Thursday, January 27, 2011

Korean Teachers Found Guilty of Campaign Donations

Last Spring there were national elections in South Korea.  It was all new and interesting to me, and I was curious how the process worked and what voting was like in South Korea.  However, very few of my Korean coteachers seemed interested, involved, or informed.  I asked one of my Korean coteachers who she was planning on voting for, and she told me she had never voted in her life.

Maybe there are just apathetic citizens, but apparently it is against Korean law for Korean public school teachers to get too involved in the political scene.

The Seoul Central District Court yesterday found 260 of 272 teachers and public servants guilty of making donations to the minor opposition Democratic Labor Party.
The court, however, acquitted the public servants of charges that they joined the DLP, citing “lack of evidence.”
Korean law prohibits public servants and teachers from engaging in political activities, and they were indicted on charges of giving money to the DLP.
The court handed out 300,000 won ($268) in fines to 223 teachers and public servants - including Jeong Jin-hu, former head of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union - and slapped 500,000 won fines on 37 people, including the civil servants’ union leader Yang Sung-yoon. 
“The defendants argue they didn’t join the DLP, [but they did] pay money to support the political party,” the court said. “But [a law allowing public servants to donate money] was abolished in 2006, and they violated the political fund law and the public-servant workers’ law.” 
The court, however, suspended 300,000 won in fines for three defendants. It also cleared three other defendants who argued that their husbands donated money to the DLP under their names. The court decided to hold off on handing down verdicts to six defendants who were no-shows at yesterday’s trial. 
Hundreds of teachers and civil servants were indicted last May on charges of joining the DLP and donating 115 million won to the party since 2005. [...]
I suppose parents support these laws because they want teachers to be as politically neutral as possible so their biases do not affect their children while in school.  Another reason could be that tax dollars pay for the salaries of public officials and some oppose people being able to use their personal salaries to fund political campaigns.  

It also seems convenient for the majority party that these civil servants are all trying to support the minority party.  Forbidding such an extremely large percentage of the population from being allowed to participate in the political process reduces their voice in government and ability to elect people to represent them.  Yes, they can still vote, but it seems like showing up to vote is only the last part in a difficult and long process to get a candidate elected in most democracies.


aprilantipodal said...

I've actually gotten an earful about this from two of the teachers I have the most contact with, as they are both left-leaning ladies who would like to be politically active but are effectively gagged by this policy. One told me last week that there are actually two teacher's unions in Korea - one leaning left, the other right - and it's considered a poor career move if you don't join the same one as your principal. According to her, under this administration, the left-leaning union has been decimated due to pressure from above, so that only six teachers in my main school, of over fifty, belong to the left union and they're quiet about it.

aprilantipodal said...

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