Part 1: Le Monde and what came before
Part 2: Korea is "Ali Baba's" Cave
Part 3: Seoul Should not be a Workplace for Parisians
Part 4: In private foreign language classes, there are a lot of ‘fraud teachers’
Part 5: Jibberish
Part 6: 'I Want to Strike it Rich in Seoul Too' - Continuous Job Inquiries by the French
Part 7: Foreigners Enjoy Better Life With Mother Tongues
Part 8: Foreigners and Foreign Languages
Part 9: Sickening Face
Part 10: Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Part 11: The First Sanctions on Foreigners Working Illegally
Part 12: More on the 1983 Law "Limiting Aliens' Residence Period"
Part 13: All Private Lessons by Foreigners Prohibited
Part 14: Institutes Asked to Hire Eligible Foreign Teachers
Part 15: "Seoul Wind"
Part 16: Foreign Language Teacher Shortage
[Update, April 2009] The first news report about a foreign teacher being arrested for drugs in Korea was in May 1994. The teacher was Cullen Thomas, who served three years in prison and went on to write the book Brother One Cell about his experiences.
[Update] - Someday I'll update this, but for now, several events from the fall of 2007 are related here.
[Update] - There are updates for January 1997, February 1998 and April 2007.
What follows isn't necessarily all scapegoating, but a look at how the Korean media have reported on and represented foreign English teachers here since 1996, which also handily helps provide a brief history of this foreign community as well. A big hat tip to the Marmot for his translations of articles over the past few years, as well as Mongdori, where videos of several TV broadcasts can be found (which saved me the trouble of uploading the 2005 SBS show to Youtube myself).[Note: those videos are now gone.]
One of the hardest things to pin down are the numbers of teachers. For example, on July 19, 1997, the Korea Times reported that, according to the Education Ministry, there were 3,930 legally employed foreign English teachers in Korea, though the police suggested that there were 20,000 illegally employed teachers.
[Update, Feb. 2011: Incorrect figures removed, replaced with figures from here.
Here are the number of people here on E-2 visas since 2000:
2000 - 6,414
2002 - 10,864
2004 - 11,344
2005 - 12,439
2006 - 15,001
2007 - 17,721
2008 - 19,771
2009 - 22,642
2010.6 - 23,600
(from KIS stats, and from here, here, and here.)]
If you want to go back to the very beginning, the first English classes were in mission schools founded in the 1880s and 1890s. Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, English was taught by in schools by Peace Corps volunteers. In the early 1990s, numerous English language institutes began to appear in Korea which hired university graduates from English speaking countries to teach conversation classes. These weren't the only foreigners flooding into the country, of course; hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from China and southeast Asia would begin working in Korea in the 1990s as well. The ESL industry expanded rapidly, and within a few years there was a high demand for native speakers - or any English speakers, if the institutes could get away with it - in not only language institutes, but also for private lessons and in other institutes offering art, math or taekwondo classes which hired them to attract students. There were other options as well, as is written here:
In 1995, at the crest of a wave of private language institutes sweeping the country, the Korean Ministry of Education launched a pilot program called KORETTA, or Korea English Teacher Training Assistants, later renamed the English Program in Korea, or EPIK. It was the first and only nationwide government-initiated program to address the demand for English education in Korea, designed to place native English speakers in public school classrooms to co-teach alongside Korean English teachers. EPIK, however, was marked from the start by disorganization, miscommunication and allegations of corruption by its foreign teachers.So, just to make that clear, it wasn't just the language institutes which might screw over prospective teachers - working within a government-run program ran the risk of similar treatment.
In 1996, a summer intake that consisted of several orientation sessions, run by Korea University, brought in more than 860 teachers, but by the third week of October, fewer than 500 remained [468, according to the Times on Oct. 23]. Those who quit cited reasons such as inadequate housing, late salary payments and refusal of severance pay.
Using the KINDS database (which goes back as far as 1990 for Korean language articles or 1995 for English language articles (an option which seems to no longer work)) an early article I found was about a drug arrest of an English teacher. This was actually the first news report about a foreign teacher being arrested for drugs in Korea, and was in May 1994. The teacher was Cullen Thomas, who served three and a half years in prison and went on to write the book Brother One Cell about his experiences.
The first English language article I found about English teachers was from March 9, 1996, titled "American English Teacher Arrested for Smoking Hemp".
The airmailed marijuana was detected at Kimpo Customs at Kimpo International Airport, which notified it to the prosecutor's office. The prosecutor's office, in a "controlled delivery," let the parcel delivered to Syed [yes, they use his full name] Tuesday. Investigators then staked out his residence to monitor Syed's activities. After it was ascertained that he had smoked it on four occasions with the girlfriend, they arrested him, according to the prosecutor.Note that the girlfriend wasn't arrested. It seems such arrests weren't so common at that time; this teacher was just one of 23 foreigners busted for drugs in 1996, according to an October 30, 1997 Korea Times article:
Narcotic-related arrests of foreigners which stood at 14 in 1995, increased by 64.3 percent to 23 last year and jumped to 37 as of the end of September this year [...] Those arrested with the drug, were mainly Americans before 1995, but it was Nigerians who comprised the largest category in 1996 [,though] cases committed by Iranians and Pakistanis are increasing this year.Apparently, English teachers commit other crimes as well, as the Korea Times reported on January 11, 1997:
A patrolman shot an American English tutor who was allegedly resisting him after stabbing one of his American colleagues while intoxicated early yesterday morning in [Seongnam]. [The teacher, who teaches] English at Pagoda Junior Institute, was shot in the left thigh and has been treated at Songnam Hospital. He is suspected of stabbing one of his fellow English instructors (24), three times in the face during a quarrel that arose while they were drinking together at his house. [...] Rossi's Korean fiance said he was "unarmed" when the policeman fired at him. [...] A police officer said that the patrolman repeatedly ordered Rossi to stop, but he continued to resist and would not put down his knife, and the cop shot him after firing two blank shots.[Update] The victim's version of the story appears in the comments:
The way he told it, he was celebrating the end of his contract at his friend's apartment down the hall from his room. He had a ticket booked to leave the next day. They got pretty drunk. He figured someone called the cops because of the noise (they had been talking really loudly in English). At one point in the evening, as people had left and they both were tidying up the room, he said his friend tripped and landed arms first in the glass of the sliding door, breaking it and cutting himself. He claimed it wasn't too serious, just a few minor cuts, so his friend cleaned himself up with a towel, threw on the floor, and went to bed. The teacher was supposedly sweeping the floor when a cop got there. He said the cop saw the Korean passed out from drinking so much, saw the bloodied towel, the white guy, and put 2 and 2 together and came up with five. The cop pulled out his gun and aimed it at the teacher who claimed he quickly raised his hands and shouted 'Chingu, chingu!'. The cop shot two or three times, hitting him in the leg. He claimed he was denied treatment at the hospital because the insurance wouldn't cover injuries incurred during an arrest. I supposedly took a day or two before he could come up with the money. By then, it was too late. He had apparently developed nerve damage, which he claimed was caused by the delay in treatment.A February 2 Korea Herald article described 'itinerant' teachers.
