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[EDITORIALS]Suicide highlights problem

Apr 09,2003
We are greatly disappointed at the reaction of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union to the suicide of Seo Seung-mok, principal of the Boseong Elementary School in Yaesan, South Chungcheong province. If the members of the union are true educators, they should apologize for this tragedy. But they have been busy passing the buck, betraying their duty to the public.
The union called a press conference and concluded that responsibility for the principal’s suicide rested with the vice principal of the school and local principals who blocked him from making an apology to the union for allegedly demanding that a female employee bring him coffee. If the union wanted to claim that the repressive atmosphere of the local principals meeting placed a heavy psychological burden on Mr. Seo, driving him to kill himself, it should present concrete evidence anyone can understand. Pointing an accusing finger at the vice principal and local principals at a time when the police are investigating the case after family members placed blame on the union seems to be aimed at influencing public opinion. Such an act goes beyond union activity. Moreover, the fact that the union forced Mr. Seo to apologize is clearly recorded in its minutes.
What is needed from the union now is not an evasion of responsibility, but cooperation with the probe to clarify where the responsibility for the suicide lies. Such problems in our schools as forcing female teachers to perform the most menial tasks, the unstable status of part-time teachers and remnants of traditional Confucian culture in elementary schools, which prompted the incident, should be dealt with from a different perspective.
The teachers union should listen to the criticism and complaints of students, parents, school principals and others in education humbly. It should get rid of old ways of thinking, and one is that the incident is used to oppress the union. Four years have passed since the union was legalized, and we are in an era of dialogue and compromise. The union should understand that the public no longer welcomes radical or violent means to solve education problems.


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