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SOUTH KOREA – Lee’s education reforms threaten freedom of expression

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Numerous people are showing their grave concern with retreat of
human rights and democracy in the Korean society since the inauguration
of President Lee Myungbak in 2008 through a public statement.
(Source: People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), 6 July 2009)
Numerous people are showing their grave concern with retreat of
human rights and democracy in the Korean society since the inauguration
of President Lee Myungbak in 2008 through a public statement. These
people are professors overseas as well as in Korea, netizens, artists,
writers, individual citizens and so on. Such statements are currently
Teachers from the 'Korea Teachers & Education Worker's
Union (KTU) as a citizen were also about to announce their grave concern
with the Lee Myungbak government. The Lee government threatened those
teachers as stating that it would impose disciplinary measures on
whoever joined such a public statement. However, the government's
threat could not block the statement of the KTU as well as the eagar
for democracy.

Now, the oppressive Lee Myungbak government put
harsh disciplinary measures on 17,000 teachers all of who jointed the
statement rather than accepting the criticism. Moreover, the police
arrested teachers from the KTU when the KTU held a press conference
against the disciplinary measures of the government. The police also
searched the KTU office and the e-mails of teachers.
We, PSPD(People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy), urge that
the Lee government revoke the disciplinary measures as seriously
concerned with its oppressive and anti-democratic behaviors. Although
the teacher is a public servant, they are a citizen of South Korea. As
teachers have right to vote like other citizens, they also have right
to criticize policies, publicly announce their concern on government
policies, and freely join an protest and gathering. The Lee government
also well knew that this kind of statement by teachers was not illegal
by the law since it went through legal consultation.

Nevertheless, the Lee Myungbak government still impose disciplinary
measures on every single teacher who signed for the statement for
achieving its political purposes. This apparently violates the freedom
of expression as stated by the Constitution and is a political killing
of the KTU, the union of teachers. It well reflects that the nature of
the Lee Myungbak government is suppressive and unilateral rather than
promoting democratic communication with its people.

We also point out that the problems of the Lee Myungbak's policies
on education. It lines up students only by exam records and undermines
the equal opportunity principle regardless of parents' social and
financial status.

For example, the Lee government is building
several international junior high schools and private high schools.
Their tuitions are expensive so that only privileged students can
afford them. Requiring high level of English fluency to enter these
schools trigger young students go to private institutions till late,
resulting in enriching the private institution market while undermining
public education system. The Lee government also carried out a
nation-wide exam and let students and schools of the whole nation line
up from top to down only by that exam.

Since the Lee's educational policies contain numerous problems as
mentioned, teachers raised questions and criticisms on them. However,
the Lee government has unilaterally enforced the policies without
discussion and rather fired and dismissed teachers who refused to
follow the policies. And it attempted to block the teachers' statement
and punished them.

We urge the Lee Myungbak government thoroughly think the reasons why
numerous teachers joined the statement despite the government's threat
and review the raised questions and criticisms on its educational
policies. People will not be cheated by its meaningless advocacy on
reform of education if the Lee government still pursues the mentioned

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