Korea has overtaken Japan as the favorite destination for those looking to earn quick money by teaching English. Itinerant teachers now far outnumber their better-qualified and legally-contracted counterparts who almost always earn far less. One native speaker, who asked for anonymity said that he can spend half of the year in Seoul doing illegal teaching and the other half on various beaches around the world and still saves thousands of dollars. Such teachers are clearly not the answer to the high level of demand for English teachers. But while this demand and its consequent high wages persist, they will continue to flock to Korea.A February 3 Korea Herald article described how universities were "reducing the salaries, benefits and status of their foreign instructors," by creating 5 month contracts and paying per class taught. A letter in the Korea Herald on April 25, 1997 points out the other, more popular reason for English teachers being arrested these days:
I have met several individuals working here that have purchased mail-order diplomas from various sham operations. With these diplomas they pass themselves off as qualified instructors and gain access to the same positions that qualified ESL teachers are due.[...] I sincerely hope that the charlatans, scam artists, tourists and pitiful old hippies that have been employed to teach English in Korea will either leave or get training and certification which will justify their existence here in Korea.A month later, a May 31, 1997 Korea Times article described these teachers:
Tales of easy money have attracted "cowboy teachers," unqualified foreigners who ride into town and try to cash in, giving legitimate teachers a bad name in the process.The name of this article was "Immigration Cracks Down on Illegal English Teachers":
Between mid-December and the end of April, 315 illegal teachers were deported after sweeps of foreign language institutes (hagwon) and elementary schools[, when authorities used methods such as] spotting and trailing foreigners on the street [and] talking to security guards and staking out the lobbies of apartment buildings where teachers give expensive private lessons.The reason for this crackdown is mentioned here:
In 1995, English teaching jobs began to proliferate and foreigners swarmed to Korea. Most with work visas found their job situation unacceptable, quit, and either went home or began working on a tourist visa (which is highly illegal). Soon, the number of illegal English teachers greatly exceeded the number of legal teachers. This influx of illegal workers, in combination with the declining health of the economy in 1997, prompted Korean immigration to start seriously pursuing foreign teachers working on a tourist visa.Not all of the articles from that time dwell on illegal teachers, however. A July 8, 1997 Korea Times article described "the estimated 800 angry and disillusioned American teachers who lodge complaints about broken promises and mistreatment by Korea's hagwons and schools every year" with the U.S. embassy.
For more than three years, the Chief of American Citizens' Services, Katheryn S.R. Berck, has mailed a warning letter to all who inquire about teaching English in Korea that reads: "Due to the growing number and seriousness of problems experienced by American citizens teaching English in Korea, we counsel against taking such employment even at reputable colleges and universities..."On July 18, 1997, it was reported that 141 illegal English teachers who had entered Korea on a tourist visa were to be deported. In a Korea Times article the next day, it was said that this was due to the arrest of five (Korean) men who ran a recruiting agency.
Berck arrived as the Chief of American Services in the late summer of 1993. Six months later, she said, the reasons for warning Americans about teaching in Korea were obvious: "We were so exhausted with hearing people's horror stories, we put this out." Berck checked with other popular locations for foreign English teachers around the world and Korea is the only bad apple in the ESL market, cataloging hundreds more complaints than any other country, she said.
During the course of their investigation police discovered that 141 out of the 1,019 foreigners the agents found teaching jobs for were working on tourist visas.[...] 645 institutes offering art, math or taekwondo classes hired them to attract students.[...]A Korea Herald article from October 13 said that a "report, submitted by the Seoul Office of Education to the National Assembly, indicated 146 English language institutes [in Seoul], including three foreign-owned ones, had enrollment of 24,928 kids under the age of 12 as of the end of August." A Korea Times article from November 2 gave some numbers, describing "the 464 Language Institutes in Seoul that employ over 1,800 foreign teachers". It's obvious from the July article that more than language institutes were hiring them (not to mention privates).
Saying there are over 20,000 illegally employed foreign language teachers in the nation, the police are stepping up their crackdown on them. According to the latest statistics compiled by the Education Ministry, there were 4,171 legal foreign language teachers as of the end of last month. Ninety-four percent or 3,930 of them teach English[.]
A November 6 Korea Times article titled "Korea's International Image Faces Abuse in Cyberspace" shows that some English teachers in Korea weren't happy with their treatment in Korea.
