Education International
Education International

EI President urges South Korea to respect teachers' basic rights

published 17 November 2010 updated 17 November 2010

EI President, Susan Hopgood, joined the Global Unions Summit at the G20 meetings in Seoul, South Korea, and met with EI national affiliates.

Discussing the reasons for the visit in South Korea, Hopgood said: “Particularly, for EI, it is important that the G20 statement recognises that education and training absolutely underpin the recovery, and that governments must invest in education and training. Governments must be working toward achieving education for all. In addition to that, what we want to do is to highlight violations of human and trade union rights here in South Korea.”

On 11 November, Hopgood, along with EI Asia-Pacific Regional Chair Nakamura Yuzuru and EI Chief Regional Coordinator Aloysius Mathews, visited the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU) head office to meet with KTU leadership on violations of human and trade union rights by the Korean government. The trade unionists expressed very serious concerns about the violations and the absence of social dialogue between the KTU and education authorities, explaining that this was an issue not only for the KTU, but for the international education community as a whole.

Yuzuru, president of the Japanese Teachers Union (JTU), said that his union backs the KTU’s position with all its strength. Hopgood also pointed out that the Korean government was not keeping the promise it made when Korea joined the OECD in 1996. The government made then a commitment to reform existing laws on industrial relations in line with internationally accepted standards, including “those concerning basic rights such as freedom of association and collective bargaining.”

In the afternoon on the same day, Hopgood, Yuzuru and Mathews met with the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations (KFTA) leadership. At this meeting, KFTA president Ahn Yang-ok requested that EI analyses education systems in other countries and provides member organisations with information following on this study. The KFTA also stated that teachers’ political engagement should be protected in Korea.

On the next day, Hopgood attended a press conference with Korean newspapers. During the conference, she was asked about the Ministry of Education’s refusal to meet with Education International. She said that “it is very disappointing not to have a meeting with Education Minister Lee Ju-ho. Education International sent an official request for a meeting between EI and the minister to the Ministry of Education about two weeks ago. However, thus far, the ministry has not responded to the request at all.”

Despite her busy schedule, Hopgood also visited the Korean Professors’ Union (KPU), which was holding the 9th anniversary of its founding. She congratulated the KPU in her address and reassured KPU members of EI’s support for quality education for all in Korea.