Updated Aug.2,2006 21:03 KST

Teachers' Union Directed by a Handful of Ideologues

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A handful of seven or eight figures make all the important decisions on the direction and purposes of the hugely powerful, 90,000-member Korean Teachers and Education Workers�� Union. They are in charge of core departments under the executive committee, the union��s supreme decision-making body. A union source said Wednesday it is that group on the executive board who are responsible for the union��s pursuit of a ��proletarian and democratic�� ideology in the union��s struggles.

Student activists in the 1980s were divided in a fierce internal ideological struggle between two groups: one pursuing proletarian democracy and the other national liberation. The former line puts the emphasis on the liberation of workers and tends to support the Democratic Labor Party, while the national liberation group is favorable to North Korea, stresses the national reunification as its most important goal, and supports the Uri Party, if from a critical distance. The conflicts and rivalries between the two groups have also rooted deep in the teachers�� union.

Heads of regional chapters of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers�� Union rally calling for the resolution of five largest educational issues at the Government Complex Building in Sejong-ro, Seoul on Wednesday.

The union leadership publishes teaching materials on major social issues like the Korean War, APEC and the planned fee trade agreement between Korea and the U.S. and offers them to schools. They often contain outspoken anti-American and pro-North Korean views and aim to instill in students a rejection of privileged groups. One government official says the union leadership��s ultimate goal is to propagate socialist and pro-North Korean views among students. One way to do that are the class materials. Recently, the teachers�� union was also at the center of controversy after the Busan chapter was found to have excerpted a North Korean history textbook for a booklet used at a seminar for its members, while the Seoul chapter was revealed to have encouraged members to hang North Korean posters endorsing leader Kim Jong-il��s Songun or military-first policy in classrooms.

Meanwhile, the KTEWU is in trouble because younger teachers are indifferent to ideology. A majority of candidates the union recommended lost elections to municipal and provincial education committees on July 31. A government official says newly employed young teachers are reluctant to join the union, and even if they join at the urging of senior teachers, most of them feel no attachment to either the national liberation or the proletarian democratic group.

(englishnews@chosun.com )