134 teachers face mass dismissal

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134 teachers face mass dismissal

About 130 unionized public school teachers accused of having illegally maintained membership in an opposition political party will face a mass dismissal early next month, officials at the education ministry said yesterday.

The ministry has decided that as of June 1, it will dismiss a total of 134 public school teachers affiliated with a liberal teachers union for having regularly paid membership fees to the progressive minor opposition Democratic Labor Party, said the officials.

The 134 teachers, all affiliated with the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, were indicted for illegally belonging to the political party. South Korean law bars public workers, including teachers, from taking part in collective political activity.

The government Sunday announced a decision to take strong disciplinary measures against all of the 134 public school teachers, as well as against 83 lower-ranking civil servants and 35 private school teachers, who were also indicted for membership in the Democratic Labor Party.

The teachers and the civil servants were accused of having been Democratic Labor members or supporters since 2005.

It is the first time since the teachers’ union was founded in 1989 that more than 100 public school teachers face dismissals for political activities.

The ministry directed 16 city and provincial education authorities across the country to dismiss the indicted teachers, multiple sources at the local education offices said.

Another source said the authorities plan to enforce the dismissals in the first week of June at the latest.

The teachers’ union vowed to resist the government’s decision, saying it will allow the disciplined teachers to retain union membership regardless of the dismissals, and risk turning into an outlawed organization.

“It is unprecedented to expel all of those accused from their posts just a week after announcing a decision to punish them,” a union official said on condition of anonymity. The official criticized the move as an intention to “stifle” the teachers’ union.

Officials at the labor ministry said they will closely watch the future activities of the union to see if it violates the labor union law.

“We hope the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union will solve the problem. ... The government has no choice but to handle the matter according to the law and principles,” a ministry official said.

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