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Supreme Court annuls former govt's decision to outlaw progressive teachers' union

All News 14:59 September 03, 2020

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, Sept. 3 (Yonhap) -- Overturning an appellate court's ruling, the Supreme Court on Thursday annulled a decision by the former Park Geun-hye government to outlaw a progressive teachers' union for accepting a handful of fired teachers as its members, opening the way for the union to regain its legal status.

The full bench of the highest court accepted the appeal by the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) to regain its legal status, sending the case back to a lower court for retrial.

The Supreme Court said denying dismissed teachers the rights to join in a labor union is not constitutional and against the international standard. It also said it was excessive to deprive the KTU of its legal status just because it had members who were not holding a teaching job.

Officials of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) speak in front of the Supreme Court on Sept. 3, 2020. (Yonhap)

In October 2013, the conservative Park Geun-hye government banned the union, founded in 1989, saying that having nine dismissed teachers as its members violated the law on the teachers' union that stated only incumbent teachers were recognized as union members.

But the KTU argued that having the nine non-teachers in the union did not compromise its autonomy in collective action and bargaining power, and that the government's outlawing it was an excessive interpretation of the law.

Since then, the KTU, one of the country's biggest teachers' unions with some 60,000 members, has been engaged in a series of lawsuits with the government. A district court and an appellate court sided with the government.

The union appealed to the Supreme Court in February 2016, and the case has been pending since then.


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