[EDITORIALS]Punish the strikers

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[EDITORIALS]Punish the strikers

Seoul has asked local governments to punish 591 civil servants who took leave en masse to press their demands for a government employees' labor union. Such punishments are the consequences of the public servants' illegal job action; we urge the local governments to punish the responsible civil officials harshly.

Despite the government's stern advance warning, 20,000 civil servants left their posts and joined the de facto strike. Such group action is not only illegal but is also selfish collective behavior in order to take advantage of their power because the central government's control seems to be dwindling as this administration's term nears its end.

How can official discipline be maintained when public servants, who are responsible for enforcement of the rules, ignore the law? The central government probably wants to punish the civil servants in order to demonstrate its commitment to maintain public discipline.

If the government loses control of civil servants even before the public labor union is approved, the government will be led around by the nose by the union when it is finally formed sometime in the future.

The bureaucrats are strongly protesting the government's decision to punish them, threatening to begin street rallies. Some of the civil servants reportedly considered rejecting any assignments that are related to the presidential election. Local governments are responding too cautiously; some local office heads approved the requests for leave, for example. The people will not tolerate local government collusion in illegal strikes.

If the civil servants who joined the illegal action are not punished properly, authorities will have difficulty in handling other interest groups' demands before the elections. The government must use its power against local governments that fail to punish the civil servants; reducing their funding may be an option. This time, the government must take a serious action -- not just issue empty warnings.

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