Union sues lawmaker, newspaper for $1M

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Union sues lawmaker, newspaper for $1M

The heated battle between a teachers’ union and a Grand National Party lawmaker has hit the boiling point.

The left-wing Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union filed suit yesterday in Seoul Central District Court seeking 1.17 billion won ($1.05 million) from lawmaker Cho Jeon-hyeok and major local daily Dong-A Ilbo for revealing the identities of its members.

The union said it wants 100,000 won from both Cho and the Dong-A Ilbo for each of the 5,864 members who participated in filing the lawsuit.

On April 19, Cho posted the identities of the teachers’ union members, including their names, schools, subjects they teach and the unions to which they belong, on his home page (www.educho.com). Cho’s action was in line with a Seoul Central District Court verdict in March that dismissed a request to protect the union members’ privacy, but went against an April 15 injunction from the Seoul Southern District Court that ordered the teachers’ identities not be revealed.

After Cho posted the teachers’ identities online, Dong-A Ilbo posted them on its own Web site for eight days beginning April 20.

The ruling party and the union had been clashing for some time, with the GNP accusing the union of holding anti-government protests and being involved with the opposition Democratic Labor Party. Teachers and civil servants are not allowed to participate in collective political activities. However, the teachers’ union says that their actions are a form of personal freedom of speech.

The union filed suit after the Seoul Southern District Court on Tuesday ruled that Cho will be fined 30 million won for each day he continues to post the names on his Web site.

“The court’s decision proves that information regarding teachers’ memberships in the union should be dealt with more carefully than other, regular information,” the teachers’ union said. “We filed this lawsuit for damages in order to make [Cho and Dong-A Ilbo] responsible for utterly disturbing the education sector by illegally revealing the list [of teachers’ names].”

The union said that the newspaper was “disguising [itself] with freedom of the press” in order to participate in an illegal action.

Cho shot back that “the court does not have the power to decide whether the list [of teachers’ identities] may or may not be revealed,” and added that this was especially the case for online content.

He said that for now, he will continue to post the teachers’ identities on his home page. He has also submitted this case to the Constitutional Court for judgment.

During a National Assembly meeting yesterday, Cho said “It is the duty of a National Assembly member to reveal to the public what they want to know if he or she has that information.” He added that the fine ordered by the court is “an execution order on politics and for the National Assembly” and that “the limit of power between the court and National Assembly should be clearly drawn with this case.”

By Cho Jae-eun, Ko Jung-ae [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]

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