[EDITORIALS]Put the teachers in the cornerWith just two weeks left before the National Assembly elections, the head of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union has endorsed the Democratic Labor Party. His endorsement makes the union not an association of educators, but a political group. Parents are worried, and society is driven into confusion, because the teachers union engages in politics whenever an election rolls around. Enjoying the status and benefits of civil servants, members of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union do not hesitate to act politically. We should no longer tolerate such duplicity.
Only four days earlier, the Constitutional Court had ruled that the government had the right to limit the political activity of teachers. The teachers’ union, however, has stared squarely at the court’s decision and gone ahead to endorse a political party, thinking itself to be above the law. Can we expect these teachers to tell their students to abide by the law?
The union says that its leader’s endorsement of the Democratic Labor Party was merely a reminder to its members that the union falls under the Korean Confederation of Trade Union and that he was not attempting to limit the political freedom of its members.
In addition to the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the National Election Commission has also said that teachers, as government officials, cannot engage in political activities and electioneering. The union’s rebuttal is deceptive. Teachers wield great influence over students in their formative years. Imbuing a political ideology or a preference for a certain political party is no different from brainwashing. That is why political activities by teachers are banned. A true teacher educates students in balanced thinking. Teachers that feel the pull of politics should leave the schools and enter the political arena.
The teachers’ union’s continuous brushes with the law can, in part, be attributed to the government’s muddled response. It would be a negligence of duty for the Education Ministry to delay filing a complaint when there is a law that requires it. The government should also restore order in the bureaucracy by dealing sternly with unionized government workers who have endorsed the Democratic Labor Party.