A group calling themselves the American English Teachers Attacking Corrupt Koreans (AETACK) have sent random inflammatory anti-Korean electronic mail to subscribers on the Internet. In one poison missive sent to members of America On Line entitled"No Visa Waiver For Korea," the message said "(We) feel that Korea does not deserve this privilege because of its behavior toward us and other foreign workers," adding that "the Korean economy is sinking into debt oblivion so they don't have much money to spend...there is also the threat of opening the door to Korean Mafia-style criminals who are acknowledged to be a problem by the FBI."Some other teachers thought this was just an excuse to 'bash Koreans', while a Korean American compared them to the KKK. On February 2, 1998, the New York Times published an article about the taboo against interracial relationships in Korea, describing the lengths some families would go to keep their daughters away from their foreign boyfriends ("The parents locked the girlfriend in the home for 10 days, telling her to call in sick at her job. Then they alternated interrogations with lectures.") and typical attitudes (''A Korean woman must never date or marry a foreign guy,'' said Kim Hee Sup, a 34-year-old male office worker. ''All Koreans should try to maintain racial purity.'' ), though it wasn't all bad:
''It used to be pretty bad -- I'd get things thrown at me if I were dancing with a Korean girl,'' said Peter Keusgen, a 29-year-old Australian stock analyst who has spent most of the last six years in South Korea. ''Coming from that low base, Korea's come a long way. People are much more accepting now.''At any rate, the number of teachers would drop as the Korean economy collapsed and the Korean government asked the IMF for a bailout on November 22. A Korea Times article from December 17, 1997 is titled "English Teachers Mull Bailout of Their Own From Current Crisis".
What was once a land of plenty that offered money, fast-paced challenges and a chance to experience a foreign culture has now become a trap for thousands of foreign English teachers in South Korea who came over here for a little adventure and a way to pay off the heavy burden of student loans but who in a matter of days, saw their salaries cut in half and their very jobs at risk because of the plunge in the value of the won against the dollar.I seem to remember someone telling me the F stood for something else, but I digress. An April 1, 1998 Times article mentions that
By far, the overwhelming reason Korea has drawn more than 10,000 legally accredited English teachers and an even greater number of "illegal" teachers is money.[...] "Lots of teachers are planning a bailout of their own," said Mark Bray, a full-time English instructor at Taegu University. "People I know have already left and there's a saying here now: 'IMF - I-M-Flying'".
Foreign English teachers are giving up their jobs in South Korean high schools because their pay has shrunk in value, discouraging an ambitious English education plan that started just a year ago. Education Ministry officials said 126 out of 856 native English-speaking teachers quit as of the end of last month [and few would re-sign when their contracts ended in July].An interesting October 1998 article in Slate by teacher Rolf Potts looked at the expat scene in Busan before and after the currency crash:
To the untrained foreign eye, Pusan still looks like a manic boomtown. But the Americans and Canadians who have lived here for the last couple of years know better. This is because the seasoned expatriates of Pusan know their garbage.One thing that's interesting is that he refers to the experience of thousands of foreigners (anyone with "a native understanding of English, a college degree and a pulse") coming to Korea to teach English in the past tense, as if it was all over and Korea's economy would never recover. English teachers would soon begin to return, though it would take a few years for the number of teachers to build up again to pre-economic crisis levels. A December 14, 1998 Korea Times article describes this:
Just over one year ago, street-side garbage piles provided an almost inexhaustible supply of perfectly usable desks, couches, tables, television sets, electric fans and personal computers for itinerant foreigners looking to stock a rented room for a few months. At the time, Koreans were still giddy from three decades of steady economic growth, and throwing out perfectly usable electronics and home furnishings was a sly act of one-upmanship among the middle class. Koreans looked on in haughty bemusement as young Americans enthusiastically carted garbage back to their apartments.
These days, what's left of Pusan's expatriate community has all but given up dumpster diving. [...] These days, the garbage of Pusan is just garbage.
Though many were frightened away by the won's seeming collapse, those who have remained in Korea have watched the won make a modest recovery and have seen demand for their services skyrocket as of late. In fact, the need for teachers is so great that even some of the teachers who left are returning.Immigration did not fail to notice this, of course, and the Korea Times reported on April 9, 1999 that 71 foreigners would be fined and deported for teaching English without a proper work visa. Oddly enough, I could find no stories in the Times or the Herald in 2000 about foreign teachers, and only one in 2001, from March 7, which is about that other reason why English teachers sometimes make the news:
There are now so many unfilled teaching positions here that Dave's ESL Cafe, a popular website with the ESL crowd, recently started a new web page just for Korean jobs.[...] Where at one point [there were] less than 40 Korean job postings per month, over the past month alone [there have been] over 120.
[One teacher says that] "Right now, you don't even have to have graduated from high school. If you come over here on a tourist visa, you'll be guaranteed work, and a lot of money, too."
Four foreigners who teach English to kids between four and seven at an English kindergarten in the Gangam area in Seoul were arrested for smoking marijuana Wednesday. [...] According to the prosecution, they argued that they were not under the influence of the drug when teaching kids in the morning as they usually smoked in the evenings. An official at the kindergarten said that even smoking is not allowed at the institute and that officials had no idea that some instructors were on marijuana.There's nothing like conflating "smoked pot in their free time" with "they taught innocent children and no one even noticed they were on marijuana". As luck would have it, the next news item would be almost a year later, and it involved another drug bust, as a February 19, 2002 Korea Times article reveals:
The Pusan Metropolitan Police Agency said the foreign suspects, most of whom are working as lecturers in universities and language institutes in Pusan city, have been getting together in a foreigners-only cafe in Changchon-dong to have marijuana parties. Seven foreign offenders, including an American, two Canadians and a New Zealander, as well as four Koreans including the 38-year-old owner of the cafe, have already been taken into custody. "We are now tracking 10 other foreign suspects in this case via their workplaces and other channels,'' a police officer said."State of hallucination"? I guess they have to play up something, don't they? At the time I received a forwarded email from a teacher in Busan which gave more information about the arrest. It stated that when police raided the bar, they came with a list of names that informants had given them. Koreans were told to leave, and every foreigner's ID was checked. Those whose names were on the list, and those without ID, were given a urine test. An article about Busan expat scene and the aftermath of this drug bust (as well as an interview with the director of the upcoming film "Expats", which is set in Busan) can be found here.
On Saturday, police raided the cafe in question following a tip that about 60 foreigners and Koreans there were in a state of hallucination after taking marijuana. Seven foreign offenders were caught red-handed.
