273 public servants accused of paying DLP duesTwo hundred and seventy-three teachers and civil servants were indicted without detention yesterday on charges that they breached the public service workers’ law by paying monthly membership dues to the minor Democratic Labor Party.
According to prosecutors at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ office, 90 civil servants from the Korean Government Employees’ Union and 183 members of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union - including teachers’ union head Jeong Jin-hu and civil servants’ union leader Yang Sung-yoon - allegedly paid about 115 million won ($10,021) in illegal political donations to the minor opposition party since 2005.
The law bans public service workers and private and public school teachers from participating in collective political activities, including belonging to a political party or making a political contribution.
Prosecutors said the indicted union members joined the DLP and had their banks transfer monthly membership fees of around 10,000 won to the party’s account.
Among the indicted union members, prosecutors said 69 are already facing trial on separate charges of allegedly issuing an anti-government statement last year.
Prosecutors also said they have evidence that some union members used school computers to access the DLP Web site to participate in an official online poll of party members. The union members used the computers to cast votes selecting regional chapter heads, lawmakers and leading party officials for the progressive party.
Prosecutors launched their probe against the union members in January, after they received a tip that some of the members of the unions had joined the DLP and were making political donations. Police in February raided the KT Internet center in Bundang to confiscate computer servers belonging to a minor opposition party as part of an investigation into alleged political activity by civil servants and teachers.
Prosecutors, however, failed to obtain servers that allegedly contained a roster of DLP members because party officials took them away before the police raid.
Oh Se-in, a prosecutor in charge of the case, said prosecutors officially asked the DLP to hand over its membership roster on April 30, but the party rejected the request.
“Indictments were handed down to the union members because there’s still enough evidence to press charges against them,” Oh said.
The unions both flatly denied that their members either signed up for DLP membership or paid dues to the minor political party. Beyond their denials, the unions have argued that the prosecution cannot punish some of their members because the statute of limitations against them has expired, but prosecutors say that the statute kept running as long as they belonged to the DLP.
Prosecutors are also continuing to investigate whether the DLP has received illegal political donations in addition to membership dues from some union members.
By Kim Mi-ju, Lee Chul-jae [firstname.lastname@example.org]