The Korea Herald


Public criticism of leader violates law: top court

By Korea Herald

Published : April 19, 2012 - 19:53

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The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that public denunciation of the president by school teachers could be a violation of the National Public Services Law.

The ruling which upheld a lower court’s decision is expected to fetter teachers’ political activities.

Earlier, the lower court had ruled that a Daejeon school teacher and two colleagues’ public criticism of President Lee Myung-bak and declaration of an emergency situation in Seoul in June, 2009, violated the legal requirement for public officials to keep political neutrality.

Eight out of 13 members of the top court voted for the ruling, the court said.

“For civil servants, their political freedom can be restricted to a certain level. Especially if they take a collective action in the capacity of teachers, their political influence cannot be underestimated,” the court said. “Teachers’ public denunciation of the President is clearly a collective action out of the official duty boundary,” it said.

Lee and his colleagues, who are members of the progressive Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, criticized the Lee administration for unilateral decisions such as the resumption of U.S. beef imports and attempting to railroad the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

The KTU strongly protested the ruling.

“There were five justices who thought the announcement was freedom of expression,” it said.

“The constitution guarantees freedom of expression including people’s political ideas and criticism. Teachers are no exception,” it said.

By Bae Ji-sook (