On July 7, 2002, John Hare, writing in "Thoughts of the Times," shared his opinion on English teachers in Korea:
Foreign feral freaks are the toxic effluent of a culture that has, for all the best intentions, and despite many resultant achievements and public benefits, uniquely put the individual and his needs and concerns first. They are entirely, freakishly separated from the society, the world and the universe to which they rightfully belong, utterly selfish and willful and indulgent of all appetites, creepily sensual, crass, obnoxious, disrespectful, irresponsible; in a word, ignoble.Who needs the Korean media when this guy's around? Moving from teachers to hagwons, on September 5, 2002, the Korea Times reported that
In fact, not a few Koreans mix with the foreign rabble at the various rat-hole drinking establishments, whether out of morbid curiosity or fascinated disgust _ it is academic to speculate _ before returning home to their long showers.
Six children’s English education institutes have carried out false and misleading advertisings or forced unfair deals onto their member outlets. The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) yesterday ordered the six firms - Kizclub, Wonderland, LCI Kids Club, ECC, Kids Herald School and Swaton Language School – to cease the illegal practices.A September 25, 2002 article about the plans of the Youth Commission to release photos of people convicted of sex crimes with minors mentioned a disturbing fact:
An American English teacher convicted of attempting to rape one of his students is also on the list, along with a security guard who surreptitiously videotaped underage girls with three other foreigners.There's no more mention of those other foreigners, but I'm surprised that the attempted rape case didn't get more attention. It certainly would if it happened now. Speaking of sex crimes, on July 11, 2003, a person with the ID 'Lucky Guy' at koreanesl.com posted a short essay titled "How to Mollest [sic] your Students". It led to a number of complaints and angry responses by other English teachers who read it before it was buried after a few days. It would remain forgotten for a year and a half.
A July 29, 2003 Joongang Ilbo article mentions that the police had "detained 73 people in the course of 95 investigations of illegal narcotics trafficking over the past two months", but only one was a foreign English teacher; most of them were Korean students returning from overseas.
The English language press is rather sparse on news from these years (though lots of 'thoughts of English teachers working in Korea' columns can be found in the Korea Times, of course), though it's well worth remembering that other crackdowns had been going on since the 1990s against migrant workers; an especially large crackdown in 2003 and 2004 certainly got a lot of attention.
In early August 2004 the press would report on a drunk Canadian who beat up police in a police station in Pohang. At that time a post at Idiot's Collective related numerous tales of...'eccentric' foreigners who have taught English here. The year ended with a Christmas tale of police busting an unlicenced employment ring which had cheated foreign teachers and public schools - a rare occasion when the sleazy businesspeople in this industry were getting negative attention.
That would change as 2004 made way for 2005, however.
On January 11, 2005, after netizens began discovering what was being written about Korean women (and especially the photos of a 'sexy costume' party from the previous November that had been posted) by English teachers on English Spectrum's 'Ask the Playboy' forum, the Joongang Ilbo published an article about the controversy, and by the next day the site had been temporarily closed down. This was only the beginning, however, as Korean netizens obviously began to search other English teacher forums for more incriminating material. This led to the discovery of the year-and-a-half-old koreanesl.com post "How to Mollest[sic] your students," which can be found here (or here).
The original post by 'lucky guy' (since deleted) was posted July 11, 2003, and the last comment to the post at that time was from August 7, 2003. The poster said that he didn't write the text of the post and copied and pasted it there to test the site's 'no censorship' policy, though it's impossible to know if this is true or false. The reaction at the time by mostly (presumably) English teachers was one of disgust and outrage. Interestingly, one of the comments from the day it was posted read, "I bet shortly I'll translate your message into Korean and list up on the 'Webmaster's Selection' for parents, employers and children." This didn't happen then, but one of the first comments left after it was rediscovered on January 13, 2005 read, "This is so fucking sick. Your site and you 'lucky guy' your going down cuz I'm disclosing all this shit on other portals." He obviously followed through on the threat, which led in the short term to one of the largest collections of emoticons like this - 凸^0^凸 - on the internet (note - do not click on the original post - it's been deleted and replaced with an obscene image). A summary of the controversy is also here.
This post by the Marmot covers much of the ensuing netizen response: A petition calling for the expulsion of 'low quality' foreign teachers, the formation of the anti-English Spectrum cafe which wanted to take legal action against English Spectrum (underscored by this announcement two months later), the announcement of a demonstration to be held in Hongdae on January 15 (which seems not to have amounted to anything), a warning from the US embasssy of "potential threats" in the Hongdae area, and the angry response of some of the Korean women in the pictures to their treatment by netizens, underscored by a January 24 Chosun Ilbo article which interviewed the owner of the bar where the photos were taken:
"Two customers were on the verge of quitting their jobs, and another was seeking psychiatric counseling,” she said Saturday. “Another customer had a job offer taken away. Our club is preparing to close."[...] "I get anonymous threatening phone calls at the club all the time. 'Why don't whores like you just die quietly,' 'Foreigners' whore! Why don't you shut down your club?' 'We will hold a picket demonstration in front of your club'... I get nervous anytime I hear the phone ring."They also interview another woman in the photos:
"My co-workers point at me behind my back… "I don't know how they got my email address, but I get tons of emails with frightening titles, so I don't even turn on my computer these days." Another girl pictured said she was offered a secretarial position in early January, but because of the photos, the job offer was withdrawn.Five months later another woman would receive similar treatment after refusing to clean up her dog's poop on the subway, which would lead to social concern about such "cyber terror". No such concern was directed towards the plight of these women, however. As for English teachers in general, the media had made the connections "English teacher = unqualified teacher" or "drugs" in the past to little fanfare, but with a handful of photos and some potty mouthed-bragging over sexual conquests, a new connection - "English teacher = they who screw our women" - was made, and it has proved an easy one to exploit for ratings or hits (as the Marmot noted, Dalian used the controversy in its early days to get noticed).
