Monday, September 28, 2009

A closer look at the crime statistics for foreign English teachers


I forgot to note that the purpose statements of the three bills National Assembly member Choi Yeong-hui submitted to the National Assembly stated that “the crime rate among native English teachers is rising.” Representative Kim’s crime figures, however, show that 114 teachers were arrested for crimes in 2007, 99 were arrested in 2008, and 61 were arrested in the first eight months of 2009. If the trend for 2009 continues for the rest of the year, not only would we see a drop in the crime rate over three years, we would also see a drop in the absolute number of teachers being arrested – hardly indicative of the “rising crime rate” Representative Choi uses as the rationale for introducing these new bills.

Original Post:

National Assembly member Lee Gun-hyeon has released crime statistics by 'native speaking English teachers" saying that crime by foreign English teachers is 'serious'. One question comes to mind: What exactly is an English teacher? Someone on an E-2 visa who teaches English (as opposed to Japanese or Chinese)? People on other visas teaching English? As the Supreme Prosecutor's Office noted in communication to Benjamin Wagner, "it is very hard to check if they have E-2 visa or not. But generally, english teacher who are foreigner in Korea have E-2 visa" (NHRCK report, footnote 57). While this indicates that these statistics may include non E-2 visa teachers, I'm going with the assumption that 'English teacher' means someone on an E-2 visa.
In 2007 there were 17,721 people with an E-2 visa living in Korea. Here are the 2008 statistics for people 'from native speaking' countries in all the possible (legal) visa categories:

E-1 - 705 professors from English speaking countries
E-2 - 19,771 in total - 18,604 from English speaking countries
F21 - 3,060 spouses from English speaking countries
F-4 - 37,286 ethnic Koreans from English speaking countries
F-5 - 220 permanent residents from English speaking countries
There are an unknown number on tourist visas who teach English.

If we assume it means E-2 visa holders, that actually leaves a smaller pool in which these crimes happened and thus a higher crime rate - widening the pool to include any of the other possible visa categories would cause the crime rate to fall. Also, while I have statistics broken down by visa and country for 2008, I don't have these for 2007 - therefore it's easiest to just use the number of E-2 visa holders in judging the crime rate.

Below is a chart giving a more detailed break down of the crime statistics. It wasn't released by Yonhap or any other news outlets that initially covered the story, but turned up instead at Anti-English Spectrum. Whether their source was a media outlet or Representative Lee's office I'm not sure.

The first chart shows total crimes by year, while the second chart breaks down crimes by year and location (Seoul, six metropolitan cities, and nine provinces).

The last chart breaks the numbers down by type. The categories are: total, murder, burglary, rape, theft, assault, ‘intellectual crimes’ (likely forgery), 'sexual violence', drugs, and 'other'.

The statistics reveal that 114 teachers were arrested in 2007 and 99 were arrested in 2008. So, for 2007, 114 out of 17,721 teachers were arrested - a rate of 0.64%. In 2008, 99 out of 19,771 teachers were arrested - a rate of 0.50%. As noted in Benjamin Wagner's report to the NHRCK, "The Korean Institute of Criminology... reported that in 2007 the overall “crime rate among [all] foreigners [in Korea] was 1.4% compared with the 3.5% rate among Korean citizens.” In other words, according to Lee's own figures, the foreign English teacher crime rate (0.64%) was more than five times less than the crime rate among Koreans (3.5%) in 2007 and half the rate of other foreigners. And yet,
Lee said that recent crimes by foreign English teachers are causing students and parents’ anxiety to grow and that the verification system for unqualified foreign teachers needs to be strengthened and criminal information made public and that students should not be exposed to more crimes.
English teachers are a demographic that does not include children and the elderly (who make up 27.6% of Korea's population, according to the CIA) but have a crime rate five times less than that of Korean citizens - and still more 'verification systems' need to be strengthened? Perhaps the reason students and parents’ anxiety over foreign English teachers is growing is because of how they're represented in the media and because of reckless statements like those by National Assembly member Lee.

