Monday, November 30, 2009

The National Guidance League incident

The New York Times has an article about recent findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
In the opening months of the Korean War, the South Korean military and the police executed at least 4,900 civilians who had earlier signed up — often under force — for re-education classes meant to turn them against Communism, the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission announced Thursday.[...]

Although the panel has reported on similar civilian massacres in the past, the announcement Thursday represented the first time that a state investigative agency confirmed the nature and scale of what is known as “the National Guidance League incident” — one of the most horrific and controversial episodes of the war.

The anti-Communist and authoritarian government of President Syngman Rhee had set up the league to re-educate people who had disavowed Communism in the months before the war, and forced an estimated 300,000 South Koreans to join. At the time, the government was facing a vicious and prolonged insurgency by leftist guerrillas.

But the commission reported that many of those who joined the league had never been Communists. They either were swept up because they had provided food or other aid to Communists hiding in the hills, often at gunpoint, or were required to join by local officials seeking to meet a government quota for the number of Communists being re-educated. In some instances, the panel said, peasants were lured into joining with promises of bigger rice rations. [...]

On Thursday, the commission unveiled old government documents that contained partial lists of league members who had been killed. Documents showed that the police kept surveillance on the league members’ relatives as late as the 1980s to ensure that their children did not get government jobs, the panel said.
The article goes on to look at how it was covered up after the war, and how even in recent years people were reluctant to talk to the commission. It also mentions that the commission’s term ends next spring and is unlikely to be renewed by the Lee Myung-bak administration. Which is too bad, as much of the commission's work has been useful (though I disagreed with it looking into the colonial era, mainly because of the way it was being used politically (investigating Koreans who served in the Japanese army down to the rank that Park Chung-hee held, for example) and because the ROK didn't exist then). As for the rest, I think it's great that details about, for example, the Silmido incident were turned up, or in related investigations by the Supreme Court, that those executed on trumped up charges in the Inhyeokdang case were retried, found not guilty, and their families were compensated. Other such cases are here.

While taking into account how these findings can be used for political ends, I can only see a state taking responsibility for its past crimes and mistakes as a good thing.


(Hat tip to Tom Rainey-Smith)

Incorrect math

Benjamin Wagner sent me this October 1, 2003 Munhwa Ilbo article and translation. It's well worth reading.
On the morning of the 30th, a shocking debriefing material, as part of the parliamentary inspection of state administration, with the title "Among Foreigners Residing in Korea, a Minimum of 3,000 are infected with AIDS," came into my (the reporter's) possession. The material was from the Grand National Party's Lee Won-hyung's office. I called to confirm.

Reporter: What is the basis of this calculation?

Assemblyman Lee's Office: The total amount of foreigners residing in Korea is about 600,000, so after excluding legal residents, I multiplied 0.1 onto the number of illegal residents which amount to 300,000. The number 0.1 is the smallest figure among what UNAIDS announced as AIDS prevalence rates among countries (Southeast Asia 0.1% ~ South Africa 8.8%). Assuming that legal residents are not infected with AIDS, then even the minimum calculation comes out to be 3,000.

Reporter: (Disregarding the appropriateness of the calculation method itself) But 300,000 x 0.1 equals 300.

Assemblyman's Office: Ah, is that right? I'm sorry. I happened to be in a hurry and so...

Five minutes before the evening paper deadline. I received a phone call from the Assemblyman office. "The calculation may be incorrect, but we are just going to go ahead with it. Normally, AIDS-related statistics are usually one tenth of the actual figures, so if you multiply 10 onto 300 again, then the figure turns out to be 3,000. This was totally absurd. So I asked, "If you use that kind of method of calculation, then it would mean that it is possible that a minimum of several tens of thousands of Koreans are infected with AIDS. Would you be willing to take responsibility for that kind of statistic? Also, what is the importance of resident status that you would include only illegal residents in the figure of AIDS-infected foreigners? Don't you know that a British legal resident foreigner who once worked as an English professor at "S" University in Seoul was forcefully deported because his homosexual lover reported him?" I only got an obscure and smothered response.

I called the National Institute of Health. "A certain Assemblyman used this kind of calculation... Is it right?" The answer: "That is only a basic equation. To calculate the prevalence rate of a disease or the number of people infected with a disease, the calculation should be much, much more elaborate and precise."

To take such a sensitive topic such as AIDS infection rates, and to just use the most basic form of math, and incorrectly at that, and then to create and distribute material based on that, and then to take on such an irresponsible attitude of "Oh, if not, then never mind," ... this kind of practice is still being repeated by those in charge of parliamentary inspection of state administration. Why is it that they do not know that such debriefings not only ruins the reputation of the Assemblyman himself but also of whatever remains of the last bit of authority that the parliamentary inspections has right now, a policy that is already being constantly deemed as useless by many.
Score sheet: Rep. Lee Won-hyung earns my contempt, and reporter Lee Gang-yun earns my admiration. Wagner puts this article into context looking at Anti-English Spectrum's foreign English teachers =AIDS campaign here).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Culture educational programs and incorrect E-2 numbers

In a KBS piece quoted in a lengthy post at Brian in Jeollanam-do, we're told that:
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.

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.
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.

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.

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.
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.

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.

"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.
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.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Death threat leveled at ATEK

[Update: The Joongang Ilbo reports on this here.]

From the Korea Herald:
The president of the Association of English Teachers in Korea received an anonymous e-mail threatening his death and accusing him of committing sex crimes after rumors of a former member of ATEK were posted online.

Members of ATEK received two e-mails, one containing threats and another with an image apparently taken from a Naver Cafe post, but with ATEK president Greg Dolezal's picture added.

"I have organized the KEK (Kill White in Korea). This group of people is about 200 in anywhere in Korea," the e-mail read. "We will gonna start to kill and hit White (expletives) english spectrum from this Chirstmas. Don't make a fuss in there, just get out."
Not big on white Christmases, I guess.
Dolezal said he was taking all legal steps possible. Gimhae Police Department is investigating the case, and Dolezal said he was happy with how they were dealing with the situation.

