Representative Cho Jeon-hyuk of the ruling Grand National Party, who is also a member of the parliamentary committee on education, proposed on Thursday revisions to laws on schools and private institutes.Not a bad idea. It would be great if such looks at culture would take in a number of concepts such as those discussed by Horace Underwood (listed here) such as hierarchy, the emphasis on loyalty over honesty, and Chemyeon or 'face' in Korean culture, as well as the concept of Korea as a 'high context' society in comparison to Western 'low context' societies as discussed in ATEK's guide.
The revised bills seek to make it mandatory for private institutes to have foreign teachers complete educational programs on South Korea’s culture and people.
It would also be useful to look at things like traditional conflict resolution and how it leaves non-Korean speakers at a disadvantage. Allow me again to quote what anthropologist Linda Louis wrote in Laying Claim to the Memory of May:
As a social process, the Korean cultural scenario for conflict resolution involves the public expression of grievances by both sides, as a means of informing the neighbors, of shaping local consensus, and of mustering popular support for each side of the argument.Many foreigners are never going to get a fair hearing in such situations, simply because they can't speak Korean well. This would also explain how "concerned citizens" often appear to help Koreans who get into an altercation with a foreigner.
It is above all else also a process that relies heavily on the involvement of a third, mediating party for a successful outcome. In fact, it is through the public airing of the dispute that the antagonists solicit the intervention of others. Intense verbal aggression and the public expression of grievances serve not as a prelude to physical violence, but function to mobilize third party intervention, to prevent just such an escalation in the dispute.
I certainly hope the definition of Korea's culture would not be limited to such things as '5000 years of history' and Dokdo, though - thinking of how the tour at Changdok Palace goes, with yawn-inducing comparisons of ondol vs radiators and how many gan a certain building is, but no stories of what happened to Prince Sado there - I fear that's what might end up being focused on. Which would really be too bad, because such classes could be a great opportunity, though I imagine the only way they could be made truly interesting and useful to foreigners in Korea would be if foreigners in Korea were consulted.
Our favourite Korea Times reporter has an article revealing the reaction to this, with the following title: "Foreign Teachers Unenthusiastic Over Culture Course." I am happy to see ATEK's statement there offering to work with the government, as I think that's a good approach on their part. The article ends like this:
Cho indicated that he is seeking programs that will help native English instructors better understand local culture and also improve their teaching skills.Once again, a National Assembly representative gets the numbers wrong because they're using the wrong statistics, much as Choi Yeong-hui did, though at least they're not being used to say 22,000 teachers are missing this time. The E-2 numbers were 19,771 at the end of last year, and according to Rep. Park Min-sik, there were 21,498 E-2 visa holders as of July.
"Schools and hagwon hire native English speakers but most of them are visiting Korea for the first time and have no teaching experiences," Cho said.
The number of the foreigners with E-2 or English-teaching visas has risen to about 43,000 this year from 29,236 in 2006 and 22,345 in 2003. In public schools, the number of E-2 visa holders has increased 20-fold over the past seven years. Cho's office expects the number of E-2 visa holders to reach 50,000 by 2012.