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Government Refuses to Accept KTU`s Demands

Posted May. 20, 2003 22:11,   


Amidst controversy over the introduction of the National Education Information System (NEIS), South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on Tuesday hinted that he might take a tougher stance saying that the government cannot accept the unilateral request by the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Unions (KTU) for government concessions on the matter.

At a cabinet meeting on the same day, the President was briefed by the Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Yoon Deok-hong on current developments surrounding the introduction of the NEIS, and said that he would try to resolve the current crisis though dialogue, adding however, that if talks failed, the government would take full responsibility for implementation of the new system.

After asking how many KTU members are expected to go on a strike, Roh said that advance notice concerning punishment [for the expected illegal strike] should be given and that it should be implemented.

An official with the progressive teachers` union said: "We cannot understand why the government regards our legitimate request that they heed advice from the National Human Rights Commission as surrender."

With respect to the massive strike by the Korean Cargo Workers Federation, the President also pointed out that there were no legal devices against social conflict, disturbance of order and damage to the general functioning of the nation, and ordered that drastic countermeasures be prepared in advance.

Against this backdrop, the government has decided to enact a special law concerning national crisis management allowing the president to requisition workforces and equipment from the private sector with court permission, and exercise the right to order key industry workers to return to work by force.

The new bill is reminiscent of the US Taft-Hartley law with the special law preparing a legal foundation for government intervention in strikes affecting key industries such as the ongoing cargo workers’ strike, a senior Cheong Wa Dae official said.

Meanwhile, according to the head of the Korean Information Service, on the report that a massive rally was being organized on June 13 to mark the first anniversary of the death of school girls by an American armored vehicle, Roh said that "though people have the freedom of speech, they should restrain themselves as not to cause too much diplomatic trouble."

Regarding the National Federation of Student Councils, who blocked the President at the entrance of the May 18 cemetery in Gwangju, the President expressed opposition to the idea of punishing [related members of the student body].

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com