[EDITORIALS]Act against the strikersWhen the Korea Government Employees’ Union started its nationwide strike, 2,492 members walked out. The government had repeatedly threatened to fire or suspend any civil servant who participated in the job action. And the minister of home affairs, Huh Sung-kwan, said he felt heartbroken because he had to act against those who orchestrated the strike and those who simply joined it.
After the Roh administration’s announcement, regional autonomous bodies have been punishing the strikers. Still, only 173 have been fired and another 184 have been suspended at the nation’s 15 city and provincial governments. Most others received no more than a suspension, a warning and a pay reduction. The regional governments have been ignoring the central government’s policy of stern punishment for the public servants.
In Ulsan, where the greatest number of civil servants joined the walkout, only 13 out of the 1,147 were punished. The eastern and northern district offices are headed by members of the Democratic Labor Party, and the two offices have been refusing to even submit requests for punishment. They are ignoring the government’s order, acting as if their districts are beyond the law.
Two district heads have been ignoring the higher authorities’ order, claiming the right to decide whether civil servants should be punished or not is their prerogative. That is a clear violation of the laws governing local autonomous bodies and their officials, which allow the central government to supervise administration and personnel affairs of the regional governments.
The Roh administration must not sit with folded arms in the face of the Ulsan officials’ rejection. The public servants’ job action is a direct challenge to the nation, the government has said, and it is necessary to impose stiff legal remedies in order to assert government authority. The central government must cut budget allocations to such regional authorities and reconsider its financial support for various local projects. The government must act to bring charges against the two Ulsan officials for negligence of their duties; the administration must not feel pressured by the Democratic Labor Party.
How can we call such regional bodies a part of our nation’s government? Mutiny is not in the spirit of allowing regional autonomous governance. The government must address this case forcefully to recover its dignity.