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Light Punishment Slated for Teachers Who Broke Law

Posted June. 19, 2010 17:37,   


The superintendent of the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education said Friday that he will exercise leniency on unionized teachers who violated the law by supporting a political party.

Members of the Korea Teachers and Educational Workers` Union have been indicted for paying membership and sponsorship fees to the progressive Democratic Labor Party, a violation of the law governing civil servants.

The Education, Science and Technology Ministry is protesting the move, however.

The education office held a meeting of top management and decided on the final penalty at the request of prosecutors to punish teachers at public and private high schools known to have broken the law. The teachers include seven elementary and 11 junior and senior high school teachers.

“Based on prosecutors’ notice of law violation and indictment documents, we examined the case to verify the truth, and found that the teachers’ action was a violation of the law banning political campaigns by civil servants,” the office said.

On the severity of the penalty, however, it said, “A heavy penalty to all of the teachers based solely on the ministry’s stance could provide leeway for the superintendant to abuse his rights to manage personnel affairs.”

“Because of the lack of evidence that the teachers actively participated in political activities, the demand for a lighter penalty is legitimate,” the office said. “Meting out heavy punishment across the board could cause unnecessary confrontation, dispute and confusion to our educational community and society.”

In response, the Education Ministry said in a news release, “We deeply regret the Gyeonggi office’s decision in that it could seriously damage constitutional order, as well as order and obligations in the public sector overall.”

“The joining of the political party by the teachers constituted a violation of the obligation of civil servants and educators to keep political neutrality as stipulated in the Constitution,” the ministry said. “After examining the cause and grounds the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education considered in reaching the decision to impose a lighter penalty, we will conduct a legal review before addressing the problem.”

The ordinance on disciplining civil servants in education suggests that the heads of educational institutions, once informed of a cause for punishment, must seek approval for punishment from the disciplinary committee in its constituency within a month barring an extenuating circumstance.

The Education Ministry sought legal action against Gyeonggi superintendent Kim Sang-kon for dereliction of duty, saying he failed to seek a motion to punish the violation of the clause.

A ministry official said, “This clause is a binding rule and (the superintendent) must follow it,” adding, “If this clause fails to remain in effect, a motion to penalize civil servants becomes meaningless.”

According to a Supreme Court precedent, however, a ward office chief who rejected a decision to penalize civil servants due to a general strike by the Korea Government Employees’ Union committed dereliction of duty, but merely changing the level of punishment did not constitute a violation.

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