"The detectives there and the foreign affairs liaison have been very cooperative and seem extremely keen to do something about it," he said.
It's good to know the police are being helpful. The article is a little muddled, but it seems, judging by the use of English, (ie. "Remember: Not all English teachers are bad, but this one is horrible" and "I hope you speak English") that a native-speaker of English sent AES information posted on an AFEK [and currently also an ATEK] member's blog earlier this year which listed alleged misconduct by a former ATEK member, though the 'former' status was not mentioned on the AES post. As the article tells us, this information was
posted on Anti-English Spectrum at 9:30 p.m. on Monday. The threatening e-mail was sent just three hours later.[...]
The threatening e-mail contained what appear to be screenshots from this post with a picture of Dolezal added, and made the above accusations against him.[...]
A post condemning the death threats and explaining that Dolezal had nothing to do with the allegations was put up after The Korea Herald contacted the AES manager about the threatening e-mail.[...]

The AES cafe manager would not provide The Korea Herald directly with a statement on the death threat e-mail. "However strained relations may be, we need to maintain basic human decency," the notice on the AES website read. "We cannot forgive the person who sent this threatening mail. If we find that person we will definitely report them to the police," it added further down.
The person that issued the death threat sent an apology -- after the notice was posted on AES -- but remained anonymous and said he was motivated by some English teachers' "immoral behaviors."

"He continued to use hateful language," said Dolezal of the apology. "He alluded to the fact that he's not going to stop."
Over at the Marmot's Hole, Peter Kim cut and pasted a message from Lee Eun-ung to innocent teachers and asked for their cooperation in turning in bad teachers, and in return, he says "I will devote myself to improving your image. I await your call.”

I guess he meant himself only, and not the rest of AES, seeing as when an informant decided to take him up on his offer, ATEK received death threats. I have to say, I really hope death isn't the only way foreign English teachers can improve their image.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sweet Dream

A year ago the Korea Times reported on the oldest existing Korean film:
The Korean Film Archive (KOFA) on Tuesday screened the oldest surviving Korean film, "Cheongchun's Sipjaro,'' which was made in 1934. A film archive official said the film, directed by An Jong-hwa, was discovered in Korea. However, the owner of the film declined to be identified.[...]

According to KOFA, there were seven domestic films produced between 1910 and 1920, and 61 films from 1920 to 1930. However, the KOFA does not have copies of the films made between 1910 and 1930. Between 1930 and 1940, there were 73 films produced, but only copies of five films have been acquired by the KOFA. [...]

"Cheongchun's Sipjaro,'' a black-and-white silent film, was first screened at the Joseon Theater, Seoul in September 1934. The film is a melodrama about lives of the poor.[...]

Before "Cheongchun's Sipjaro'' was discovered, the oldest Korean film that KOFA preserved was 1936's "Mimong'' (Sweet Dream). "Mimong'' was directed and edited by Yang Ju-nam in 1936. The China Film Archive donated the film to the KOFA in 2005. Almost the entire reel of the film was preserved.
Late last year a second DVD box set titled 'The Past Unearthed' was released, and included three films from the 1930s, including the aforementioned Mimong, which had been restored. The first box set included films from the 1940s, two of which I looked at here and here [Two more have been released since then, here and here]. This time I'll look at Mimong.

Mimong is the story of how modernity is corrupting women, or at least that's one interpretation. The wife in the story has no interest in tending to her husband or raising their daughter, spending too much time on herself.



She goes off to the store, meets her daughter (above) in the street, and tells her she will buy her some clothes. The visit to the store (and the entire movie) highlight different aspects of modernity, such as mannequins:



A shifty guy steals her wallet, 'finds' it for her, and asks her out for a drink.




As they drink beer at a restaurant/cafe, her husband also drinks it at home. Upon her return there, her husband gets angry at her and sends her on her way.


There she shacks up with her new, rich beau and engages in scandalous behavior - like smoking in bed.



Then the shifty fellow uses a telephone to plan the robbery of a hotel customer.


Meanwhile, the woman's daughter is at at school, learning about traffic safety, though she may not be paying enough attention.


The woman enjoys things like modern dance recitals and getting her hair done at a hair salon.


Then she finds out her new beau is not the rich man he said he was, and snitches to the police about his thieving. She decides to rush off to Busan, taking a taxi to Seoul Station.


On the way, she passes Namdaemun.



She arrives too late, seeing the train leave, and orders the taxi driver to race it to the next station (Namyeong or Yongsan, I imagine).


In an odd coincidence, the taxi, in such a hurry, runs over a little girl - the woman's daughter.


Looking at the bridge in the background, and the angle at which the street passes under it, the route the taxi takes can be seen below.


The daughter turns out to be okay, but I'm sure you can imagine the fate of the woman, as there's really only one thing she can do, right?

As this page notes,
The movie was released sometime after Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House debuted in Japanese-occupied Korea, when debates about "New Women" were particularly rife. As such, it reflects popular attitudes regarding New Women at the time. Ae-soon's unconvincing insistence on buying the most expensive items at a department store and the sudden castigation she is subjected to for the purpose of emphasizing maternal responsibility appear to be forced moves that were introduced into the unfolding narrative in an attempt to reductively portray the controversial New Woman as licentious, vain, and immoral.
This looks more closely at the concept of the 'modern girl.'
In colonial Korea, the "modern girl" became another name for new woman. It was also an imaginary location where all the "bad" elements of emulation congregated, and was used as a term that effectively expresses the "vanity" and "shell" of a new woman. The elements included fascination with new goods and customs symbolized by bobbed hair and western-hybrid dresses, and the awakening to bodies and sexual desires. The Korean modern girl was a new woman as the object of envy, scorn, or voyeurism. But such objectification was ambivalent. On the one hand, bodies, sexuality, and modern customs were criticized as decadent and corrupt, but on the other hand, they were fascinating. A Cartoonist An Sokju denounced the modern girl phenomenon for immorality, depravity, and capitalist commodification, yet his art reveals his own desire, fascination, and fetishism.
Here's an example of An's work (more can be seen here):

I can't help but wonder how the concept of the 'modern girl' of the 1920s and 1930s compares to the more recent concept of the doengjang nyeo:
What is a "Doenjang Girl," you might ask? Definitions differ, but tell-tale signs include the following: using a lot of high-priced scents and makeup; wearing luxury one-piece dresses and handbags; eating at expensive "family restaurants" like TGI Friday's and posting photos of the food on your homepage; frequent window shopping at major department stores; imitating "New Yorkers," or at least as they appear in "Sex and the City," a favorite "Doenjang Girl" program. Oh, and the most obvious symptom---walking around with a cup of Starbucks coffee in your hand.( SEOUL magazine. 2006/08/16)
The Chosun Ilbo explains further:
One Netizen's satirical account of a day in the life of a doenjang-nyeo runs as follows. "Gets up at 7:30 a.m. to the sound of the cell phone alarm, even though her first class doesn't start till 10, and heads for the bathroom. To give her hair the Jeon Ji-hyun-look, she refuses to use cheap shampoos... she can't eat breakfast because she’s too busy doing her makeup, so she heads for the Dunkin Donuts in front of her school.

