The South Korean government's attacks on the Korean Teachers Union (KTU) continued today as police raided their offices and seized computer servers. A police spokesperson said: "The raid was conducted to collect data on their illegal activities. The data will also help identify which members took part in political rallies denouncing the President Park Geun-hye administration"

This blatant state repression is made possible by anti-union laws which make it illegal for teachers to engage in political activity. Late last year the union itself was outlawed and its leaders ordered back into the classroom, on the grounds that teachers who had been sacked for taking part in political activity were still members of the union.

The KTU has a history of fighting for democratic and critical education, and against the policies of successive neo-liberal governments in the country who have introduced standardised curricula and testing. Moreover the leader of the Korean Teachers Union was arrested in December along with 137 other trade unionists when police attacked the headquarters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.  

Last month, teachers left school early on one day as part of their fight for their democratic right to organise, despite threats of disciplinary action by the government. A union statement at the time pointed out: “The Park Geun-hye government is trying to shut down the KTU because it wants to manipulate public sentiment by controlling education to its advantage.”  

South Korea is one of the top-performing countries in the OECD's PISA study. It is interesting that the kind of 'excellence' recognised by PISA is one achieved by stifling teachers and forcing them to teach a narrow and completely prescribed curriculum, at pain of sanction if they are found teaching the wrong thing or at the wrong time. The KTU has consistently fought against these constraints as well as standardised testing, and has promoted a democratic vision of education, which encourages children to think critically about the world they live in. It is partly for that reason that it is subject to continual attack from successive governments who attempt to destroy the union by arresting its leaders and by penalising members who take part in action.

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