There are suggestions that, as teachers, foreign English teachers are expected to act in an exemplary manner, though this 2005 report of crimes by Korean teachers over a two year period (translated on page 23 of the NHRCK report) suggest that some Korean teachers are also guilty of providing a bad example for their students.

I find it fascinating that not a single incidence of rape has been reported in the media - though a handful of molestation cases that have been reported seem to add up only to two in the statistics. Worth noting also is that the statistics above only cover 175 out of the total of 274 teachers arrested.

There have been numerous reports in the media over the years of foreign English teachers molesting students, but in fact only four teachers have been reported to have been arrested on molestation charges.

Stories in the Korean media that have not involved teachers molesting their Korean students have included:
  • A teacher in Busan in April 2006 who was found have molested children in Canada.
  • A case at Seongnam English Village in May 2006 where the media reported that a native-speaking teacher of Korean descent had been accused of molesting female grade 6 students. Statements by the school later claimed that other teachers present saw no sexual harassment, and made it clear that the teacher, while Korean American, had been hired as a Korean-speaking teacher and not as a native speaking teacher (not that that stopped the Gyeonggi-do branch of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union from releasing a statement saying that such incidents could "potentially occur at any time" because of unchecked native speakers' "relatively free attitudes about sex" and their "lack of a sense of responsibility").
  • Christopher Paul Neil, who taught in Korea, was arrested for molesting children in Southeast Asia in October 2007, but was not found to have committed crimes in Korea.
  • In January 2009, a university professor in Daejeon was found to have molested students in the U.S., though the crime was wiped from his criminal record. The Korean media have not reported any crimes committed by him in Korea.
One case that is in a gray era is the Australian who sent an email to his ex-girlfriend 'threatening her with AIDS,' who was accused of having molested students at a former job when he was arrested in July, 2007 (for teaching on a tourist visa) and was used as an example of 'molesting teachers' after Christopher Paul Neil was arrested (such as in this video). The Sports Chosun article that broke his story stated that, "KITA, an association for recruiters of native speaking English teaches, put A on the blacklist on it homepage, warning, "he often puts his hand on the students' bodies. This behavior rises to the level of sexual harassment and therefore the teacher must not be employed. Because of very strong complaints by students and parents, the teacher was terminated." On the other hand, this SBS piece quoted a former co-worker of his as saying, "He hit [students] with paper, didn't come to class, and gave palm readings to high school aged girls." If that's all he was doing, it sounds more "creepy and very inappropriate" than "molestation." At any rate, while he was questioned by police about this (there's a news clip out there somewhere of him at the police station talking about it), it appears he was never charged for this, and was deported for teaching on a tourist visa.

There are a handful of cases that have involved foreign English teachers being arrested for molestation:

A September 25, 2002 article about the plans of the Youth Protection Commission to release photos of people convicted of sex crimes with minors mentioned a recently released list of sex offenders:
An American English teacher convicted of attempting to rape one of his students is also on the list[.]
On October 12, 2007 the Maeil Gyeongje, Kookmin Ilbo, YTN, NoCut News Newsis, and Kyunghyang Shinmun and two other internet news outlets reported that a 24 year-old American English teacher had been booked but not detained for molesting a six year old student at the Seoul hagwon where he worked on September 19. He strongly denied it, but CCTV video was entered as evidence.

This January 17, 2008 NoCut News, Segye Ilbo and Yonhap and two other online news outlets reported that a 39 year-old teacher from New Zealand teaching at a hagwon in Haeundae in Busan had been arrested for allegedly regularly putting his hands down the pants of a seven year-old girl during class time. As per the Marmot, "According to police, the Kiwi, identified as “T,” moved the alleged victim’s chair to a corner of the classroom so he could molest her without the other children in the class knowing."

An April 25, 2008 Kyunghyang Shinmun article reported that on March 18 a 32 year-old Canadian teacher at 'S' hagwon in Bupyeong-gu, Incheon molested a 9 year old student in the classroom. He confessed after seeing CCTV footage and, saying he did it accidentally after drinking too much makkeolli, and appealed for mercy. As he was working on a tourist visa, his hagwon was fined 4 million won for hiring him.