"For diet reasons, she orders a straight Americano -- no sugar, no cream -- but then eats donuts crammed with jam and sugar. Same for lunch. Because the doenjang-nyeo knows how precious she is (just like the L'Oreal commercials, she says to herself, 'Because I'm worth it!') she can never be seen eating with the rest of the students at the cafeteria or the student center. The three just don’t mesh.

“The doenjang-nyeo blows in one sitting the amount a regular student spends on food for a week.”
Certain aspects of this are also looked at in this Joongang Ilbo article.

I wonder what contemporary movie could be used to illustrate the concept of the doenjang nyeo? And what is there to say when such similar attitudes exist towards these women 80 years later?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New word for the day

애처롭다
1.pitiful, pitiable, piteous, touching, pathetic, sad, plaintive, deplorable.
Such as, "홀로 있는 모습 애처로워", or 'her lonely figure is pitiable,' in reference the netizen reaction to this photo:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Naver's response to the Vandom letter?

On Wednesday, the Korea Times reported on Andrea Vandom's letter to NHN regarding Anti-English Spectrum:
Korea's No.1 Web portal Naver has started to look into a letter of complaint from a foreign English lecturer over a blog that many Western English teachers called "xenophobic." NHN, the operator of Naver.com told The Korea Times Wednesday they were examining whether the blog "Anti-English Spectrum" posted material that violated the company's user agreement. [...]

While looking into the case, the Naver operator made it clear that the company is free from any kind of valuation. "For example, if somebody posts that you are a molester and you want to delete the posting. Then, we can remove it, even if you really are a molester," said Won Yoo-sik, a spokesman for the company. "Also, if the poster writer is unhappy with this and requests us to restore the posting, we could do so."

He noted that group complaints would carry more weight, adding in this case an individual complained about posts regarding native English teachers, and said he was unsure whether the company would do something in response.
So the spokesman "noted that group complaints would carry more weight," which seems like a suggestion to me.

Suddenly, a day later, the Korea Times, in a classic Kang Shin-who article, tells us that "Naver has rejected a request by native English teachers to remove what they call derogatory and racial postings on a blog known as the “Anti-English Spectrum.”

The money quote:
“Our monitoring team examined cases stipulated in the request and concluded that Andrea Vandom’s claim doesn’t merit any corrective action,” said Kim Hyun-chang, Naver’s PR official.
The article features crowing by Anti-English Spectrum, testiness from ATEK, a smiling picture of NHN's CEO which is hard to interpret as anything but a taunt from the KT, and this bizarre ending:
Meanwhile, immigration authorities tried to summon Vandom, who refused to undergo an HIV test but still got her E-2 visa extended through a mistake made by a Suwon visa official. Kim Kwang-tae, an official in charge of the case at the Suwon Immigration Office, said Vandom was still being sought, adding that her visa status was no longer valid. Last January, Vandom filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court against E-2 visa regulations that require English teacher applicants to undergo AIDS/HIV and drug tests.
Benjamin Wagner was contacted for his opinion, but refused to give a quote for the article unless he was given a concrete statement from Naver to comment on - which he wasn't.

Keep in mind the article was written by a reporter who has persisted in writing articles pushing a certain angle even after being corrected, and most recently was said to have misquoted the president of Seoul National University of Education.

Benjamin Wagner commented on another post and what he said is worth repeating. In response to a comment saying, "Naver just told all of us to screw off," he replies:
I don't think that is the case. I think that's the reaction that the KT and Kang Shin Who is trying to provoke.

In fact Naver has acknowledged that content is racially discriminatory. And has said directly that group complaints would help to motivate Naver to do more (hardly surprising).

Foreigners should avoid being baited and provoked by the KT. They should be the ones who decide the proper outcome of this issue, not Kang who spends 15 minutes on a fake article.

Foreign English teachers aren't the only ones the KT and Kang Shin Who are trying to provoke.

Notice that the article marks Vandom as a fugitive who is "still being sought" with a "visa status...no longer valid." (Even though the letter says she is a UC Ph.D student currently living in California.) Notice also that KT and Kang Shin Who posted Vandom's photo (stolen from another article without permission) on the first Naver article that was printed in the papers. Keep in mind that this is all about a group that stalks foreigners.

What you have is encouragement for Vandom (who is "still being sought" by Immigration) to be tracked and found since immigration can't do it - this is where AES has their expertise.
He continued:
You have to remember where that quote was filtered through. This is a paper that starts out with the goal of writing a story that says "foreigners bring another meritless claim."

The same thing was said when Vandom refused to take the AIDS & drugs tests. First, MOJ said "she did indeed submit them, and that's why she got a visa." Then it was proved she didn't and they changed their story to "these tests are completely legitimate and there is absolutely no basis for challenging them." Then a public interest law firm took the case (obviously some merit). Then the Constitutional Court took the case - and they certainly could have refused it. So merit clearly established. Next, the MOJ says we are repealing the AIDS ban for foreigners, but we will wait to see if the Court says E-2 visa are discriminatory.

The whole time the KT was on the side of whoever said the claims were meritless. That's the fixed story: "foreigners make trouble for no damn good reason." That's what you will continue to see.

And now this article. As for that exact quote: "Our monitoring team examined cases stipulated in the request and concluded that Andrea Vandom’s claim doesn’t merit any corrective action."

Are we sure that's what was even said? Goodness knows the KT has had scores of other completely false quotes. Besides we have another extremely well researched article (as opposed to the KT spot piece) where a Naver official says "in this case 'black pig' is definitely a racist comment."

Now that's a quote with some specificity. Contrast that with the KT quote from Naver - assuming that it's even accurate (which is strongly in doubt) what does "cases stipulated in the request" really mean?

