Education chief seeks teacher fines, suspensionGyeonggi education superintendent Kim Sang-kon yesterday asked the Provincial Office of Education’s disciplinary committee to punish 19 members of a liberal teachers’ union for allegedly giving funds to the minor Democratic Labor Party.
With his request, Kim himself may come under fierce criticism from the Education Ministry, which had ordered him to dismiss the accused teachers, all of whom belong to the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union. Instead, he told the committee to cut their salaries and suspend them from work for several months.
“The ministry is concerned that Kim refused to follow its decision to dismiss the teachers and give them a lighter punishment,” said a senior official with the Education Ministry, which will soon make an official pronouncement on the matter.
The 19 teachers were indicted last month for allegedly paying monthly dues or making political donations of 280,000 won ($233) to 1 million won to the Democratic Labor Party from 2005-2009. In Korea, teachers and civil servants are legally barred from collective political action.
Ahn Sun-eok, a spokesman for the Gyeonggi Education Office, said the teachers deserve punishment.
“But the Gyeonggi education chief decided not to ask the disciplinary committee to dismiss the teachers. He handed them a lesser punishment, given that there’s not enough evidence to press charges that the teachers have been actively involved in political activities,” Ahn said.
Ahn also said that slapping severe disciplinary measures, such as dismissal, on the all accused teachers would spark public criticism that the education chief had abused his power in personnel matters.
Kim is facing trial for allegedly breaching his duty by refusing an Education Ministry order to discipline 15 teachers who signed an anti-government statement last June. He won re-election on June 2.
By Kim Mi-ju, Yu Kil-yong [firstname.lastname@example.org]