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[Editorial] Election Commission Must Stay Impartial

Posted October. 06, 2009 08:01,   


Of 2,648 members of the National Election Commission, 1,786 or 67 percent belong to the Korean Government Employees’ Union, which plans to join the militant Korea Confederation of Trade Unions next month. Considering that only officials grade six or lower can join a union, a whopping 99 percent of eligible government employees will become members of a union belonging to the confederation. It is no stretch to say the confederation is the mother of the progressive Democratic Labor Party in launching campaigns for the party whenever an election is held. If the confederation, which is definitely biased toward a certain party, is allowed to run the election commission, political neutrality cannot be guaranteed. If commission members want to stay politically neutral, they should not join the confederation.

Government officials, especially those working for the commission, must remain politically neutral under law. This explains why the commission has an additional clause preventing its workers from supporting or opposing a certain party or organization even when the Constitution and other laws require government officials to stay politically neutral.

The confederation took the initiative when the progressive party was established, and is now a core force supporting the party. Rep. Kwon Young-ghil, who ran for president twice as the party’s candidate and served as its chairman, was also the founding chairman of the confederation. Shortly before last year’s general elections, then confederation chairman Lee Seok-haeng and 100 other leaders of the body became permanent party members by each paying one million won (1,013 dollars) in membership fees. Similar cases occurred in which the confederation supported the party with capital and organization. Several confederation members also work for the party as representatives. Overall, the confederation and the party are like Siamese twins in that they have two heads but one body. The confederation has even led anti-government protests.

A majority of election commission members have even participated in the government employees’ union and run political ads in progressive dailies criticizing the Lee Myung-bak administration. In addition to these illegal political activities, commission members plan to join the confederation, which would mean indirect support of the Democratic Labor Party. How then can the country expect fair elections?

Thus, election commission members should be barred from joining the government employees’ union from the beginning. Against this backdrop, the Government Officials Act should be revised as pressed for by ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Shin Ji-ho. He says election commission officials should be treated like prosecutors, police, firefighters and intelligence agents in being barred from joining a union.

Elections are a critical part of democracy. Union activities and participation in the labor confederation by election commission members must be prevented to defend democracy.