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Yoon Min-sik
Saturday, Jun 28, 2014

Asia

Teachers’ union takes to the streets

The Korea Herald/ANN | Yoon Min-sik | Saturday, Jun 28, 2014

Pedestrians pass through a business district of Seoul.

Hundreds of members of a progressive teachers' union on Friday took an early leave from schools to demonstrate against the government's move to revoke its legal status.

Tension has been mounting between the Korea Teachers and Education Workers' Union and the government since a Seoul court ruled on June 19 in favour of the government's decision to outlaw the group because it violated the labour law that bars dismissed workers from joining unions.

"It is very clear why the Park Geun-hye administration has set out to kill the KTU," the group said in astatement at a rally in Seoul.

The group estimated that around 1,500 teachers took part in the protests.

The KTU also criticised the nomination debacles that have plagued the administration. Two prime minister-designates were forced to withdraw even before taking office. The education minister nominee has also been accused of plagiarism.

They said that the government should withdraw its decision to outlaw the KTU, abandon its move to revive state-authored history textbooks and take back its decision to nominate Kim Myung-soo as the new education minister. They also urged President Park Geun-hye to step down.

"Park Geun-hye is obviously trying to divert the blame placed on her from the Sewol and other recent fiascos. She is trying to make the KTU a scapegoat," said one of the participants at the rally.

"We are not opposing the decision by the authorities. We are saying the current law on education workers and labour should be in line with the international norms," said Kim Min-han, an official from the KTU's Seoul branch said.

Education International, an international federation of teachers' trade unions, recently said it hopes the Korean group can retain its legal status. The International Labor Organisation also criticised the government and said allowing retired and dismissed workers to become union members and leaders was accepted around the world.

The KTU delivered an official complaint to the presidential office later in the day.

The government has already made it clear that anyone who participated in the rally will be sternly punished, claiming that students' right to take classes may have been violated.

But the KTU said that since teachers have the right to take early leave from schools, the government's decision to punish them for exercising their rights is a form of oppression.

The KTU has been one of the most outspoken critics of the right-leaning government's education policies.

Recently, the group and the ministry have been at loggerheads over the treatment of some 200 teachers who said the president should take responsibility for the deadly ferry sinking in April and step down.

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)

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