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Education Ministry not to punish teachers for collective action

Education Ministry not to punish teachers for collective action

Posted September. 06, 2023 08:08,   

Updated September. 06, 2023 08:08


The Korean Ministry of Education reversed its plan to penalize teachers who had collectively taken leave to join the protest on Sept. 4, known as 'Stop Public Education Day.' This change marks a significant shift from the ministry's earlier position, which deemed any collective action as potentially illegal and subject to punishment, irrespective of individual participation in the protest. The shift appears to align with President Yoon Suk Yeol's directive the day before, emphasizing greater consideration for the voices of teachers in the field.

On Tuesday, Vice Prime Minister and Education Minister Lee Ju-ho met with the Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations and the Korean Federation of Teachers' Union to discuss normalizing public education. During the meeting held at the Government Complex in Seoul, Lee expressed empathy for teachers who resorted to using their annual or medical leaves, assuring that the authorities would not penalize those who participated in the protest. He further emphasized the ministry's commitment to healing teachers' wounds and losses instead of provoking confrontation and pledged utmost effort to restore the nation's public education system. As part of this effort, the Ministry ceased collecting reports on teachers taking leaves from metropolitan and provincial offices of education. Initially, the Education Ministry had intended to determine punishment based on teachers' service records.

Teachers applauded the decision. The National Council of Governors of Education expressed relief, stating it would have been disappointing to witness a confrontation between teachers and the ministry, who had chosen different paths while pursuing the same goal. They welcomed the Education Minister's choice not to penalize teachers engaged in collective action. Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education Governor Cho Hee-yeon had previously supported teachers participating in collective actions. Some argue that the Ministry should have initially allowed teachers to join the protest and memorial event honoring those who tragically took their own lives due to harassment from parents and students, with the teachers insisting that a day solely for such activities could help reinvigorate them.

Ye-Na Choi yena@donga.com