Wednesday, January 31, 2007

During times of universal deceit

... telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

Apparently, Park Chung-hee believed this fervently:
A junior high school teacher, Mr. Choi, was not so fortunate. He served eight months for saying that "the Yusin Constitution was created to ensure a prolonged one-man rule. An indirect presidential election by delegates from the Unified Citizen’s Conference the National Conference for Unification is an undesirable system."

Another school teacher told students that "Park is a dictator. The capitalists are abusing workers, and workers cannot claim their rights. After [labor activist] Cheon Tae-il burned himself to death, the treatment got better. But the government raised the price of fertilizer by a whopping 60 percent, worsening the lives of farmers." The teacher was sent to prison for three years.

As of June 2004, 48% of the populous remained quite attached to the deceit.

And teachers must still watch what they say.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Learn the Right lyrics

Two teachers are being treated to an extended stay in the "anticommunist investigation room" in the basement of the Seoul police station in Jangandong. See the Hankyoreh and KTU for details.

This is an old and tired story, but apparently the Right never bores of it. In 2004, the GNP - with help from the courts - blocked a bill that would have abolished the National Security Law. In 2005, the prosecutor's office charged a sociology professor under the law when the professor publicly attacked the reverend Douglas MacArthur. (He said that the good general was ... unbalanced, among other things. Any American historian would agree.)

When a government minister told prosecutors not to detain the academic, the prosecutors were incensed. How dare the government pretend to know which members of society were a threat to national security! There's a law against thought crimes, see, and we decide who breaks it. The head prosecutor submitted his resignation in protest. His resignation was duly accepted. And lo! there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the pages of that unholy triad, the Chosun, the Dong-A, and the JoongAng.

The professor was eventually convicted. He received a sentence (suspended) of two years in prison for his thought crime.

But what REALLY irks the Right is this "unification" nonsense. Not that many Uri party ministers are much interested in unification. But there is a Unification Ministry, whose bureaucrats are quite attached to the idea. And there is the Ministry of Education, with its Internet Peace School, which promotes understanding of the folks to the north. These initiatives are altogether distasteful to the Right, but there's not much they can do about this, not until the next general election.

But teachers are fair game, and the hunt has been on for some time. In 2006, police in Busan investigated a reunification teacher workshop there, but they found nothing titillating. Then a middle school in Junbuk province held a reunification event where teachers might have expressed too much sympathy for a communist partisan, but again prosecutors were disappointed by the temerity of the material. The unholy triad, however, howled throughout.

When a couple teachers uploaded images of posters to the union website in Seoul, the chorus returned to the stage. Of course, North Korean posters are available to teachers on Ministry of Education sites, and to the public at a Chosun Ilbo site. But the teachers who uploaded their posters had the audacity to identify and define sungun (i.e. military first) politics! This word is unfamiliar to most students and many teachers, of course, as folks here aren't in the habit of discussing policy/propaganda in the North. A definition might be useful to teachers who want to introduce a discussion in their classrooms.

Alas for these teachers, their definition of sungun politics was apparently not condescending enough. It's a question of tone, see? And theirs didn't harmonize well enough with the chorus.

Again, it's the Ministry of Education that is the desired target. The ministry suggests that teachers ask questions such as "What is sungun politics, and why does the North Korean government emphasize this?" and "What are the characteristics of North Korean politics?" Perhaps the detention of these teachers is a Ministry of Justice signal to its enemies in other ministries?

If teachers in the North ask similar questions about propaganda in the South, do the police come for them?

Friday, January 19, 2007

You mean we have the right to withhold labor???

S.K. students recieve poor education on labor issues

The ministry's response: "We have included five sentences. It is unreasonable to include more. The primary purpose of an education is to prepare human resources to accept that salary level indicates worth of social contribution."

For those few english teachers interested in introducing learners to labor issues, I have designed a few lessons. Contact me.

Friday, January 12, 2007

We don't talk about that

"The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them." - George Orwell

After reading Pak Noja's observations about how, in Russia,
strongly nationalist/masculine/militaristic “anti-hegemonism” is largely destroying the ground for the real anti-imperialism/anti-capitalism - just like the way it happens with the NL (”national liberation”)-dominated Korean left today
I got to thinking about some of those topics that aren't included in the CSAT study manuals:
  • the massacres of Vietnamese peasants by ROK forces
  • political prisoners, imprisoned for 40 years
  • WW2 crimes committed by Korean soldiers
  • the widespread and calculated terror pursued by Rhee's regime, from 1948 and continuing into the civil war
  • reference to the war as a civil war
  • patriotism as something other than loyalty to the state
  • a defence of the right to withhold labour
  • the dangers lurking in "pure blood" mythologies
  • feminist, race, queer theories of any kind

I'm working on it, the trick is to disguise the text as a conventional study manual, else students - and publishers - will have no use for it ...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Will the KTU respond? We can't if we're to stay "in the classroom" ...

UPDATE: After 3 months of beatings, the activists have been released.

