Names of teachers in liberal union to be releasedThe Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union has been a thorn in the side of local governments with its alleged political activities. But now the table might be turning.
Last Friday, the Seoul Central District Court dismissed a request by Education Minister Ahn Byong-man that the names of the union members not be made public. After the announcement, the Education Ministry said it had sent a list of the union member names to the National Assembly as requested.
Grand National Party lawmaker Cho Jeon-hyeok, also a member of the National Assembly’s education, science and technology committee, received the names. “By April 20, we plan to reveal the teachers’ names, their schools and subjects [they teach] on the Internet so that teachers and students will be able to find out about them easily,” he said.
Previously, students and parents were able to learn the total number of the union members through the Web site www.schoolinfo.go.kr. However they now will be able to check whether the students’ teachers are associated with the union. This development has sent shock waves through the union. Officials say around 340 members have dropped out of the union since the court’s dismissal of the Education Ministry’s request. Shortly after its legalization in 1999, the union saw a rise in membership, reaching its peak in 2003 with 93,860 members. Since then, however, the number has dropped. By March of last year, the union had 69,530 members, or 20 percent of all teachers nationwide.
Since all civil servants and educational workers in Korea are banned from collective political activity, the union has said its members are simply exercising their rights to free speech.
Last year, the union held an anti-government protest and released a statement saying that the Lee Myung-bak administration was endangering democracy. Last month, police discovered that 120 union members and the Korean Government Employees’ Union had registered as members on the Democratic Labor Party Web site.
Police said they suspect the DLP collected around 17 billion won from the teachers and other civil servants.
Currently, the union is resisting the court’s ruling. Um Min-young, spokesman for the union said that the union will apply for another injunction against GNP lawmaker Cho to stop him from revealing member names. He said that doing so would be an invasion of and a breach of individual rights.
One union member said that “the ideological conflict that will surface in schools after the revelation of member names is unimaginable” adding that revealing the names of members is a means the government is using to destroy the union.
Many parents and school principals however, welcomed the new plan. Chae Hyo-jin, 41, a mother of a child in high school said that she “will be able to prepare for any circumstance [regarding her child’s education] only when I know the political tendencies of the teachers.”
Lee Nam-yeong, head of the teachers’ cooperation division at the Education Ministry said, “I doubt that a movement [by parents] to refuse letting a teacher [educate their children] will surface, but this new revelation will make it possible for parents to check what kind of education their children are getting.”
By Cho Jae-eun, Lee Won-jean [firstname.lastname@example.org]