Defend the right to organize!

Statement of TEA-KOR for 13 November National Labour Day in South Korea 

By Teachers of English Abroad in Korea

TEA-KOR, Teachers of English abroad in Korea, strongly defends the rights of the Korea Teachers’ Union (KTU) and all workers to organize. We stand with them in vehemently objecting to the government’s arbitrary decision to declare the KTU decertified, and call for international solidarity.

It is especially sinister of the Park Geun Hye-Senuri Party government to launch this major anti-labour attack as National Labour Day in South Korea approaches. TEA-KOR joined with Korean union rallying to raise morale and keep up the fight to uphold labour rights at this weekend’s rallies (Nov. 9-10).

Around October 12, the government announced that the KTU was illegal. Since then, KTU has been fighting back. Eighty percent of its membership voted on the government decision and 68% or 2/3 rejected it. There have been several actions with one rally of about 10,000 people in Seoul on October 19, when the protesters marched from Independence Gate to Seoul City Hall, and another big rally of public service employees and teachers on October 26. International supporters and civil society have been participating in such protests.

They key issue for the teachers is the right to have full-time officers. The government has demanded that all full-time union officers step down and return to full-time teaching. As the KTU develops its plans of defense, several area Ministry of Education Superintendents say that they want to reject the government decision regarding the teachers’ union.

This major attack on teachers is part of a government all round offensive against trade unions. Railroad and gas workers unions are engaged in ongoing struggles against privatization while irregular workers including part-time university professors are fighting for regularization. Capitalizing on the splitting and weakening of union and democratic opposition that occurred through the liberal democratic wrecking and derailment of union activism into party politics during the last national election, the government is hatching plans to revamp legislation around collective bargaining so as to render it impotent. It is propagating that collecting bargaining legislation favours unions too much.

This offensive must be firmly opposed. TEA-KOR agrees with progressive activists and people of conscience who see the government strategy as class war and part of its fascization schemes to create a dictatorship without military rule. We call on all teachers to rally together to defend the right to organize and we call for international support for labor and civil rights.


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