KTU pulling 41 former staffers out of classrooms

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KTU pulling 41 former staffers out of classrooms

After a liberal teachers’ union regained its legal status Friday, it is pulling back 41 staffers who had returned to the classroom. And schools are scrambling to find replacements for them.

The confusion at schools is especially acute as many are having mid-term exams this week.

On Friday, the Seoul High Court accepted an injunction filed by the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU) against the Employment and Labor Ministry, effectively halting a lower court’s ruling that had stripped it of legal status.

Its legal status will be restored until the Supreme Court delivers a final ruling on the case.

After the Seoul Administrative Court, which handles challenges to government administration, effectively stripped the KTU of its legal status in June, 41 staffers of the union were forced to return to their teaching jobs in July.

The liberal union plans to bring the 41 teachers back to work at its main and regional offices by the end of this month.

In accepting the injunction, the court said the current law governing education workers infringes upon their rights to assemble and that there is reasonable ground to believe it violates the principle of equality for education workers.

The High Court’s decision Friday halted the administrative court’s ruling handed down in June that outlawed the 60,000-strong union, taking away its 15-year legal legitimacy, because it refused to expel nine union members who were dismissed from their schools.

The High Court also requested the Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of Article 2 of the Teachers’ Labor Union Law that bans dismissed teachers from having labor memberships.

With the request, the Supreme Court’s final ruling on the case will not be made until the Constitutional Court delivers a legal assessment of the concerned article.

After the Seoul Administrative Court’s ruling in June, the union claimed it had the right to keep fired teachers because other industrial labor unions are allowed to retain members even if they are fired by employers.

The administrative court, however, ruled that the KTU is different from other unions because of the special nature of their jobs and responsibilities as teachers, siding with the government.

While hailed by some as having worked to introduce democratic values inside classrooms and drive out a culture of graft in the education sector since its foundation in 1989, the KTU has also been criticized for injecting students with leftist political ideology and for being heavily motivated by political agendas such as its opposition to U.S. beef imports or the four-river restoration projects of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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