Teachers’ union planning anti-government protest

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Teachers’ union planning anti-government protest

The left-wing Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union plans to start another anti-government campaign with the signatures of around 100,000 teachers opposing the government’s educational policies ahead of local elections on June 2.

The union also plans to hold a rally with around 10,000 teachers on May 22, and many are expecting it will turn into a large-scale anti-government protest.

While both actions appear to violate the law banning civil servants and educational workers from collective political activity, union officials say they are simply exercising their right to freedom of speech.

The KTEWU held an anti-government protest last year, releasing a statement in June claiming the Lee Myung-bak administration had endangered democracy with a massive crackdown on anti-government rallies.

Earlier this year, the Education Ministry announced it would fire or suspend teachers who participated in any anti-government protest.

Last month, police found that 120 members of the KTEWU and the Korean Government Employees’ Union had registered as members on the Democratic Labor Party Web site. Police also said that they suspect the DLP collected 17 billion won ($14.6 million) from 2,600 teachers and civil servants registered as DLP members.

The union held a conference with around 300 delegates in Danyang, North Chungcheong, later in the month. At the meeting, it was agreed that members would donate 100,000 won or more each to amass 5 billion won for “anti-government protests.”

“The government’s attack on the KTEWU has reached its peak, so we decided to hold this meeting to state our opposing stance,” said union spokesman Um Min-yeong, adding that money from the members will be used for members’ lawsuits, as financial support for members who were fired, and to strengthen the union.

“By trying to eliminate the KTEWU, the government is trying to avoid blame for the failure of the nation’s education policies,” said Jeong Jin-hu, president of the union.

The union’s resolution stated that it will protest with other teachers or civic groups.

The government is carefully eyeing the KTEWU’s recent moves, as the union protest is expected to influence the June local elections.

“We will come up with a countermeasure after examining the content of the KTEWU’s petition and delegates’ conference,” said an official at the Education Ministry. “And we will penalize members who have opposed the government’s policies.”

By Kim Sung-tak, Kim Min-sang [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]

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