Education offices weigh government’s mandate

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Education offices weigh government’s mandate

After the Ministry of Education instructed teachers working full-time at the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU) - which lost its legal status last Thursday - to return to their schools, a majority of regional offices have taken action to comply with the demand.

But some regional education offices headed by KTU-friendly chiefs have said they will refrain from following through on the government order, stating that they will await the court’s ruling on an injunction filed by the union challenging the government’s decision.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education on Tuesday ordered 17 full-time KTU workers who have taken a leave of absence from their schools to report back.

Now that the union’s legal status has been revoked, teachers with KTU membership have no legal basis to request leave from their schools.

All teachers are required to return to their schools by Nov. 25.

The Busan, Daegu, North Chungcheong and South Gyeongsang provincial education offices have followed suit in complying with the government demand, warning their representatives of the punitive measures they face if they ignore it.

The North Jeolla, Gangwon and Gyeonggi provincial education offices, all of which are headed by liberal superintendents, have viewed the government order with skepticism.

Kim Seung-hwan, superintendent of the North Jeolla Provincial Office of Education, told the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday that the government measure to strip the KTU of its legal rights is “state violence disguised as the execution of the law” and that it lacks legal legitimacy.

The North Jeolla education office stated that it will refrain from making a decision until the Seoul Administrative Court deliberates on the KTU’s injunction to challenge the government order.

The Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education said it will decide what action to take once its chief, Kim Sang-kon, returns from an overseas business trip on Monday.

Likewise, the Gangwon Provincial Office of Education, headed by Superintendent Min Byeong-heu, a former KTU regional director for Gangwon, said it will also decide what steps to take after reviewing relevant labor laws and seeing how other education offices handle the case.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor stripped the KTU of its legal status last Thursday after the union rejected the government’s demands to dispel dismissed teachers from its ranks.

The teachers’ group rejected the government demand after a three-day vote in which 59,828 ballots were cast from Oct.16 to 18. Of the 59,828 votes, 68.6 percent objected to complying with the order, while 28.1 percent agreed with the demand.

Founded in 1989 as an illegal union - at the time, public workers, including teachers, were banned from participating in political activities or expressing political views - KTU declared its mission was to “bring democracy to classrooms.”

Until Thursday, the group, which wasn’t fully legalized until 1999, had enjoyed 14 years of legitimacy.

If the Seoul Administrative Court accepts the injection, the 24-year-old union can keep its legal status until the Supreme Court rules on the case. The Seoul court’s first hearing on the injunction is scheduled to be held tomorrow.


BY CHOI KYUNG-HO, KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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