On May 4 and 5, 2008, Yonhap, Financial News, and the Maeil Gyeongje reported that Seoul police had noted that a teacher they arrested for teaching illegally had at one point worked at a high school illegally, had allegedly molested a male student there, and was fired after working there for three months. It appears he was not arrested for this.

The most reported case of molestation was earlier this year when a Canadian teacher was investigated, and then arrested for molesting students at a district office-run foreign language program. On January 14 and 15, 2009, YTN, Maeil Gyeongje, Financial News,the Kookmin Ilbo and six other online news outlets reported on a 41 year-old Canadian teacher being investigated on allegations of molesting three 8 year old girls at a citizens' center in Seong-dong in Seoul the previous October. On February 12, Yonhap, YTN and NoCut News reported that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. This comment may be worth reading.

As it turns out, this is one rare case where the outcome is known. This KBS news report, from early July titled "'Out of Control Foreigner English Teacher' Teaches Class while High and Commits Sexual Molestation" is a classic, reporting on the teachers arrested for gambling and throwing in anything they can think of, from teachers not showing up for class to teachers posting nude photos on the internet. The reason for this will become obvious, and the article does actually convey an important piece of information. After saying "There is no end to sex crimes by foreign teachers," we're told "Recently in Seoul there was an incident at a famous hagwon where parents protested two foreign teachers molesting elementary school girls." The source for this?
The manager of the 'Citizen’s movement to expel illegal foreign language teachers' cafe said that the native speaking teachers at the hagwon that received the complaint said, "It was just a simple misunderstanding due to cultural differences and we did nothing wrong."
Why KBS acts as Anti-English Spectrum's mouthpiece I really don't know. Here's the important part:
Also, in Seoul a native speaking teacher working for a district office-run foreign language program was indicted for molesting a grade one elementary school student under his care in December but last week was cleared for lack of evidence.
So that leaves one foreign English teacher mentioned in the media who was convicted of rape (in 2002 or earlier), three who were arrested for molestation, one who was cleared, and one who is mentioned as having been fired. Where these teachers fall in the statistics - whether under 'rape' or in an unmentioned category, I'm not sure. In fact, since two of the teachers were on tourist visas, they might not appear at all (if only E-2 visa-holders are included in these statistics).

I don't know what exactly what 'sexual violence' (성폭력) includes, but will go on the assumption it includes molestation (성추행). Since there were media reports of one teacher booked but not detained for molestation in 2007, one arrested and one booked but not detained in 2008 (outcomes unknown, though the one who was not detained confessed, apparently) and one in 2009 (the case was dropped), it seems the two arrests listed above correspond with these cases, as long as the booked but not detained cases are not included.

As for drug use, 57 teachers in total were listed as being arrested for drugs. 33 teachers out of 17,721 teachers were arrested for drugs in 2007 - a rate of 0.18%. In 2008, 11 out of 19,771 were arrested for drugs - a rate of 0.05%. The arrest figures in Benjamin Wagner's NHRCK report are different (though as noted in footnote 57, they may not all involve E-2 visa holders): 24 teachers were arrested in 2007, and 12 were arrested up to September of 2008, leaving - assuming they are for E-2 visa holders - 21 arrests in the last year.

I wonder if this includes six teachers arrested at the end of April. At that time, the government announced the drug arrests of the past few months, including a minister and (Korean) high school teacher, and most articles focused on that, but one of the few articles which focused on English teachers was written by Lee Mi-ji, who Anti-English Spectrum named on their site as a contact. On May 20, she wrote another article which noted that the teachers in the previous article had not been detained and had in fact continued teaching, and offered this quote from Lee Eun-ung:
The danger of drug using teachers persists and after [booking], their supervision is very unreliable... The difficulty with drug testing for foreigners is that marijuana has been removed from the test – this country is too generous to English teachers.
I don't want to tell Lee how to run his little racist campaign, but I might suggest that if he's going to complain about teachers not being detained after being booked for drug use and get an article in the media pushing this view, he might want to pick a case in which five of the six teachers didn't turn out to be not guilty. The police investigation found that five of the six teachers had not done drugs, and the teacher who was guilty fled the country, meaning that he didn't teach classes after being booked, which makes this visually catchy image accompanying the article even more idiotic, since it represents none of the teachers mentioned in the article (nor does the image represent the police correctly - that anger belongs to Lee Eun-ung and reporter Lee Mi-ji).