Does that mean Naver thinks its alright to say foreigners have AIDS and are actively targeting Korean children to infect them? Of course it doesn't. Those posts will be pulled, in fact are being pulled right now. Same as the "black pig[s]" comment.

But the KT doesn't want to report that and naturally NHN would like to avoid a controversy. So what you get is the manufactured quote we have.

As I said before:

Foreigners should avoid being baited and provoked by the KT. They should be the ones who decide the proper outcome of this issue, not Kang who spends 15 minutes on a fake article.
I suppose contacting Naver - for clarification or to lodge a further complaint against AES (as a group?) - would be helpful, as would checking to see if the problematic posts are still up. Would it really be surprising if the recommendations are quietly being carried out while the KT paints a picture of uppity foreigners being put in their place by Naver and a victorious Anti-English Spectrum?

On a related note, the photo of the building below in the Mok-dong area was recently posted on Anti-English Spectrum as the location of a teacher being 'pursued'.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Criticism of Anti-English Spectrum in the Korea Herald

In the Korea Herald today are two articles criticizing Anti-English Spectrum. One of them was written by myself, and shouldn't be unfamiliar ground for readers of this blog. The other article, written by Adam Walsh, displays the fruits of his research and interviews. As he notes,
Further involvement in the AIDS public opinion field was the group's successful influencing of foreign visa regulations using false statistics. Bill (3356), which is now at the National Assembly, is designed to allow AIDS testing for any foreigners coming into Korea on working visas. The bill contains a statistic which originates from Anti-English Spectrum, and has been quoted by the group's administrator in the media on numerous occasions. It states that in 2007 the Itaewon AIDS clinic performed 80 percent of its tests on foreign teachers and foreign white collar workers.
Korea AIDS/HIV Prevention & Support Center statistics for that year show that the 80 percent statistic is false. Furthermore, KHAP director Yu Sung-chal told Expat Living that the clinic "moved to Seongbuk-gu in 2006, so it makes no sense to say that the Itaewon clinic sent out these statistics."
I looked at this back in June, pointing out that the statistic first appeared in a Lee Eun-ung-penned Weekly Kyunghyang article in February in almost identical language, but that the 2007 date was wrong, which was noted by Benjamin Wagner here, and confirmed once more above. Another more interesting interview follows:
When Assemblyman Lee Sang-jun, who is behind Bill (3356) was asked by the Herald about the false statistic, he stated that he got the stats from the Ministry of Justice, and that he does not remember who in the ministry he got them from. "I do go over statistics at times. But in this case, since they are not the vital issue here, but rather a reference, I didn't check the facts."

The same dubious statistic can be traced back even further. A petition from AES sent to the Ministry of Justice in 2006 bears the same 80 percent figure. Around this time, Anti-English Spectrum assisted in an online article that alleged the percentage was English teachers, leaving out the mention of white collar workers. The picture included with the article is of a white man giving a blood sample to a nurse -- presumably an English teacher, since the article is about EFL teachers -- with the caption once again mentioning the Itaewon AIDS tests.

As it turns out, the photo was a fake. The picture is of President George W. Bush's former U.S. Global AIDS coordinator being publicly tested for HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia in an effort to fight AIDS stigma. The same picture is on Wikipedia.
This Wikipedia entry, in fact. So we know that the statistic is from the 2006 Breaknews article about AIDS and English teachers, seeing as the Itaewon clinic didn't exist in 2007, and, as a bonus, we know Breaknews article used a photo of a US government employee taken from Wikipedia. Of course, this is Breaknews we're talking about, so such a lack of professionalism isn't surprising, of course. What is interesting, however, is not only do we know that the commentary on Bill 3356 has a statistic lifted straight from an article penned by a member of Anti-English Spectrum, but according to Rep. Lee Sang-jun, the statistic came from the Ministry of Justice.
I'm sure no one is picking their lower jaw up off the floor upon reading that the Ministry of Justice uses a group like Anti-English Spectrum as a source of statistics, of course, especially considering the way national assembly representatives have been misusing them lately (see here, here, and here).
As noted in this post on Anti-English Spectrum's campaign to turn foreign English teachers into AIDS threats, one of the articles the misused was this September 8, 2006 article at the website of the Korean Alliance to Defeat AIDS:
Kim Ji-young of the AIDS Prevention Center says without hesitation that “Korea’s men are the biggest victims of AIDS.” After seeing the attitude of a foreign English teacher after he/she found out that he/she was infected with AIDS, she says that she was very shocked by the difference in thinking that is still deeply rooted in our society.[...]

"There is too much of a clear difference in the way people view the disease and how they view those who are infected, and therefore it is a reality that people infected with AIDS within our society can only live buried under the shadows. It is now time to pull them up out into the light, and altogether be concerned and find a solution together.[...]
She meant she was shocked at the teacher's positive attitude, but AES used this as grist for their foreign English teacher = AIDS mill. The woman quoted above is also quoted in Walsh's article.
When reached for comment, the director of the AIDS Prevention Center in Daegu did not have nice things to say about Anti-English Spectrum. "I think they are highly nationalistic and they treat foreigners as our enemies ... I do believe in freedom of speech, however, what they are sending out is highly controversial and might send out the wrong perception," said Kim Ji-young.
There are some good interviews in that article - kudos to him for researching and writing it.

There's been some debate about the influence of AES, and while exaggerating it is not a good idea, downplaying it isn't either. As seen in their list of accomplishments, AES has claimed that they have contributed to many news articles and television news programs. While they may be exaggerating these, it's worth noting that there are more than a few articles out there which feature interviews with cafe manager Lee Eun-ung or which mention AES in the articles. And yes, while these include tabloids like Inside Story/Breaknews [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] and Sports Chosun, they also include the Chosun Ilbo, Chosun.com [1, 2,], Weekly Chosun, Donga Ilbo, Weekly Kyunghyang [1, 2], Seoul Shinmun [1, 2], Joongang Ilbo, the Korea Times[1, 2] and LA Times. Also worth noting is that first Chosun.com story from June 30 didn't just make the top of Chosun.com's homepage (as Brian pointed out), it made the top of the Naver.com homepage - an audience of millions.


