Don’t encourage students to take to streets

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Don’t encourage students to take to streets

A political battle has been extended to middle and high schools in this country. A complaint was filed with the National Human Rights Commission on Wednesday after a teacher — a core member of the progressive Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) — encouraged his students to participate in a rally calling for President Yoon Suk-yeol to resign.

The commission will look into the case to see if the teacher violated right of students to learn by pressuring them to join a massive candlelight rally on Oct. 22 to demand the ouster of President Yoon. The previous day, the Ministry of Education notified local education offices across the country of its guidelines banning teachers from instructing or inciting students to support a certain political party or faction. If teachers violate the guidelines, they will be sternly punished according to the law, the commission said.

Teachers must abide by the Constitution and the Public Education Officials Act, which mandate political neutrality from them. The act of instructing students to follow a certain political creed or demanding an agreement from them constitutes a clear violation of the law and an infringement on their rights to education. Earlier, the teacher was accused of violating the Public Office Election Act with the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office after sending text messages to his former students to encourage them to vote for the Democratic Party or one of its satellites during the parliamentary elections in 2020. He was eventually suspended from teaching in the second trial. It was found that the top court deferred its final ruling on the teacher.

Worrisome is a first candlelight rally of middle and high school students scheduled to be held on November 5 to call for Yoon to resign. A pro-North Korean civic group behind the protest blames the U.S. for the division of the Korean Peninsula. The group also has the Fatherland Unification Committee under its umbrella. The 25-year-old head of the radical group once served as head of an emergency committee of the former Unified Progressive Party, a leftist party that was disbanded by the Constitutional Court for engaging in anti-state activities.

The leftist civic group says the rally is a pure event organized by students themselves. But we wonder how a former member of an anti-state civic group can stage a rally to demand the ouster of the president. Even fake posters appeared on social media to suggest that if students join in the protest, it can be accepted as their extra-curriculum activities by teachers.

Political circles must take responsibility for all the chaos. Instead of settling their differences in the legislature, they encourage people to vent their disappointments at the government on the street. Law enforcement authorities must hold them accountable for their aberrant act before it’s too late.
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