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Unionized teachers take leave over database

By Kim Hyung-jin (khj@heraldm.com), The Korea Herald, 21 June 2003

Unionized teachers said yesterday that they will take a collective leave today in protest of the education authority’s decision to adopt a controversial Internet network detailing student’s personal information.

The Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union said that over 10,000 union members will take part in the one-day protest that will include a mass outdoor rally in Seoul.

The collective leave is inevitably our choice, as the government broke its earlier agreement with the KTU and decided to introduce the National Education Information System, a KTU spokesman said.

He disputed fears that the teachers’ leave will have a detrimental effect on classes.

We told teachers to adjust their class schedules to keep the protest from causing any harm to students, the spokesman said.

The government, meanwhile, reiterated that it will respond sternly to what it calls the moves to hamper students’ rights to study.

Government officials said if the KTU implements the collective leave as it has threatened, they will demand law enforcement authorities arrest the protest’s organizers. The officials said they will also inflict punitive actions such as pay cuts on all of the demonstrators.

We will be firm in regard to the KTU’s collective leave to protect students’ rights to study, Prime Minister Goh Kun said Thursday in a meeting with provincial educational heads.

A crack in the education circle centers on whether the education authority will officially implement the NEIS, a network the KTU argues will violate students’ privacy. Education Minister Yoon Deok-hong initially said he would review the planned introduction of the NEIS, but later changed his position amid mounting criticism by conservative teachers.

Ministry officials say the new system will improve administrative efficiency, arguing about 97 percent of primary, middle and high schools have already started using the NEIS. They said a return to the previous network system will cause up to 2.2 trillion won in financial loss.