Along with those AES was also publicly credited for the Pandora's Box TV show and publicly took credit for segments of 그것이 알고싶다 (which, in its irresponsible manner, brought the concept of 'foreign English teacher = child molester' into people's homes a year before Karr or Neil came to light). It's also likely a number of the articles it takes credit for are genuine - AES has a particular style, with either outlandish claims or blanket moral condemnation being readily apparent, that's not easy to miss. But even if AES had done little after forming, that might have been enough. The English Spectrum incident (see here and here) was what started the media representation of foreign English teachers as 'unqualified'. Still, I doubt things have gotten to the point where national assembly members publicly accuse foreign teachers of hidden crimes and speak of a foreign teacher 'problem' without a need to explain what this problem is without a bit of a push from somewhere. As I wrote in the comment section awhile back:

One of the things I find interesting to remember is that when the English Spectrum scandal broke in 2005, Oranckay - who had lived in Korea for almost 20 years at that point - said, "Whoop dee damn doo, this too will pass." But it didn't. Four and a half years later, I can look back over the last six months and find 10 articles or news clips featuring Lee. Before that the media reported on the occasional drug bust, and while you could argue it might be natural to look more closely at qualifications and drug use after the ES incident (though even the actions of the media and immigration (requiring transcripts) were responses to the clamor on the internet caused by the people who formed AES), the propensity for the media over the past few years to delve into the private lives of foreign teachers has been a result of AES feeding a lot of this information to the media. Much of this information has come from ex-girlfriends, which is ironic, considering AES considers such 'white groupies' to be, at best, misguided, and at worst, treasonous whores. In final summation, the shift in public discourse regarding foreign English teachers from 'people we ignore who get arrested for drugs sometimes' to 'unqualified, morally corrupt, permanently stoned, disease-carrying threats to Korean feminine virtue and childhood innocence' is in good part due to the propaganda efforts of Anti-English Spectrum, as well, of course, to the acquiescence of a media and government which is too often willing to believe the worst about foreigners - something the people behind the anti-US and anti-LMB protests in 2002 and 2008 understood and exploited very well.

So then the question is - what do we do about this?

Kushibo has suggested that it is the fact that AES is seen as the 'go to' organization for news media when it comes to getting juicy quotes for stories about foreign teachers, and the fact they seem to have people in the government listening to them, that is the greatest problem, and suggests submitting a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission. It sounds like a good idea to me.

As Tony has pointed out, information on how to file a complaint is here, while the online complaint application is here.

There is a lot of information out there already that could be used in complaints. I'll likely try to compile more in the near future.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oops!

Late, absent/ gets money and does a runner/ molestation

The above cartoon is from a August 16, 2006 Seoul Shinmun article titled "Washout Native-Speaking Teacher Problem." Pretty cute.

The article is about the Korean Recruiting Association's blacklist of 'low quality' teachers, something that became news in 2006, and was bolstered by the August 18/19 realization that John Mark Karr had taught in Korea. The blacklist story also made MBC ("Foreign language hagwon, Unbelievable native speaking teachers") and SBS ("English speaking sex criminals openly teach English in Asia"). The blacklist was first brought to light, however, by an August 7 Breaknews story titled "Low quality English teachers: 'Korean women are a source of money and sex partners'" (the paper edition is seen here). The story is mostly full of juicy stories of bastard teachers provided by "Mr. Kim", a member of the "movement against low quality foreign teachers", who, as "Mr.K" provides tips for several Breaknews articles (the first of which extolled the virtues of Anti-English Spectrum)

On October 29, 2006, that BreakNews article was reposted at Anti-English Spectrum, and in the comments, members thanked 'Mr. Kim'. 'M2' - Lee Eun-ung, the manager and public face of the site - coyly wrote "I'm curious about Mr. Kim;..." Regular poster 'jasminhyang' later wrote in a comment "the first letter of Mr. Kim's nickname is 'm'." In a Breaknews article published two days later, Mr. K also makes comments, and is described as "Low quality native speaking teacher deportation site manager Mr. K," also suggesting this is a pseudonym for Lee Eun-ung.


Last night I watched the documentary 'Burden of Dreams,' about Werner Herzog's attempts to make the film 'Fitzcarraldo'. At one point he describes some of his problems with the locals:
They spread rumours we would slaughter them and take the grease out of their bodies and cook the grease and that we would rape their women and that we would do any kind of harm to them

We are necessary as an enemy that can be beaten, because they will not dare to attack the military camps, they will not dare to attack the petrol companies, but since we are small, we may be the losers.
Of course, since this is about the denizens of the Amazon River basin, it really has little to do with Korean news articles, xenophobic groups, or cute cartoons. Oops!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Korean translation of the NHN letter up

A Korean translation of Andrea Vandom's letter to NHN is now up here.

Update: An article in UC Irvine's newspaper 'New University' is here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Puff Piece about Anti-English Spectrum

[Update:
Korea Beat's translation is here.]

NoCut News has a puff piece about Anti-English Spectrum published on November 10 and written by CBS Busan reporter Kim Hye-gyeong, which has a really cute title:

Delinquent foreign instructors, "Freeze!"

Citizens for Upstanding English Education... 100 foreigners caught for drugs, assault, being unqualified


Last May in Busan, K (30) a Canadian who taught English at a hagwon who had lots of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia at his home and habitually took drugs was arrested by police. Mr. K was stoned while teaching his lessons, and had a record of violence in Canada where he was stripped of his teaching qualifications.

Last August in Seoul, G (29), an American who made money from gambling, was among 15 people arrested by police for gambling for years. Among the arrested was someone who habitually did drugs and another who taught at a well-known hagwon on a tourist visa.

It is foreign teachers like these who cause problems like drugs, gambling, violence, and being unqualified that the well known internet cafe ‘Citizens for Upstanding English Education’ relentlessly pursue to bring their crimes to light.

3 years ago, the crimes of unqualified foreign teachers shocked these citizens who spontaneously formed this group, and to this point they have tracked and exposed 100 foreigners who have done drugs, committed assault, or entered the country without a visa, which, after the related authorities have been notified, has resulted in their deportation.

If members discover problem foreign instructors, they use their cafe pseudonym to leave a tip for the manager or send him a note, who then tracks the teachers with others for two to three months on average. The cafe’s method involves relentlessly pursuing them and finally when evidence is secured and the location of the crimes confirmed the police are called.

The people who provide tips come from all walks of life and include parents of children who attend English hagwons, Korean English instructors (co-workers), and employees at bars and restaurants frequented by foreigners.

