[EDITORIALS]Union must change its spots

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[EDITORIALS]Union must change its spots

The local government of South Gyeongsang province has ordered the regional headquarters of the Korean Government Employees’ Union to move out of its current office and to send its three standing officials back to the government agencies they belong to. Kim Tae-ho, governor of the province, said, “We cannot allow the union, which is an illegal body, to operate so we will take a firm stance against it”
Technically speaking, the Korean Government Employees’ Union is an illegal organization. The government, in late January, allowed it to convert to a lawful union, but on the conditions that it should not make political moves and should accept only civil servants of sixth or lower ranks as its members. The union refused to convert to a lawful body, saying it could not accept those conditions. However, many local government heads gave offices to serve as regional headquarters for the union and provided salaries to standing officials of the union with taxpayer’s money. This is absurd.
After the Korean Government Employees’ Union refused to convert to a lawful body, the government, in February, ordered civil servants in the union to secede from it, saying, “We cannot allow an illegal body.” Only 20,000 civil servants withdrew from the union, however, and 100,000 members still remain. In addition, the union declared support for candidates from the Democratic Labor Party during campaigns for the May 31 local elections and is participating in protests against a free trade agreement with the United States, thus violating the government regulation that bans it from political activities.
Nevertheless, the central government has only been promising “firm measures,” without acting. This contrasts with how the local government of Gyeonggi province acted. In May, the Gyeonggi provincial government closed the office of the union’s regional headquarters by affixing steel sheets to the office door and excluded civil servants belonging to the union from bonuses or support for overseas studies.
The members of the Korean Government Employees’ Union should now change their thoughts. The Korean Federation of Government Employees, which is the first union’s rival, plans to convert to a lawful union in September. The Korean Government Employees’ Union can claim expansion in the range of civil servants eligible for the union, after converting to a legal body first. If it wants to remain an illegal body, the public will turn its back on them.
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