1. What is NEIS?
The department of education and human resources development of the Republic of Korea has been trying to implement the online information database system which is called the National Education Information System since March 1st, 2003. It is a giant and central database system to collect private information from students, parents and teachers. And NEIS will be under the control of the government.
2. What's the problems of NEIS?
The main sections of NEIS are personnel management, budget, accounting, schools' administration, health, admission affairs, etc. Among them, the information of the three sections - schools' administration, health, admission affairs - is very personal, sensitive and private, and collected for counseling purpose only. Especially the section on health includes the students' medical history, which should be kept secret.
3. National Human Rights Commission announced that NEIS infringes the basic human rights!
May 12, 2003, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of the Republic of Korea announced that NEIS infringes the basic human rights including privacy, and advised the Department of Education and Human Resources Development to stop the implementation of NEIS.
The NHRC came to the conclusion that the NEIS could infringe the basic human rights by citing Article 10 (the rights to pursue happiness), Article 17(the rights to protect private life), Article 31, and Article 37 of the constitution of the Republic of Korea, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 16 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, OECD's Guidelines Governing the Protection of Privacy & Trans-border Flow of Personal Data, UN's Guidelines for the regulation of computerized personal data file, the Law on the Protection of Personal Information.
However, the department of education and human resources development has not yet accepted the recommendation of the NHRC.
4. The Struggles Against NEIS
The Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union (KTU) has been carrying out a movement to disobey the implementation of the NEIS since March first, because the NEIS will not only keep the teachers under government's control, but it is also an unconstitutional database system to violate the student's human right. The reasons why the KTU started the movement against the implementation of the NEIS is as followings:
- Three key parts of the NEIS -- schools' administration, health and admission affairs, which contain students' personal records on their state of health, school work and grades, and school entrance and transfers -- infringes the students' basic human rights including privacy.
The KTU filed a complaint with the criminal court against the minister of education and human resources development, deputy minister of the ministry and the director in charge of the NEIS in the ministry for the crimes of misfeasance and illegal enforcement. It also sent the letter for solidarity to ILO and Education International on 19, June.
Moreover, fourteen civil society organizations and students groups established a coalition to struggle against NEIS and have carried out many activities to demand the abolishment of the NEIS, for examples, statement press release, online & offline demonstration and lawsuit to the court and National Human Rights Commission. They have persisted that NEIS is illegal and unconstitutional, and actually ignores many international conventions such as Universal declaration of Human rights, UN Guidelines on individual information and even the OECD Guidelines on Privacy (the rights of self-decision, self-control on his/her own private information).
5. Arrival of Mutual Agreement between government and KTU, and Breach of it by government
On 26 May, the department of education and human resources and KTU arrived mutual agreement on NEIS as followings:
- Three key parts of the NEIS -- schools' administration, health and admission affairs, which contain students' personal records on their state of health, school work and grades, and school entrance and transfers -- except those of 3rd grade high school students are excluded from NEIS
- the committee for educational informatization which is composed of experts of various area and teachers would be established to examine the problem of NEIS and recommend the solution.
However, on 1 June, the department of education and human resources broke the agreement unilaterally by announcing that it will allow each school can choose it's own management system, which means some schools could adopt NEIS. Though it also announces some private information of students would be deleted from NEIS, the problems of NEIS still remains.
6. Hunger Strike of Human Rights Activists
On 18 June, nine human rights activists in South Korea starts hunger strike struggle in front of Myungdong Cathedral. They criticized the government for breaking the agreement and asserted to stop the implementation of NEIS. Korean Progressive Network(Jinbonet), Sarangbang group for Human Rights, Center for Human Rights Dasan, Peace & Human Rights Coalition, Chunbuk Peace & Human Rights Coalition, Catholic Human Rights Committee, and Minkakyup Human Rights Group, Won Buddhism Human Rights Committee participate in this hunger strike struggle.
KTU also announced that it would hold a national-wide massive strike with large demonstration on June 21st.
On 20 June, the human rights activists visited the Ministry of Education to request as follows ▲ stop the implementation of NEIS ▲ delete the sections of private information of students, parents and teachers ▲ review the educational informatization process at all levels. On 23 June, they joined a press conference to announce 'special week of Big Brother' (June 23rd to 29th), which was commonly held by 52 civil society and human rights organizations.
7. Establishment of the committee for educational informatization
Korean government composed the committee for educational informatization(CEI) under the control of Prime Minister. However the process of composing CEI was not transparent and democratic. Moreover the composition of CEI members was very unfair.
On 25 June, 54 civil society and human rights organizations, education groups and progressive political party including these human rights activists jointly held a press conference to request that the CEI should be established on the basis of transparency and democracy. They criticized that the government unilaterally made the committee without any discussion or consensus with people including students, parents, teachers and civil societies. On 27 June, they held a press conference again and officially asked the government to hold a pubic hearing conference related to the affairs of establishing CEI.
However, the government unilaterally held the first meeting of CEI on 7 July. Until now, Civil society organizations such as People's Solidarity for the Participatory Democracy, Lawyers Association for a Democratic Society and KTU, which were asked to recommend the members of CEI by the government, denied to enter the committee.
8. The Joint Struggle Committee to Protect Human Rights in Information Society and against NEIS was launched on 8 July.
On 8 July, 43 entities including progressive political party, human rights·education·students·parents and civil society organizations established Joint Struggle Committee to protect human rights in information society and against NEIS (JSC).
JSC announced at a press release, "JSC is aimed to organize the pan-national movement against NEIS, which infringes the important human rights," and added, "JSC will carried out many activities and campaigns to break the E-government projects which infringes the human rights and to make the discussion of human rights in information society more widely."