Tens of thousands of teachers in Korea are expected to be affected as the government on Thursday moved to deregister the country’s largest teachers’ union for infringement of the labor law.
Employment and Labor Minister Phang Ha-nam and Education Minister Seo Nam-soo announced in a joint news conference that they had officially notified the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union that it would “no longer be recognized” as a legal union.
The Ministry of Labor and Employment gave the progressive union, which currently consists of about 60,000 teachers, an ultimatum on Wednesday, saying it would deregister the union unless it amended its constitution to ban dismissed and retired teachers from membership.
However, the KTU refused to comply with the labor ministry’s order, blaming the ministry for “over-practicing” its authority.
On Thursday, the union filed a complaint with the Seoul Administrative Court, asking the ministry’s action to be withdrawn. The KTU was to hold a protest rally at Gwanghwamun Plaza.
“This is a shameful day that cannot happen in any democratic country,” Kim Jeong-hoon, president of KTU, said in a news conference Thursday.
He said the ministry’s decision to deregister the union is “complete ignorance” of the human rights watchdog’s recent order. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea announced this week that the ministry’s disciplinary action should be reconsidered.
“They are forfeiting our rights of 14 years (as a fully authorized labor union), with the legislation that is in breach of constitution,” Kim added.
He noted that the union already filed a petition to the U.N. Human Rights Council and International Labor Organization to press the government to reverse its decision, and is considering taking strong action, including teachers’ collective leave and a nationwide rally.
By Oh Kyu-wook