One imagines that if the teachers had been detained, they would have likely lost their jobs - not that innocent people losing their jobs is of any concern to Anti-English Spectrum. One wonders if those five are included in the 21 teachers arrested for drugs so far this year.

Looking at the two articles above - the very kind that are designed to make people worry unduly about foreign English teachers - I can't help but shake my head at how poorly written they are. An attempt to prove that "there is no end to sex crimes by foreign teachers" uses an example of... a teacher who was cleared for lack of evidence? Another attempt to show that setting foreign teachers free after being booked for drug crimes is bad is proven by... looking at a case in which five out of six teachers turned out to be not guilty? In a YTN report about the arrest of those same six teachers, one of the teachers (perhaps the guilty one?) says "I come from Canada, we have a different attitude toward a drug like hash." Perhaps one day we'll see a similar interview with the likes of Lee Mi-ji or Choi Hui-seon:

[인터뷰: 저질 한국인 기자]
"저는 한국 출신이고 한국에서는 '사실'에 대한 개념이 서양와는 다릅니다."

On the one hand, it's worth noting that only Yonhap, the Joongang Ilbo, YTN, Financial News, and the Maeil Gyeongje have reported on the crime statistics, so National Assembly representative Lee's assertion that foreign English teacher crime is at a 'serious' level does not seem to be garnering too much attention. On the other hand, while this assertion does not deserve press, these statistics - and the very low crime rate they suggest - do.


Anonymous said...

This is so interesting! Thanks for breaking it all down so nicely too!
I've been kicking around Korea for a long time and I'm pretty sure that the negative media reports and the Anti-English Spectrum stuff has been having an effect. 3 examples from my own life:

1) The topic of drug use and crimes by foreigners has been coming up more and more in conversations with adult students and in high-level conversation classes. I never introduce the topic but it is inititated by a student. I though it could just be that students are more relaxed talking about sujects that would have previously been taboo. But:

2)I just started a new job and when I was doing interviews I was asked several times if I would be willing to do a drug test. I don't think I look like a druggie and I left my hash pipe at home (soooo joking) so I'm assuming it was being asked to all interviewees.

3) Another interesting thing is that just last week I was 'asked' to submit a criminal record check to administration at my uni. I have an F21 visa and have for 5 or 6 years so this is a new thing for me. I was told it isn't a legal requirement but they need one from me (and the other F visa holders as well). Curious, hey? I'm going to do it but I may wait until my next trip back to Canada to get it done. :)

Anyway, thanks again for doing this! Awesome!

brent said...

I wonder how much lower the NS crime rate has to go? The military here knows that even one crime is "too much" for the Koreans.

I think ATEK should start as their first task printing accurate information in Korean. On second thought, maybe some of our favorite bloggers should do instead as they might actually be effective.

K said...

I can only really conclude that this sort of weak reasoning is typical of Korean thought. Year after year, I read articles by Koreans that use unsubstantiated statements, lack logic, rely on the authority of the source, use contradictory or irrelevant assertions to support statements and just plain lie. Either Koreans are gullible or their minds made up already and the media merely reinforce preconceived notions.

Helen said...

The truth and errors must be proved. But as one of Koreans, I feel lack of thought that comes from limited rational activities and sometimes even laziness denying thinking itself from myself. I hope I can be enlightened by fair, believable, balanced, and clear media!

Matthew Wilson said...

One point I would like to raise is that your report frequently refers to arrests. For one crime the police may arrest 100 foreigners, but how many foreigners were actually convicted of a breaking a korean law?
It gives a very wrong impression if we consider arrests, many arrests (at least in countries with a reputable police and judiciary) never lead to anyone being charged with a crime.

matt said...

You're right, but those are the only statistics we've got to work with, and arrests are often referred to in the media, but convictions less so (it's said though that Korea has a very high conviction rate). As I note above, we have no idea if the people who had charges dropped against them are included in these figures.