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Progressive teachers' union regains legal status as gov't retracts decision to outlaw it

National 17:47 September 04, 2020

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, Sept. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's labor ministry on Friday withdrew its 2013 decision to outlaw a progressive teachers' union, reinstating its legal status, a day after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the group.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor said it has formally restored the legal status of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) in accordance with the ruling.

On Thursday, the highest court overturned an appellate court's ruling and repealed a decision by the former Park Geun-hye government to outlaw the KTU for accepting a handful of dismissed teachers as its members.

In its ruling, Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su said the previous rulings on the case were "not valid," and "infringed on labor's three primary rights." He also said outlawing the union was tantamount to "denying its existence."

Members of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) wave their hands in joy after hearing a verdict at the Supreme Court in Seoul 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 legal disputes with the government.

While a district court and an appellate court sided with the government, the KTU has repeatedly asked for a court injunction to suspend the decision. Depending on different court rulings, it alternated between being legal and illegal for three years.

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

With the decision Friday, the union can exercise its rights to collective bargaining, to calling for the government's mediation in labor disputes and to reporting unfair labor practices.

Supreme Court Justices are seated at the court before giving a verdict on Sept. 3, 2020. (Yonhap)


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