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Teachers’ union cries foul over ministry’s FTA publications

The Hankyoreh, Seoul

Teachers’ union cries foul over ministry’s FTA publications

Union says double standard at work, as its educational materials on subject were rejected for ‘bias’

12 May 2007

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development last week delivered materials to local educational offices to encourage them to promote the Korea-U.S. FTA, a move which has brought criticism from Korea’s teachers’ union, which says the move is biased and one-sided in nature.

The ministry sent documents to nationwide educational offices and colleges on April 30 - including 60-page promotional materials - urging them to cooperate in raising understanding of the FTA negotiations. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education then conveyed the message to regional [educational] offices to step up efforts to make teachers and students have "a correct understanding" [can we put quotes here?]=yes, of the FTA and to use the ministry’s materials in instruction.

The ministry, however, before the FTA was signed had rejected teaching materials on the FTA prepared by the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, leveling that the union’s teaching materials about the FTA would bring students a biased opinion regarding the trade deal.

Han Man-jung, an official of the union, said, "The ministry’s materials sing praises of the FTA. Following the ministry’s own logic, their materials could also bring a biased understanding to students."

The ministry’s promotional materials state that the FTA is a stepping stone for the nation to strengthen its competitive power.

Seo Yu-mi, an official of the ministry, said, "The materials were intended to correctly express the government’s stance." Regarding the government’s measure to prevent teachers from designing their own curriculum on the matter, Seo said, "At that time, the FTA negotiations were underway, so negative educational materials may have been considered inappropriate."

But Jeong Ae-sun, a spokesperson of the teachers’ union, countered by saying that "it is possible to have diverse points of view regarding the FTA. The government should cast aside its double standard."

The Korea-U.S. FTA was inked on April 2, and now faces ratification by political bodies in both countries.