Cafe manager Lee Eun-ung (39) says "When people suffer abuses such as violence from foreigners, if they directly contact the police, then their identities become exposed and they have to be subjected to investigation, and therefore because of that sense of burden, our members receive counseling through our cafe and they also report such abuse cases (of being victimized)." "Recently, innocent/good foreigners, who are also being harmed because of some other troublesome foreigners, are submitting reports to our cafe immediately whenever they see a troublesome foreigner, as a part of their efforts for self-purification."

The cafe played a large part in the arrest on November 6 of many people who took new drugs with the street names 'skunk' and 'Spice', at clubs in Itaewon and Hongdae.

Members discovered foreign sites openly circulating new drugs last February, and persistently asked related agencies to have them designated as illegal drugs with success.

The cafe mainly monitors those problem foreign instructors in the capital area of Seoul and Gyeonggi-do but is expanding its area of operations.

In places where foreign language classes have a lot of demand teachers are treated in a similar manner as in Seoul but citizens’ observation activities and police crackdowns are not as strong against the activities of unqualified foreign teachers that are surfacing in Busan and Gyeongsangnam-do.

In fact, the foreign teacher community in Busan and Gyeongsangnam-do can work relatively freely without work visas at well-known hagwons and can stay in Korea for long periods on tourist visas.

Though until last year the cafe had almost no tips about cases of inferior foreign teachers in Busan and Gyeongsangnam-do, this year the total number of tips jumped 20-30% and five foreigners were expelled because of tips the cafe received.

In Busan both the Office of Education and the police’s sustained crackdown and the citizens' fervent monitoring activities are pointing out inferior English instructors’ teaching activities, activities outside classes, private lessons, drug-taking and gambling.

----------

Note: It's nice to see a little more information about their stalking activities, though it's troubling (if unsurprising) to see Kim Hye-gyeong and CBS cheering them on. As for Lee's comments about foreigners contacting him as part of their 'self-purification' (similar perhaps to the 'self-criticism' sessions north of the DMZ?), I have to wonder how many foreign teachers would approach a group like AES, which isn't known (in English) as anything other than a xenophobic group of vigilantes, if they're known at all. His comments in other articles about English teachers contacting him for help sound equally as 'truthy'.

Quite interesting is Lee's comment attempting to legitimize their vigilante function by proposing himself and his posse as a solution to the pressures felt by those who would go to the police. Why bother with the police when it comes to foreign English teachers (whose undisclosed crimes in Busan are rising, don't you know) when a bunch of vigilantes can simply assume their powers instead?

Andrea Vandom's letter to NHN

Andrea Vandom's letter to NHN regarding Anti-English Spectrum, mentioned here, can be read in its entirety here.

Also, the Korea Times has an article about ATEK's statement regarding the letter.

Another win for Kim Yuna

Kim Yuna set a new record at Skate America yesterday for her short program:



I just watched her long program a couple hours ago, in which she fell once and flubbed two other jumps, and though she came in second in the long program she still managed to come out on top and win the competition, making this seven consecutive grand prix titles, according to this article. I suppose it's a good thing she won, what with all the pressure on her. When she came in third after falling in her long program at the 2007 World Championships, every photo I saw on portals was of her on her ass on the ice - talk about fair weather support from the media.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hash bust in Ulsan

[Update: Corrections made. Mental note: Don't blog when half asleep. Sorry about that.]

According to NoCut News and Yonhap (who have a video), foreign hagwon and university English teachers were among several people arrested on November 5 in Ulsan for using and selling hash. According to NoCut News, 11 people were booked, including two Americans, 20-year-old office worker J and 26-year-old university teacher W, and a total of six university gyosu* and foreign hagwon English teachers were arrested. Apparently J had 200 grams worth 20,000,000 won at his residence. Another office worker named K (44) was arrested, and Yonhap says he was American.

Yonhap also says that only K and J were arrested and detained, while ten more were booked without detention. The hash was smoked, police say, between January and October in their homes and 'foreigner clubs' in places like Seoul, Chungcheong-d0, Gangwon-do, and Daegu. The investigation is to be expanded.

[So we have a total of eleven foreigners, among them two office workers, a university teacher, and six foreign (hagwon) English teachers.]

*Note: There's a discrepancy in the numbers in the two articles - NoCut News says there were a total of 11 arrested, and Yonhap says 2 were arrested and ten were booked. Note that NoCut News says that foreign hagwon English teachers were arrested along with University gyosu or professors, but it doesn't say specifically whether the gyosu who were arrested were foreign, other than W.

Friday, November 13, 2009

ATEK on Andrea Vandom's letter to NHN Corp.

[The letter available in English or Korean]

[Update - changed the title of the press release as per ATEK's request; the letter in question does not ask NHN to 'pull the plug' on AES]

ATEK released this today:

ATEK: Naver Should Remove Offensive Material
from the Anti English Spectrum

The Association for Teachers of English in Korea (ATEK) is pledging support to recent calls for NHN, the parent company of Naver.com, to take action against the online community of the Anti English Spectrum (AES), a race hate group that advocates vigilante tactics against foreign teachers that operates on Naver.com.

Letters were posted to the NHN Corporation, both in Korea and in Irvine, California, where the company's US branch is located. In the letters, written by Andrea Vandom, a PhD student in International Relations at the University of California, it is explained that the racist material on the Anti English Spectrum's page violates Naver's user agreement.

On the page it is suggested that AIDS infected foreign teachers are purposely spreading the disease, while molesting children, raping Korean woman and consuming large quantities of narcotics. These accusations have also been printed onto calling cards and distributed on streets of Seoul.

In her letters to the NHN Corporation, Vandom stated:

"This group’s highly defamatory statements violate Article Ga-4 (Defamatory Posts) of Naver cafe’s terms of service agreement and rise to the level of violations of the Korean criminal code."

Vandom also pointed out that Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which the Republic of Korea fully supports, states that the promotion of racial hatred, such as in posters used by the Anti English Spectrum on their Naver page, is illegal. By hosting these posters Naver is in effect assisting racist activities, which under Article 4(a) of the ICERD, is an offense that Korea has declared "punishable by law".

