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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 5)

All News 09:06 September 05, 2020

Legalization of teachers' union
Time to revise labor laws to global standard

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday it was illegal to outlaw the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) because it allowed nine dismissed teachers to gain membership. The court said it was unconstitutional to deny the fired workers the right to join a union, because it infringed on labor's three primary rights.

With the recent decision, the court overturned the lower court's ruling, sending it back for review. This has also paved the way for the KTU to regain its legal status. In 2013, the former Park Geun-hye government outlawed the progressive teachers' union in an apparent bid to prevent it from carrying out anti-government activities

The Park administration relentlessly tried to disable the union as the progressive body had been waging "ideological warfare" against the conservative government. In the course of getting legal rights, numerous KTU members were dismissed or jailed.

We welcome the court's ruling in that it honors the workers' right to engage in union activities regardless of employment status. It has been stupid to deny some 60,000 KTU members the right to participate in legal activities over the admission of a handful of fired workers.

Opposition has flared over the court decision. Lawmakers of the main opposition People Power Party issued a statement Thursday, saying: "The judiciary itself has destroyed the principle of independence." They also asserted that the ruling runs counter to the past Constitutional Court's ruling against the KTU.

The KTU was founded in 1989 with the motto of promoting "appropriate education," amid growing public expectations and support. In 1999, it acquired legal status after a relevant bill was passed by the National Assembly.

But it began to be involved in a "political" struggle against the government, causing public disappointment. If the KTU had refrained from this, the Park administration might not have attempted to outlaw it. The KTU needs to take a lesson from the past to be reborn as a union that fights for teachers' rights. Riding on the court ruling, KTU members should endeavor to focus on the realization of appropriate education by casting off their outdated ideological inclination.

The government submitted a motion to the National Assembly in July that sought to guarantee the right of dismissed workers to join unions, in accordance with the principle of the International Labor Organization (ILO). The ILO has repeatedly called on the nation to revise its Labor Law, citing the lack of protection for union members.

It is time for the nation to closely cooperate with the international community and revise labor-related laws that have been the target of criticism for failing to meet global standards.
(END)

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