[EDITORIALS]Back off, teachers

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[EDITORIALS]Back off, teachers

The Korean Teachers and Educational Workers' Union has decided to leave school early Tuesday in support of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions' plan to back striking electricity workers opposing the government's move to privatize the state-run power-utility sector. The planned collective action by the teachers' union, in line with labor groups' strikes, is the first since the union was legalized in 1999. We believe that the decision is in violation of current laws and urge the teachers' union to withdraw the plan because there is nothing it can gain from such actions.

The walkout by power unions is heading toward a catastrophe, as the government threatens to fire workers who do not return to work, while the strikers refuse to do so. If the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions joins them to hold a general strike, the situation would escalate into a war between labor and the government. If teachers walk out over matters that have nothing to do with education or their own jobs ?and they are prohibited by law from taking collective action ?they would have no justification, and thus would not get public support.

The teachers' union said that teachers would leave school Tuesday after morning classes and participate in local rallies in the afternoon. But this is obviously a strike for some 90,000 union members to take the afternoon off en masse and thus is against the law. The teachers' union would also be blamed for encroaching upon students' rights to learn.

Unionized teachers left school early en masse in October 2000 to protest the government's plan to revise a law regarding the teachers' pension fund. One year later, unionized teachers went on the same form of strike in their opposition to the government's plan to introduce a performance-based bonus system and another plan to select private schools that would carry out independent education programs.

Teachers should not repeat that sort of chaos, for it brought many strikers criminal charges or disciplinary actions. It worries us that the union members are said to be using class hours to teach students about problems in the government's privatization of the power industry. Teachers should not instill in students the one-sided arguments made by labor unions.
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