A cry for justice: Solidarity with teachers in South Korea

published 1 September 2023 updated 20 March 2024

Education International extends its unwavering support to the teachers in South Korea who in increasing numbers have been demonstrating every Saturday united under the common cause of public education. Education International stands in solidarity and denounces any and all attempts by the government to deny their rights.

A cry for justice

This September 4th marks 49 days since a young teacher tragically took her life due to bullying and violence against her. In Korean culture, this day is chosen to honor her memory and to demand change. Her tragic story shines a light on the daily struggles faced by teachers in South Korea, as highlighted in reports from Seoul over the past three years.

"The teachers of South Korea are not just mourning a tragic loss; they're demanding real change. Our teachers educate, but also change lives. This is a call for the rights and recognition they rightfully deserve. These teachers shape students; they shape the future. They embody the value of unity, the power of collective action, and the resilient spirit of educators. They remind us why it's vital to protect the sacred spaces of teaching and learning," stated David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International.

A call to action

Despite threats of dismissal from the Ministry of Education, teachers have declared September 4th as ‘The Day Public Education Stops,’ directly confronting government restrictions.

By choosing this day, teachers are highlighting the urgent need for change and challenging the government to acknowledge and address the systemic issues undermining quality education in the country. It is a courageous stand that underscores their commitment to fostering a brighter and more equitable future.

Restricted freedom

For Korean teachers, the right to unionize and political freedom are still distant dreams. The government's strong control over unions and political expression silences their voices, leaving them vulnerable to external pressures. This lack of agency undermines their ability to advocate for better working conditions, fair pay, and a more equitable education system. It also hampers their capacity to resist the growing privatization and commercialization in the education sector. Ultimately, these barriers hurt not only the teachers, but also the quality of education for the students.

"It’s time for the world to stand in solidarity with South Korean teachers, who rise against legal constraints, and the denial of their basic rights, in their fight for justice and equity in education," Edwards added. Education International believes that the struggle of Korean teachers mirrors the battles fought by teachers globally. Only through global unity and collective action can we break down these barriers and create a more just and equitable education system for all.

Education International urges its affiliates to stand with South Korean teachers, to work together, to transform the world through global solidarity.