Unionized teachers stage protest rally in Seoul

SEOUL, June 27 (Yonhap) -- More than a thousand 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 about 1,500 members around the country collectively took an early leave in the morning and assembled at Seoul Station for a large-scale protest rally.

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.

"The proud 25-year-long history of the KTU in pursuit of true education should never be stopped," the union said in a statement. "We will make it harder than before in the process of fighting against reckless oppression from the government power."

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.

Union leaders were scheduled to visit the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae later in the day to deliver a protest letter.

"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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