Government to legalize teacher’s union

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Government to legalize teacher’s union

The Moon Jae-in government will legalize the outlawed progressive teacher’s union that was highly critical of the two past conservative governments as part of its 10-point policy agenda blueprint, according to a document drawn up by the ruling Democratic Party before the May 9 election.

The report, entitled “The Policy Directive and Management by the New Government”, outlined 10 policy objectives the Moon government hopes to achieve. Among the 10 objectives is legalizing the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU), which was made illegal in January 2016 when an appellate court decided to uphold a lower court’s ruling to outlaw the group.

The KTU has been engaged in a legal battle with the government since 2013, when the government stripped the KTU of its legal status after the union refused to comply with a government demand that it expel members who had been dismissed from their schools.

The group regained its status temporarily in September 2014, when the Seoul High Court issued an injunction to suspend the government’s decision, until it was stripped of its legal right again last year.

While hailed by some for championing democratic values inside classrooms and driving out a culture of graft in the education sector since its foundation in 1989, the KTU has also been criticized for its leftist political ideology and for being heavily motivated by political issues, such as its opposition to U.S. beef imports or the four-rivers restoration project of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

It has also been a vocal critic of the Park Geun-hye government. The group was given legal status in 1999, 10 years into its foundation, by the liberal Kim Dae-jung government.

DP insiders say the KTU could handily regain its legal status if the Moon government accepts its claim that it can still have teachers dismissed from schools as union members. But this could provoke backlash from the conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party and civic groups, who may argue that it is beyond the government’s reach to do so without legal proceedings.

The Blue House said on Monday it had not discussed giving the KTU legal status yet, but it has not ruled it out, either. “We have neither discussed it nor reached a consensus on the issue,” said Kim Su-hyun, senior presidential secretary for social affairs at the Blue House press building.

Regarding the other policy agendas, the Moon government has already recognized the deaths of the two contract teachers of Danwon High School who died with their students in the Sewol ferry as “deaths on duty,” granting the long-held request of their relatives.

Just six days in, Moon ordered the government to recognize the deaths of the two teachers Kim Cho-won and Lee Ji-hye, reversing the previous Park Geun-hye government’s stance against doing so on the grounds that the Public Officials Pension Act does not count employees on contract as public officials.

The new president also issued an order to recognize the deaths of those who lose their lives in the service of the country regardless of their employment status from now on.

Another policy objective outlined in the report that has already been taken into action by the Moon government is the formation of a special committee tasked on recovering damages inflicted by the construction of the four-rivers restoration project by the Lee Myung-bak government that was in power between 2008 and 2013. On Monday, the Moon Blue House declared an audit would be launched to find irregularities both in the decision-making process and policy implementation process for the mega project.

The other policy agenda outlined in the DP report include: providing additional financial and personnel support for a probe team into the Sewol ferry, re-investigating the death of farmer Baek Nam-ki, who died after a 317-day coma from a head injury sustained by a police water cannon during a protest, stringent enforcement of the minimum wage system and emergency relief provision to companies that have their production lines withdrawn from the Kaesong joint industrial complex in North Korea, among others.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, CHU IN-YOUNG [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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