* * *

Today, from Education International:

Urgent Action Appeal for Ethiopia

Torture of Ethiopian Teachers’ Association activists

Dear colleagues,

Education International calls on your solidarity to support the elected union officers of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association (ETA). Currently, two ETA officers are reported to be subjected to torture while in detention without warrant. A third one is reported missing since December 15.

For years now, EI has been concerned by the actions taken by the Ethiopian authorities to dismantle the ETA, which has been representing the legitimate interests of the teaching profession in Ethiopia since 1949.

Since the creation of another Ethiopian Teachers' Association in 1993, the first ETA, a member of Education International, has been subjected to repression and interference seeking the destruction of the independent union.

The harassment was so intense in 2006 that EI and the ETA submitted complaints to the International Labour Organisation (Committee on Freedom of Association) and to the ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART). Fortunately, despite the harassment of ETA leaders and interferences in ETA affairs which hamper the day-to-day work of the union, the ETA continues to enjoy the support of teachers and gains new members every month.

With your help, EI aims to encourage the Government of Ethiopia to respect freedom of association and to stop immediately the ill treatment of our three colleagues. You will find attached a model protest letter which can be used by your organisation to express your concern about the continued harassment, and now torture, of ETA activists. More information about EI's action can be found on the EI website.

December 2006: Abduction and torture of ETA activists

On 14 December, the family of Tilahun Ayalew reported his arrest on his way from his school to his residence in Dangla. Government security agents took him to the police station of Bahir Dar, in the North of the country. He was later transferred to the Addis Ababa Criminal Investigation Bureau, known as Maekelawi. He is reported to have been "heavily tortured". On 1 January, Tilahun Ayalew was brought to the Lideta Borough Initial Court in Addis Ababa. "He was so heavily beaten that he could hardly walk on his own from the police van to the court room," reported the ETA General Secretary. The judge adjourned his case to 15 January to allow the police to undertake further investigation. Tilahun Ayalew, aged 49 and father of 7 children, teaches at a primary school in his city of Dangla. He is a prominent ETA activist and is Chair of the ETA Awi zone. Earlier in 2005, Tilahu! n Ayalew was among the 68 teachers arrested after the post election demonstrations in November 2005. No arrest warrant was ever produced and he was finally released on bail without explanation. Since 14 December, he has been detained incommunicado and was refused access to a lawyer and/or to medical assistance. His relatives and colleagues are unaware of any charge filed against him.
Meqcha Mengistu was reported missing on December 15, 2006. He had been under constant surveillance by government security agents following his participation in an ETA conference held on 8-9 December in Addis Ababa. His relatives know nothing about his whereabouts. Meqcha Mengistu, aged 38 and father of 4 children, teaches at a secondary school in Dejen, in the Eastern part of the country. He is chairperson of the ETA East Gojam Zonal Executive and is member of the ETA Committee for the implementation of the EI/ETA Education For All-HIV/AIDS programme (EFAIDS). Meqcha was arrested along with Tilahun Ayalew and 66 other teachers in November 2005.
Education International is also concerned about the fate of Anteneh Getnet, a male teacher aged 42. On 8 May 2006, Antenech Getenet was abducted and tortured by unidentified men. He almost died and will never be able to teach again. A prominent ETA activist, he was elected to the ETA Addis Ababa Regional Council in August 2006. Antenech Getnet was arrested on 29 December and detained incommunicado at the Maekelawi Investigation Bureau. He is reported to have been severely beaten again. On 1 January, he appeared before the court, together with Tilahun Ayalew. The court also adjourned his case to allow for further investigation by the police.
The ETA leadership knows these three men very well. Their only offence is that they are members of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association.

What can you do?

When informed about the tragic events, EI immediately addressed a protest letter to the Ethiopian Prime Minister; EI also approached the International Labour Organisation, the International Trade Union Confederation and Amnesty International to denounce the detention without warrant and acts of torture against trade union officials in the context of their legal trade union activities.

As a national teacher association, you can undertake the following action:

Protest to the Ethiopian authorities - a model letter can be found on our website ( The letters should be addressed to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and to the local Ethiopian embassy. A copy of your letter should also be forwarded to EI for our records.
Contact the ETA to express your solidarity > Ethiopian Teachers' Association, Gemoraw Kassa, General Secretary, P.O. Box 1639, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Tel: +251-11-552.46.68 - Fax: +251-11-551.28.26. (Bear in mind that phone is not always safe and the fax is often disrupted. Email messages can be forwarded to EI which will forward them to the colleagues in Ethiopia).
Give visibility to the situation of teachers in Ethiopia in your magazine, on your website, during meetings and via other appropriate means.
Approach your embassy representatives in Ethiopia. This step requires some care and concerted action. EI therefore invites you to be in touch before acting upon this recommendation.
EI will of course keep you updated on all development or when the Urgent Action Appeal is closed. For additional information or to discuss possible action, contact the EI Human and Trade Union Rights Coordinator

I thank you in advance for your support of our Ethiopian colleagues.

Yours sincerely,

Fred van Leeuwen
General Secretary


I forgot to note that yes, the union did respond.