Education International
Education International

South Korea: Arrests and disciplinary procedures against protesting teachers

published 30 June 2009 updated 30 June 2009

EI’s member organisation, the Korean Teachers' and Education Workers' Union KTU (Jeon-Gyo-Jo), is facing heavy repression for criticising the government.

On 29 June, the Seoul Prosecutors' Office launched an investigation against 88 unionised teachers who signed a statement requesting wide-scale reform guaranteeing the respect of human rights and the defence of quality public education.

Out of the 88 teachers, 10 KTU central executive committee members including KTU President Jeong Jin-hoo will be dismissed, while the other 78, including metropolitan and provincial KTU chapter heads and full-time unionists, are suspended.

In total, 17,000 teachers signed the KTU statement criticizing the government and all are likely to receive “light disciplinary sanctions, including cautions and warnings”.

On Monday 29 June, the KTU organised a press conference to denounce the government's decision to punish teachers in a deliberate move to incapacitate the teacher union KTU. On the way to the presidential office, the riot police blocked the teachers and took 16 of them into custody. KTU President, Jeong Jin-hoo, was arrested along with 15 KTU central executives.

The KTU issued a statement requesting the government to withdraw its plan to sanction the teachers:

“The government abused their authority and their punitive actions are legally groundless. We will fight until the government withdraws the punishment imposed on our teachers.”

The KTU said it will gather signatures from 400,000 teachers for a second anti-government statement. It is seeking to form alliances with other civil servant unions.

The KTU has not faced such heavy government reprisals since 1999, when the Kim Dae-jung administration acknowledged it as a legitimate workers’ organisation. Prior administrations laid off hundreds of teachers who belonged to KTU on the grounds that they could not be considered “labourers”. Established in 1989, the teacher union currently represents 76,000 members.

EI has sent a protest letter to the Korean Minister of Education and is preparing an Urgent Action Appeal.