[EDITORIALS]Bureaucrats and politicsThe Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that laws restricting primary and secondary school teachers’ participation in political parties and election campaigns are constitutional. The court’s decision came at a time when there is controversy over political announcements by the civil service union and the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union. The civil servants wanted to support a party of their choice, and the teachers union claimed that the presidential impeachment was void.
After the National Assembly impeached President Roh, both those who support the impeachment and those who were against it took to the streets, and society is experiencing serious turmoil with endless arguments. Because the legislative elections are just around the corner, it is necessary more than ever that bureaucrats stay politically neutral. Nevertheless, the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths issued a statement opposing the impeachment. Now the bureaucrats’ union and the teachers union have also stepped forward to express political views, and the people feel uneasy.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling addressed political activities banned by the law on political parties. But the foundation of the ruling is the constitutional clause on the political neutrality of civil servants. The court ruled, “The constitution says that civil servants should not serve the interests of certain political factions or parties. It also stipulates the political neutrality of civil servants so that the administration is not swayed by the political belief of civil servants.” This is the reason why the government must punish those who break that political neutrality.
The court’s decision has no bearing on its deliberations on the presidential impeachment. The political party law bans teachers’ membership in political parties, but the president is a political civil servant whose participation in a political party is guaranteed. Nevertheless, it can be said that the court has set a guideline for all civil servants, including the president, by emphasizing political neutrality repeatedly.
The government said it would punish civil servants who participate in politics. The court’s decision should be made an occasion to establish the political neutrality of civil servants firmly.