Education minister says school teachers won’t be punished for attending massive mourning rallies

Education Minister Lee Ju-ho said Tuesday that no disciplinary action will be taken against school teachers who took a leave of absence to join rallies held across the nation Monday to mourn the suicide deaths of teachers.

Lee announced the decision in a meeting at the government complex in Seoul with the heads of two major teachers' groups, including the Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations, reversing an earlier warning that rally participants will be punished.

Around 120,000 school teachers held large-scale rallies in Seoul and across the country Monday to mourn the recent suicide deaths of fellow teachers distressed by disgruntled parents and unruly students, and to call for measures to prevent such tragedies.

Many teachers filed for a one-day leave of absence or sick leave to attend the rallies, and many elementary schools across the nation designated Monday a temporary holiday as too many teachers wanted to take the day off for the collective action.

The education ministry had previously warned teachers going on leave of absence to join the rallies can face disciplinary action as severe as dismissal.

Under the current labor law, teachers don't have the right to collective action, and the ministry had warned that taking a leave of absence by teachers en masse is tantamount to an indirect walkout.

"Teachers who attended the mourning will not be subjected to personnel penalties," Minister Lee said during the meeting Tuesday.

"At a time when there's a social consensus building about the need to restore teachers' rights, all efforts should be funneled into healing the wounds and sense of loss, and normalizing public education," Lee said of his ministry's stance change.

The ministry also said he will launch a campaign called "Schools for All," to restore teachers rights and bring public education back on track, and hold a weekly meeting with rank-and-file teachers to enhance communication.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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