On February 19 the controversy over English teachers was rekindled by an episode of the SBS investigative program "I Want to Know That" which begins with a dramatization of the advice given in the "How to mollest your students" post and goes from there to depict teachers as lazy, underage-student-screwing, pot-smoking foreigners who get a free ride, especially in comparison to foreign migrant workers. Sadly, there hasn't yet been a news show in the US about "Koreans in America" which begins with a re-enactment of the Virginia Tech murders by Cho Seung-hui, whch shows just how much American journalism could stand to learn from SBS. The show is discussed here and in the Chosun Ilbo. The show was once available via Mongdori, but not anymore.
One of the results of the original uproar over English Spectrum and that following this TV show was that yet another association was made: English teacher = unqualified. Thus increasing attention was paid to English teachers teaching illegally in Korea. While this led to more spot checks on foreigners in Subway stations (or to put it another way, spot checks that were now also focusing on white foreigners), there were not as many arrests as you might think:
The above table (from here) shows that 240 teachers were arrested in 2005. It would be nice to have statistics from 2004, but unfortunately I don't. On March 18 NoCut News reported that two Canadian English teachers had been arrested for assault after breaking a man's jaw in a fight, and it was found that they were teaching illegally (the hagwon owner was also booked) It was later reported that "they spent 40 days in jail and were ordered to pay $30,000" to the victim (more on this case in the Guardian, and at the CBC (here and here). On April 12, NoCut News (and Yonhap) reported that two American English teachers had been arrested for teaching with fake diplomas. Also on that day a man was arrested for attempting to blackmail the women who had appeared in the party photos on English Spectrum. On April 20, The Lady Kyunghyang, the ladies' magazine of the Kyunghyang Shinmun published an article about sex with foreigners (sharing the (mostly positive) experiences of both Korean men and women), which said that the most common way to meet foreigners was at a foreign language hagwon.
Seoul Immigration announced on May 9 that "118 illegal foreign workers [including 23 English teachers, which seems to contradict the table above], 12 job brokers and the 49 locals who employed them" had been arrested, and 38 were deported. On May 17 Ohmynews posted the prison diary of an English teacher who had been arrested in Busan for teaching illegally and held in Yeosu's immigration detainment center for months (part 1, part 2). He focuses a great deal on the plight of migrant workers there and on the conditions in the center - where 10 migrant workers would die in a fire on February 11, 2007. Despite the negative media reports regarding English teachers, the Korean government announced plans on May 29 to have native English teachers in all of Korea's 2,850 middle schools by 2010.
On June 6 SBS (and a few days later, Yonhap) reported that the number of drug busts involving sending pot through the mail was increasing, and that foreigners were driving Korea's drug trade. Two months later, on August 5, the Herald Business News reported on how Hongdae had become a foreigner’s “paradise for hunting women” and that "Hongdae is now an area hot with youthful passion that has degenerated from being mixed up with foreigners." The Chosun Ilbo reported on August 16 that police had "arrested two Americans and booked 37 foreign language instructors, [and 50 owners and 27 brokers] without detention for fabricating their educational backgrounds or working without proper visas." It was also mentioned that one of the arrested had "reportedly enjoyed improper relations with his female students."
On September 7 Yonhap reported on teachers arrested for pot in Cheongju.
A lengthy investigation into a degree forging ring led to the arrests or deportations of many Canadians, which were reported in the Globe and Mail on October 10 (full text here), where it was stated that 35 had been deported up to that point. More on this investigation was reported by the Chosun Ilbo on October 19, where it was said that 70 people had been arrested or deported. Part of the reason for the arrests was to act as a "deterrent to curb the influx of unqualified instructors" before many foreign teachers began teaching in public schools the next March, or so immigration said. On November 27, the Chosun Ilbo reported that a GNP lawmaker had proposed a plan to "assign native-speaking English teachers to elementary, middle and high schools across the country by 2010". The year ended with the Herald Gyeongje reporting on December 28 that an English teacher in Yongsan had been arrested for possession of cocaine. Police reported that "more than 90 percent of American drug offenders are English teachers who entered Korea on work visas".
2006 began quietly, with an article about foreign teachers appearing only in a Donga Ilbo story on March 21, when it was announced that, in three different cases, 13 illegal teachers had been busted (making, in one case, 10 million won a month, it was reported). It also relates that "Employers who hire illegal foreign instructors are fined 4 million won, while brokers are fined 5 million won. Illegal foreign instructors are fined 2 million won or deported if they are caught."
English Spectrum made the news again on April 22 when the Kukmin Ilbo reported that a porn site named Kimchi Girl, which was linked to in the English Spectrum forums, had received a warning from the Korean Internet Safety Commission. On May 26, the Kukmin Ilbo would once again report on English Spectrum, translating parts of some of the more inflamatory posts there. In May the video "Soju Mama" was posted on youtube; apparently netizens haven't noticed it yet.
The bigger scandal of late May and early June had nothing to do with native-speaking English teachers, but that didn't stop some groups from trying to spin it that way. On May 24 the Segye Ilbo and Ohmynews reported that a native-speaking teacher of Korean descent at the Seongnam English Town had been accused of molesting female grade 6 students. Statements by the school later claimed that other teachers present saw no sexual harrassment, and made it clear that the teacher, while Korean American, had been hired as a Korean-speaking teacher (not that some news organizations noticed). On May 27 YTN reported that a Korean teacher had tried to sexually assault middle school girls at an English Camp in Ansan.
On May 30 the Gyeonggi-do branch of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union released a statement (translated by the Marmot, of course) saying that
"because the English camp sexual assaults are a structural problem brought on by unchecked native speakers, such incidents could potentially occur at any time".The obvious response of the English camps were that the people who allegedly committed the assaults weren't native teachers at all. In response to this, the union's sole foreign member resigned in protest on June 6.
As basis for their claims, the union cited a) the fact that any native speaker with a degree could become an instructor, regardless of their teaching qualifications; b) native speakers’ relatively free attitudes about sex (and their expression of said attitudes); c) native speakers’ lack of a sense of responsibility, since few feel they are answering a calling, but rather have as their goal to stay for a short time to experience Korean culture and build up their resumes.
