S. Korean officials scold union for criticizing Ulchi Focus Lens
Stars and Stripes August 31, 2006
SEOUL — South Korean officials want the Korea Government Employee’s Union investigated for publicly criticizing a major military training exercise.
Union officials posted a statement on their Web site on Aug. 17 objecting to their mandatory participation in Ulchi Focus Lens, an annual South Korea-U.S. military training exercise. This year’s UFL, which involves computer simulations designed to enhance the defense of the peninsula, began Aug. 21 and is to end Friday.
According to the statement, union officials feel the exercise raises tensions on the peninsula and increases the likelihood of war with the North.
They also claim that their duties, which run 24 hours a day during the exercise, are excessive and the extra work puts employees at risk for health problems. While some employees are tasked on the overnight shifts, others must cover their workloads during the normal shifts. About 140,000 people belong to the union.
The Korea Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs said the union stance is a violation of national security and serves as propaganda for North Korea.
Choi Myeung-ghu, a ministry official, said Tuesday union employees are wrong for criticizing the exercise. As government workers, Choi said, they have more of an obligation to assist with and follow national policy than average citizens.
Ministry officials have asked the Seoul Central Prosecutors Office to investigate the union. Prosecution officials were unable to comment on the request Tuesday afternoon.