With regards to the letter's Vandom mailed to NHN, ATEK president Greg Dolezal stated,

"The Anti English Spectrum is attempting to sabotage multiculturalism in Korea with their xenophobic accusations that are aimed at foreign English teachers who are innocent of the crimes the group describes."

Despite the implausibility of the group's claims Dolezal stressed,

"ATEK cannot accept such harmful material relating to foreign teachers being spread in the public domain, especially when it could skew perceptions of foreign teachers and harm our members. Therefore we whole heartedly support these letters and urge the NHN Corporation to honor Naver's content policies and remove the offensive material from the group's page"

The city of Irvine recently elected Sukhee Kang as its mayor. Kang was born and raised in the Republic of Korea, immigrating to the USA with his wife in 1977. A successful businessman and father of two, Kang made the history books by becoming the first Korean-American to serve as the Mayor of a major U.S. city. Earlier this week Vandom met with the mayor to get his support in persuading the NHN Corporation to remove all of the offensive material from the Anti English Spectrum's Naver page.

The NHN Corporation incorporated Naver.com in 1999 and launched the search portal “Naver.” Naver.com has grown to be the fifth most used search engine in the world and the Naver name has gone global with affiliates in Japan, the US and China. In 2006, both of NHN’s original founders, Kim Beom-Su and Moon Tae-Sik, relocated to the United States in order to learn more about the US market.

ATEK, a support group for over a thousand foreign teachers in Korea, wishes to give its full support to Vandom and her letters to the NHN Corporation. Consequently we expect NHN to enforce their user policies and remove all offensive material from the Anti English Spectrum's Naver page.

----

More on Anti-English Spectrum's past activities can be found here, a look at the messages they've been spreading can be found here, and a closer look at their campaign to link foreign English teachers to AIDS can be found here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

While today is Pepero Day in Korea, in Canada it's Remembrance Day. It's the first time in nine years I've been home for it, and it's been in the news a lot. [Apparently there has been much more interest in it in recent years than in the past, due to the fact that Canadian troops are in Afghanistan.] At this very moment I can hear on TV the story of a soldier killed in Afghanistan, leaving behind his wife and infant daughter. So it goes.

My father has done research into our family history for over two decades, and I've tried to do my part as well, especially by scanning photos and getting oral history down. There are lots of interesting stories of family members' involvement in past wars, even as far back as the War of 1812. A March 10, 1848 petition for land by my great. great, great, great uncle states that
Your petitioner enlisted in the late Glengary Light Infantry on the 1st April 1812 and was regularly discharged at Adolphustown on the 1st April 1815 and served part of his time under Captain James Fitzgibbon of the late Glengary Light Infantry Fencible.
He was also
...wounded in the arm in May 1813 at the taking of Fort George in the late American war with the U. States and again wounded in the ankle joint on the 25th July 1814 at the Battle of Lundies Lane by a musket ball lodged in the ankle joint and remaining there for 32 years and 1 month causing your petitioner much pain and from said last wound has been a cripple ever since.

Your petitioner suffering so much pain was compelled to call upon a surgeon and have his foot taken off on the 25th August 1846.
He was, however, denied the land he wished for 'free from fees', which makes the final paragraph of this history of the Glengary Light Infantry Fencibles a bit of a joke:
[W]hen the regiment was disbanded, the non-commissioned officers and privates receiv[ed] grants of land in various parts of the Province of Upper Canada.
Most of the material I have is of a more recent vintage (which fits in with Remembrance Day better, I guess, as I heard on the news today it is to remember those who fought in World War I and after, and not in wars that determined such meager things as [Upper and Lower] Canada's continued existence).

A few years ago, I went through a box of photos and documents that belonged to my great grandfather Albert Stuckey (my mother's mother's father) and found several letters written during World War I from someone named Harold Harvey, and after some digging, I found on the 1891 census that my great grandfather and his grandmother had shared a house with Harold's family in Toronto. From the letters, it's clear Harold had been working for my great grandfather in his shoe pattern shop prior to the war. After arriving in England, he 'strained a cord in his stomach' while lifting a 525 pound case of clothing with another soldier, which left him out of action for several weeks, after which he had to restart training. The letters give some idea of what it was like for someone in England waiting to go over to France.
Jan 27, 1917
I’ll be glad when it’s all over, and I can get back home again. Of course, I don’t want to come back until I’ve done my bit, and I hope that’s pretty soon. I’m getting sick of England.

Feb 23, 1917
You say in your letter, if you were me, you wouldn’t be very anxious to go across to France. But if you were on this side of the water, you would get the fever to, the same as I’ve got. Once on this side, and you are never satisfied. You want to be on the go. Some don’t, but the majority does. They say, it will take at least four years to demobolized. So you see, if I go across now, and do my bit, and most likely get a Blighty* one, well, I’ll be home to see the end, as I was in the beginning. But I got along ways to travel yet, before I get home again. And to see all the wounded, well, that don’t change my mind, because I know I’ve got it to go through.

[*A 'Blighty' was a wound which was not serious to kill or maim, but bad enough to get you sent home - and about the best thing a soldier could hope for.]

April 22 1917
[He describes the joys of making rabbit stew from a rabbit caught in a snare, noting that] there’s one thing about this life, it’s learnt me to cook. That is, in a rough kind of a way. But we’d eat anything from an ant to an elephant these days. They half starve us over here, but it’s no use kicking, although they tell us that is a soldier’s privilege.

May 27 1917
I’ll be on the first draught going, I hope. I hope I don’t go to the 75th, because I want to go to the third. All my pals are in the third, and naturally I want to go there.

June 10, 1917
I guess by the time you receive this letter of mine, I will be in France. I am in a draught hut at present, and expect to be put on a draught any time now. They say France and the trenches are awful places, but to my estimation they can’t beat what I have already gone through. And the place I am at present would be alright but for the N.C.O.s and officers.
He obviously didn't enjoy training very much. This form letter is dated July 15, and may be from France.


In a letter dated August 7, 1917, my great grandfather writes that he hadn't written in awhile because he had
been waiting to see if you had gone to France. Albert [Harold’s brother] was in and told me you had gone to France and that you were in the 75th Batt. Well Harold old boy, keep your heart up, for something tells me that you will come back safe and sound.