On July 24 Breaknews posted an article titled "Low-quality foreign teachers absorbed in women, drugs" (here, in Korean), which wondered, once again, whether Korea was a paradise for illegal foreign teachers. On August 7 the Marmot linked to a blog by an English teacher which spoke of his conquests and mixed nude photos with photos of co-workers. A reader then left a comment saying that he had sent the link to several newspapers, including Breaknews. On August 21, Breaknews published an article about this teacher titled "Affairs with High School Students, Spreading Nude Photos on the Internet", and used it as an opportunity to discuss other teachers who dated high school students and did horrible things like "joke around during their conversation classes". The article also mentions that "we’ve gotten a string of tips about native speaking English teachers from former and current English teachers and students. This is evidence that the problem isn’t limited to just a small minority of foreign teachers." The article features the blogger, a restaurant owner who mentions the teacher dating a high school girl, 4 hagwon owners or recruiters and 4 netizens who relate stories (mostly in general) about English teachers.
On August 13, Breaknews reported that the Korea Foreign Teacher Recruiting Association had released a blacklist of 19 foreign teachers.
On August 16 the Korea Times reported on the story. By August 19, the Korean media had found out that Jonbenet Ramsey murder suspect John Mark Karr had taught in Korea; the reaction of the Korean press to this was covered by the Marmot here. [As it later turned out, Karr had nothing to do with this murder].
The September 18, 2006 Breaknews article this quote is originally from can be found here (in Korean) titled (in the internet edition) "At foreigner AIDS testing centers, 80% of users are native speaking instructors." Note the lovely photos used in the article.
In the article Breaknews mentions that it had already published several articles about “The damage beyond imagination caused by illegal low quality English teachers” and ‘Low quality foreign English instructors’ shocking debauchery.'
The end of the 'AIDS article' has a Q&A with a man who had contributed to the several articles Breaknews had written about 'low, illegal English teachers,' a Mr. K. The interview is titled "Protection of human rights first, behind the protection of citizens; Enhance the E-2 visa, to reduce risk of HIV infection." The unidentified contributor suggests that “E-2 visa requirements should be strengthened. … A medical check certificate (including AIDS) should be added to the documents required for an E-2 visa.”
As to who the contributor might be, or who he represents, it might be worth looking at what appeared on Anti-English Spectrum the day the article was released. This makes pretty clear that they are connected with the AIDS article, and they're very happy that they're no longer just on the internet, but on broadcasts, in newspapers, on subways and in convenience stores.
Broadcast and newspaper. Today it's come! Till now we
hadn't risen from the internet! The report's in terminals,
convenience stores, subways!!!!!!!!!!!!!
hadn't risen from the internet! The report's in terminals,
convenience stores, subways!!!!!!!!!!!!!
On October 23, 12 teachers were busted by the police for drug use and document forgery. Eight of the arrested were Korean nationals deported from the US for gang activity or Korean Americans, while the other four were Americans or Canadians. It's not made clear who was using the drugs and who was forging documents. Certain groups used this as a chance to complain about lax background checks for foreign teachers:
Some 5 percent of the foreign English teachers have a criminal record in their home country or committed crimes here, the founder of Korea Foreign Teacher Recruiting Association Choi Hyuk says. “Their crimes are mostly document forgery, but there are some convicted of burglary or sex crimes.”On October 24 the Seoul Shinmun complained about the lack of punishment for both illegal teachers and the hagwons that employ them. On October 31, the Korea Times reported in a similar vein on how "English Institutes Evade Immigration Law"
When hagwons get caught employing unqualified teachers, they receive a warning or five black marks from the government office, regardless of the number of unqualified teachers they employ. When they collect 30 black marks, hagwons are forcefully closed for seven days.It was revealed also at this time that other foreigners were caught bringing in large amounts of methamphetamine into the country, but since it was coming from Rajin, in North Korea, no one really cared.
From January 2003 until July of this year, 231 foreign English teachers got caught for teaching in Korea with tourist visas. Among these people, 27 of those were expelled, accounting for 11.7 percent of the total number. Most of others were ordered to leave the country without any further follow-up by the government.
On November 21 the Weekly Chosun ran a lengthy article looking at the foreign English teacher community that listed some figures:
According to immigration authorities, there were 14,355 native-speaking English instructors living in Korea as of August. Within the English-teaching industry, they say the number exceeds 30,000 is you include teachers without E-2 visas who are illegally teaching.As I wrote at the beginning, this number is far less than the number of E-2 visas the Korean immigration service said they issued in 2006. At any rate, it lists numbers by nationality, and also describes how visas are issued and even touches on racism in hagwons and the difficulty darker-skinned native speakers have getting jobs.
Around this time the website of Jeongijo English hagwon in Mok-dong was discovered, which listed 10 reasons why they didn't hire native speakers (translated at Occidentalism on Dec 14). Note also a similarity with what the Korea Teacher's Union wrote in June. The bold items have since been removed; the italic items have been added.
The reasons Native Speakers are not hired:
- Most are only short-term visitors and, therefore, lack a sense of responsibility and duty.
- They have no concept of teaching and, therefore, have absolutely no sense of duty or professionalism.
- They are untrained in education.
- They are absolutely not high-quality personnel (most graduate from no-name technical schools and 2-year colleges.
- It is impossible to check what kinds of people they are or what their characters are (ex. drug user, homosexual, convict, AIDS patient, sex offender).
- They only just barely teach their classes and do not invest any time in managing students.
- They have no burning passion for the students.
- They do not agonize at all over improving the student’s skills.
- Legitimate native speakers are rare. (The majority are foreign students, gyopo)
- It is impossible for parents to easily consult with them anytime they want.
[Another sentence has been added saying that they've consulted a lawyer regarding this list and that some of what they had written was removed]. The Metropolitician's response to this is well worth a read.
