’ Union members in an ideological course given by the confederation in July. Of them, 26 members were caught by police while visiting a Ssangyong Motor factory occupied by the company’s union. Under law, full-time union members on leave cannot be paid and union activities must not hinder the execution of public duties.

More troubling is the collusion of provincial government heads with public workers’ unions and reluctance to punish their illegal activities. Such officials seek to win over the unions whenever election season comes around, rather than monitoring them and correcting their wrong actions.

Provincial and municipal government heads who undermine public authority, weaken the rule of law, and waste taxpayers’ money must be punished by their constituents in next year’s local elections. Korea needs courageous officials like Gov. Kim to speak out against the consolidated union’s illegal activities. The government should also inform the people on which provincial and municipal government heads neglect their duties so that voters can make the right choices in next year’s elections.