Teachers’ union wins one court battle, loses one

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Teachers’ union wins one court battle, loses one

Seoul courts have given contradictory rulings regarding the issue of a progressive teachers’ union membership being made public.

The Seoul Southern District Court ruled Thursday in favor of the members of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, who filed an injunction requesting the court not allow Grand National Party lawmaker Cho Jeon-hyeon to reveal their names to the public. “Under the education workers’ law, the number of members of a teachers’ union may be made public but there is no bill that requires their names to be disclosed as well,” the official ruling released by the court read. It stated that revealing the union members’ names violated their privacy.

The union is under investigation for making illegal donations to the Democratic Labor Party. Up until now, the total number of the teachers’ union members could be seen at the Web site www.schoolinfo.go.kr, but the public was not able to check the teachers’ names.

This goes against the ruling by the Seoul Central District Court last month, which dismissed a request by Education Minister Ahn Byong-man that the identities of the union members not be disclosed. After the ruling, the Education Ministry sent a list of the union members’ names to the National Assembly as requested.

At the time, Cho, who is also a member of the National Assembly’s education, science and technology committee, said that he plans to reveal the teachers’ names and the subjects they teach online by the end of April in order to make it possible for other teachers and students to find out about their participation in the union.

Um Min-young, spokesman for the teachers’ union, said the union was satisfied with the Thursday ruling and that he believes “Lawmaker Cho and others will not ignore the court’s ruling and disclose the identities of teachers to the public on the Internet through illegal means.” He added that the decision to reveal one’s identity should be made by the union members themselves.

Cho said, “We will appeal [the Seoul Southern District Court’s ruling] to a higher court. We will look for a roundabout way but we will not put up the list [of names on the Internet].”

On Tuesday, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office summoned three high-level executives from the union including its chairman, Jeong Jin-hu, to question them about illegal contributions they allegedly made to the Democratic Labor Party. They exercised their right to remain silent during questioning.

In Korea, teachers and other public servants are banned by law from taking part in collective political activities. Also, it is illegal for political parties to accept public servants as members or to take money from them.

Members of the left-wing teachers’ union have been involved in anti-government campaigns in the past. Earlier this year, police found 120 members of the teachers’ union and the Korean Government Employees’ Union had registered as members on the DLP Web site.

By Cho Jae-eun [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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