On December 1st and 2nd, a sketch comedy performance called Babo-Palooza was put on by a group of foreigners and Koreans called Roundface Theatre in Busan. Descriptions of the show can be found here and here. On December 12 it became known to organizers that the police were investigating Babo-Palooza and the next day two of the producers underwent two and a half hours of questioning at police headquarters, of which one wrote that, "What became painfully clear to me during all of this was that the cops were coming after us because of the content of the show." Later he wrote that, "I think that the Korean media is just about to get ahold of this, and that's when things will really get fucked up, because they will invariably twist it out of our favor."
The next day, December 14, the Kyunghyang Shinmun reported (with great inaccuracy) that nine foreigners had been booked for violating visa rules due to a comedy perforance called "Oriental Story" (which the Kyunghyang seems to have made up). Translations of the Korean coverage and links to several other sources were in a post at the Marmot. Worth remembering is that two of the actors in "The Host" had been deported in early October for acting, a violation of their teacher/tourist visas. A favorable article in the Korea Herald on December 16 noted that the investigation followed "an undercover operation in which police officers, who had been observing members of the comedy troupe for some time, attended Babo-palooza!" (in fact an undercover cop had filmed a performance). A Korea Times article on December 26 focused on comments by immigration authorities about the limitations on outside activities a teaching visa places on its holder. "Foreigners may face deportation or fines if they volunteer at orphanages or organize performances without reporting them to the authorities." On the same day the story was reported in the Seattle newspaper The Stranger. A decision (perhaps not a final one) wasn't made by prosecutors until April 19, when two producers had to write "statements of regret" were let off with a warning. In the meantime, at least one teacher involved in the performance was effectively deported when immigration denied him a visa.
Another English teacher was punished for questioning Korean historical claims about Dokdo on his blog when his university declined to rehire him after receiving complaints from netizens who had read his blog. On December 23, Gerry Bevers received an email from his department head which stated at one point, "I think there is little doubt that the school made this decision because of the Dokdo problem." An article about this case appeared in the Korea Times on January 7, 2007.
The next headline with an English teacher in it appeared on January 29, when the Munhwa Ilbo reported that "Yet Another Foreign English Teacher [was Busted for] Marijuana." On that day YTN reported that foreigners and US soldiers running amok in Hongdae were turning it into a "lawless zone". After USFK declared Hongdae off limits to US soldiers, YTN reported on February 5 that, according to many people they interviewed, such as Lt. Park Du-hyeon [Mapo Police Station, Hongik Patrol], “Since the ban, the area in front of Hongik University has maintained a state of very serene public order." William Randolf Hearst would be proud.
On March 20 the Joongang Ilbo reported that a 24-year-old Canadian English teacher in Bundang had been detained on charges of smoking hash, and that five other English teachers were under investigation. On April 16 Yonhap reported that a "Canadian teacher has been under investigation by the immigration office here for allegedly getting a job with forged documents". On April 17, a post at Daum appeared titled "Dismiss Hongik University English Teacher J. Scott Burgeson!" after his book "Daehanminguk Sayonghugi" ("Korea Consumer Report") was published. When Yonhap posted an article about the book on April 14, it generated 969 comments in two days. The Anti-English Spectrum cafe also targeted him and his university received several calls complaining about him, to no avail. It seems "low quality" English teachers aren't the only foreigners on their hitlist.
On May 9, as the Hankyoreh reported, 17 Chinese, 10 Canadians, 7 Americans, 4 New Zealanders and 8 foreigners from non-english speaking countries were arrested by the Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency for teaching on a tourist visa. The Chinese were teaching in Chinese language institutes, but the rest - including a Bulgarian, Panamanian, and Columbian - were teaching English. 56 Korean hagwon owners or brokers were also arrested.
On May 23 a poster on Dave's ESL Cafe brought to attention the fact that the Daejeon Foreign Language Association, in an attempt to reduce the competition, had placed some 200 banners on hagwons and their buses which addressed Foreign English teachers by declaring "You are [being] watched," and that "Private tutoring of E.nglish is a[n il]legal offense," offering a $500 reward for tips leading to conviction and deportation of offenders. A lengthy article about this by Chris Gelken appeared in the Korea Herald on June 7
On May 28 the Chosun Ilbo reported that an Australian English teacher had been blacklisted by the Korea Foreign Teacher Recruiting Association for threatening his ex-girlfriend with AIDS. Said organization "estimates that about 10 percent of the 20,000-30,000 foreign instructors working here are fired after they were found to have committed sexual improprieties or refused to teach classes." I love the word 'or'. The English language Chosun article was titled "Australian English Teacher Blacklisted for AIDS Threat " The Marmot pointed out that the title in Korean was “White English Teacher Threatens Korean Woman with AIDS," which first appeared in the Sports Chosun with the subheader, “Beware the ‘Ugly White Teacher.’” Korea Beat has translated the Sports Chosun article here, and it's well worth a read. As it tells us, despite teachers writing 'abnormal' things (like saying they like to have sex in their free time), there are Korean heroes, much like the KKK riding in to save the day at the end of "Birth of a Nation", who are ready to do something about this:
Citizens angerd by the nakedly sexual talk and actions of those kinds of white foreign teachers are voluntarily trying to improve things. The 14,419-member strong Anti-English Spectrum is actively organizing a “citizen’s movement to toss out illegal English teachers”, requesting police and prosecution action...Yes, we need less "nakedly sexual talk" and more teachers getting three month suspensions for molesting 12 year olds and high school students visiting Chinese prostitutes on school trips. When in Rome...
It should be noted that English teachers weren't the only foreigners on the receiving end of such terrible-beyond-belief "journalism". If February had YTN targeting (mostly) GIs in Hongdae, and the Weekly Chosun was targeting English teachers in May, June 11 saw the Weekly Hankook Magazine offer this headline about migrant workers in Korea (especially Ansan):
Residential Neighborhoods with Many Foreigners, Lawless Zones when the Sun Goes Down: Scary Night Streets, Foreigner Crimes Rising Daily… High Crime Zones Devoid of Public Authority AppearingGreat stuff. Anyways, on June 7 the Chosun Ilbo reported that the prosecutor's office released stats on foreigners busted for drugs in 2006. [Mind you, these stats are different than the ones listed here].
