Ministry threatens KTU’s full-time staffThe Ministry of Education yesterday said it will seek punitive action against teachers who used to work full time at the Korea Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU) but did not return to their classrooms after the union was outlawed on June 19.
The announcement came after 11 out of 17 local education authorities, mostly headed by liberal superintendents on KTU’s side, effectively refused to discharge the teachers as ordered by the ministry.
“We are preparing to dismiss those teachers by proxy,” a ministry official said. “But we will take action after watching how local education authorities handle the issue.”
The ministry and local education offices have remained stuck in a gridlock even after the ministry requested three times that they dismiss teachers who refused to return to their schools.
The Education Ministry first asked the offices to take punitive action and report the results by Aug. 4, but heard nothing.
The result was the same when it ordered them again to report by Aug. 19.
To put an end to the month-long struggle, the ministry gave an ultimatum on Aug. 20, saying the education authorities must discharge the teachers by yesterday or it would take punitive action.
On Thursday, the North Gyeongsang Office of Education suspended two teachers who did not return to their schools for a month, and the North Chungcheong Office of Education said it is about to dismiss Park Ok-ju, the head of the KTU’s North Chungcheong branch, who also has not returned to his school.
The KTU strongly opposed penalizing its members. The ministry is requesting their dismissals instead of suspensions.
However, none of the local education authorities has actually dismissed the teachers who refused to return.
“We will soon hold a disciplinary committee to hear their explanations and determine the level of punitive action,” said an official with the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. “But we are not considering discharging them.”
Min Byeong-heu, the Gangwon superintendent, also requested that the Supreme Court cancel the ministry’s order on Aug. 20, questioning whether the education minister has the authority to dismiss the teachers.
“We held a disciplinary committee on Thursday, but they did not attend. We will soon give them a chance to elucidate,” Gyeonggi superintendent Lee Jae-joung said yesterday at a press conference.
The ministry isn’t expected to take punitive action right away and will decide whether to intervene after monitoring the situation further.
“Most local education offices are planning second disciplinary committees, and we are planning to step in if they are still reluctant to dismiss the teachers,” a ministry official said.
BY KIM BONG-MOON [firstname.lastname@example.org]