Unionized teachers stage protest rally in Seoul

SEOUL, June 27 (Yonhap) -- Members of a progressive teachers' union staged a rally Friday in Seoul to protest the government's crackdown on the group and a recent court ruling denying its legal union status.

The Korean Teacher and Education Workers Union (KTU) has threatened to launch an "all-out struggle" to regain its legal status since a local administrative court outlawed it last week for having dismissed educators among its members. The union appealed the ruling.

The KTU said its members around the country collectively took an early leave in the morning and assembled at Seoul Station for a large-scale protest rally. It was not immediately available how many teachers were taking part in the rally, but the union earlier said some 15,000 members would participate.

It marks the first partial strike by teachers since 2006, when they took the collective action in protest of the introduction of a teacher evaluation system and the first massive rally by teachers since the June 19 court ruling.

Should the ruling be upheld by the top court, the KTU would be prohibited from using the title "labor union" and from engaging in negotiations with school authorities.

After the rally, the participants will march toward the city center, where they will hold a rally jointly with labor and civic activists, the union said.

"Many of our members are attending the rally, braving disciplinary measures because in many schools, principals refused to approve teachers' request for an early leave," the union said.

Participants can face massive disciplinary measures as the authorities earlier warned of stern legal punishment against any of the teachers' collective actions.

Founded in 1998, the KTU became a legitimate organization the following year under the then liberal government of President Kim Dae-jung and has grown into the country's second-largest teachers' union.

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