Of the 116 foreigners caught with drugs last year, 46 or 39.7 percent were Americans, making up the largest group. There were also 11 Chinese and 11 Canadians.[...] Prosecutors believe the rising number of American drug offenders correlates to a rising number of English teachers coming to Korea.Did you notice that the number of foreign drug offenders peaked in 2004? Perhaps that's not a helpful way to look at these things. I'd rather see arrest stats for Americans over the past few years than just a comparison to the previous year before making a statement about the rise in American drug offenders, but that's just me.
The total of 116 foreign drug offenders caught in Korea last year is a 28.4 percent decline from the year before. There were 88 foreign drug offenders caught in 2002, 86 in 2003, 203 in 2004, and 162 in 2005.
On June 9, a TV show called Pandora's Box reported on drunk english teachers in Hongdae, and can be seen here thanks to Mongdori.
Mongdori also is the place to go if you want to read anti-English teacher comics from the anti-English Spectrum website (here, here, and here)
On July 3 the Chosun Ilbo reported that police in Seoul had arrested two Canadians for working as teachers with a fake degree and booked seven other foreigners and Koreans either on the same charge or for employing them. They also arrested the Australian English instructor who had 'threatened his girlfriend with AIDS'.
On July 15, the Chosun Ilbo reported that the Seoul Central District Court sentenced a 30-year old Canadian to six months in prison on for using a fake diploma to get a teaching job at an English language institute. It's unclear if this was the same teacher who was reported as being under investigation on April 16.
The judge said, "Considering the situation in Korea where significant part of foreign language education involves private education, the quality of the instructor is as important as that of regular school teachers. Without any proper qualifications, using a forged degree for employment is seen as an act disruptive to Korea's private education system. Strong punishment is called for."Oddly enough, this sentence came at the same time that Shin Jeong-ah, a former Dongguk University professor who fell from grace when her fake diploma came to light, was fleeing the country for the US. On her return in mid-September, a court rejected an arrest warrant (to hold her during the investigation) saying that she wasn't at risk of fleeing because "she may not receive a jail term as the nation does not have clear legal standards about penalties related to such charges." Well, if a hagwon teacher gets 6 months, a fake university professor should get quite a bit more. Right?
On September 4 the Sisa Journal reported on the treatment of foreign professors in Korean universities and examined the unequal treatment they receive. On September 5 it was announced by police in Seoul that 23 (or is it 25?) people were being investigated on marijuana charges. The Joongang Ilbo wrote that
The police detained three on trafficking charges: two Canadians, 28 and 30, and a Ghanaian, 34. They could be sentenced to 5 or more years in prison if convicted. In addition, the police booked three Britons, five Canadians, 13 Americans and one Korean. The maximum penalty is a fine and 5 years in prison. All 23, except for the Korean and the Ghanaian, are English instructors at hagwon, elementary schools or universities. The Korean is a girlfriend of one of the teachers.It was once again stated that “Some of the teachers were intoxicated while teaching students.” The Korean-language media reported the incident in a different light, of course.
Foreign English teachers have been arrested for smoking marijuana before lessons and habitually using drugs in seedy areas. [Cheongnyangni? Miari? Nope, Hongdae and Itaewon] The number of foreign English teachers who regularly use drugs is increasing.[...]This case was also reported in the Chosun Ilbo and video of police searching an apartment is here. Over at the Korea Law Blog, Brendan Carr suggests that putting a different name on package of drugs mailed to you is not going to fool the police. In the Korea Times, American Attorney and law professor Sean Hayes described how drug investigations proceed:
A source at the foreign affairs division of the Seoul Police Department said, “American and Canadian English teachers think Korea is a ‘land of opportunity.’ [...T]he majority of them find it easy to seduce Korean women and do drugs with them.” Foreign English teachers see Korea not only as a ‘land of opportunity’ but also as a ‘perverted heaven’.
In most criminal investigations involving drugs, a police officer will obtain information that a certain person is using or selling drugs from other suspects or from undercover agents/informants. After the police arrest you they test you for drugs, search your home and if they believe that you are involved in “hard” drugs or have distributed drugs, they will hold you and request a detention order pending trial.It should be mentioned, however, that they don't always use lists of names from informants. Earlier this year a bar in Itaewon whose owner had several convictions for marijuana possession was raided by the police. Everyone in the bar was given a urine test.
With perfect timing, the KBS show In-Depth 60 Minutes broadcast a report on English teachers on September 5, the same day the drug arrests were announced. It focused especially on how to get a fake degree, but also looked at marijuana use by a teacher ratted out by an ex-girlfriend. Here is the show, courtesy of Mongdori.
Zen Kimchi wrote of the show:
I knew the show was coming because I have an acquaintance with one of the “bad” foreigners in the program, and KBS went through a lot of nasty tricks, including threats, to get that interview. I won’t go into any more details of that incident other than the resulting interview they got was tame compared to the elaborate sleazy tactics they used to get it.On September 11 the Korea Times reported in an article titled "32% of Native English Teachers Found Unqualified" that Rep. Lee Kyung-sook of the UNDP announced that 32.7% of 997 foreigners who taught English at English immersion programs did not have CELTA certificates, "which is essential to teach the language here, Lee said". Funny, immigration doesn't think so.
That brings us up to date. It should be pretty obvious that coverage of English teachers in the media has changed markedly since the English Spectrum incident in 2005 (when sex was brought into the equation), and not for the better. I think a really interesting thing would be to look at the media treatment of other large groups of foreigners, like migrant workers and American soldiers and look at trends in the depictions of all of these groups. The article about migrant workers and rising crime rates from this past summer is much more in the style of the articles portraying English teachers as depraved hooligans, for example. I'm curious what longer term expats think about changing media depictions of foreigners over the long term...