I am sending a sample of some new binding and it is ok. I wish you were home so that you could help me out. But never mind it as hope it won’t be long before you are back again.
He never made it home. The reason my great grandfather had possession of this letter is because it was returned to him. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, Harold Harvey died on August 18, 1917. A look at the history of the 75th battalion puts him at the Battle of Hill 70, where, in addition to rifle, machine gun, and artillery fire, the Germans employed mustard gas and flamethrowers. He was one of 1,505 Canadians killed in the battle.

In the letter my great grandfather sent, he wrote, "We are sending you a box, let me know if you get it. Lizzie Fulton is sending two pairs of socks in it." In a letter from my great grandfather's cousin Frank, dated August 9, 1931, he apologizes for not writing for so long and writes
I would like you to tell your wife that I received two of her parcels that she sent her brother when in France during the war. I got them through her name being the same as mine. After her brother was killed they were sent to me about 10 months after his death and they was in good order and I sure appreciated them at the time. I had been in the line then about 17 months, half starved and half frozen at the time.
No record of my great grandmother having an older brother exists, but I realized the other day that these might have been packages for Harold that he received. I know little about Frank Stuckey's involvement in the war other than what his attestation papers show - that he signed up in January 1916 at the age of forty-six.

It was probably about nine years ago that my father's mother went to the Legion and signed out the World War I memoir that her father, Norman Hipson, had written, and which she had donated after his death. Titled "Memoirs of a Camouflaged Civilian," it contained this photo, taken in Italy, in which he is standing:


My father just received a copy of the 1911 census the other day showing that at 14 my great-grandfather was already working underground in a coal mine (and after he came to Canada, he worked in a mine until the day before he died). According to his memoir he enlisted on April 16th, 1918 (on a dare from his brother, my grandmother told me), and left England at the end of August. Unlike many British soldiers, he wasn't headed for the western front, but for Italy, where British troops reinforced the Italians after their defeat at Caporetto in late 1917, and where he arrived in September. As he describes his experiences,
On Sept. 14th we left Padova to join the 12th D.L.I. [Durham Light Infantry] whom we found on Sept. 16 at Carriola. In Reserve on the Alps. After doing a few days on the mountains we were relieved by the Italians[.] [...]

[Then he went to] Padova where we arrived about midnight on Oct. 9th. At this place we had further training and we were also transferred to the 48th Division of the Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Batt. [...]

[T]he morning of the 25th of Oct. when we marched or rather climbed the Alps once more, we did as reinforcements in the afternoon of Oct 25th. Joined the Bucks at Malga Fassa Fort. The reserve position and three days after we went “Over the Lid” which ended in a slaughter of our fellows, over a hundred casualties.

After the “stunt” was finished we returned to Malga Fassa Fort and stayed there until 3:00 am Nov. 1st when we were ordered to get our kit on and away we went. Lined up just N of Asiago and at 5:45 am we started the advance which led to the route of the Austrian Army and the end of the war. At 10:00 am the same morning we had successfully stormed Mounte Catz After being held up we reached the summit. Here we were shelled for three hours, after this we met with little or no resistance. Next day Nov 2 we advanced along the Val D'Assa Pass.
As his battalion marched into Austria, he became one the few British soldiers to enter enemy territory in Europe (troops on the western front never entered German territory). When I first read this, nine years ago, it was difficult to find much information about the British forces in the Italian campaign (or much about the Italian campaign in English at all), but by a few years ago there were many more resources on the internet (including a trench map of the area he fought in). I used Google Earth to make this map using the places listed in his memoirs:


He made it out of the war in one piece, but his future wife's brother was less lucky. Francis Bradford disappeared and was not heard from for years. This photo of him is in the background of another photo.


It wasn't until after the war ended that he appeared at his family's doorstep one day. He was little more than a skeleton as he had been a POW in Germany and had been forced to work in a salt mine, living on little more than potato peels. His parents, during that time, had had no idea if he was alive or dead. One can only imagine their reaction when he finally came home.

In World War II, my grandmother's brother, Bill Hipson, enlisted as his father had before him. The photo below (he's on the right) was sent home from England. (That dog appears in another photo as well.)


As a clipping from the local paper described it,
He enlisted in the Signal Corps on August 10, 1942 shortly before his 19th birthday and shortly afterwards transferred to the RCAMC [Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps]. He arrived in England on June 24, 1943, and was sent to France on D-Day.

The 23rd Field Ambulance was attached to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and with them he travelled through France, Belgium, Holland and into Germany. […] He said the Ambulance was the busiest between their stay at Caen and the closing of the Falaise pocket.[…]

“We had a hard time getting the German SS to take our transfusions. Some held out altogether. They didn’t want to take our blood. They felt like they were better heroes not to take it.”[...]

Asked where he spent V.E. Day he replied, "In Aurich, Germany." The Germans he said were so downhearted over their defeat that it affected any great celebration on the part of the Canadians, but when they got back to Holland the folk there went crazy about Germany’s surrender and showed the way to celebrate.
The article notes that he had volunteered for the Pacific theatre and would be going to Kentucky to train.

As for the celebrations in Holland, I remember in university a foreign student from India who'd put a Canada flag patch on his jacket. He told me that when he was in line at immigration after flying into the Netherlands, a woman working at the desk called him forward from the back of a line, asking him about his patch. In his estimation the Dutch still felt very kindly towards Canadians (as it was Canadian troops who liberated the Netherlands).

My father's cousin also fought in the war, but did not come home:


When she went to visit his grave in Italy at some point after the war, his mother was happy to see how well-maintained the cemetery was.

On my mother's side, all of the men in or married to my grandparents' families enlisted. My grandfather's brother, my grandmother's brother, her sister's husband, and my grandfather all served, but I only really know details about my grandfather. My grandmother's brother enlisted in the army, and she said her father - perhaps remembering how Harold Harvey had died - wasn't very happy that he did so. Her brother wrote her a letter dated Feb. 25, 1945, which gives some idea of how exhausted he was:
I expect to get a bit of leave soon but it’s not to travel around, I just want to go somewhere and catch up on some warm sleeping quarters. After the war is over I think I’ll build a house with a fireplace in my bedroom so I can wake up nice and warm in the morning. […] I expect to spend an awful lot of time at the cottage when this thing is over just relaxing.
I believe he and my grandfather's brother served in the army, but as my grandmother told me her brother never talked about the war. Her sister's husband was involved with radar overseas. One of the ironic things is that those who died can be searched for on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and then their unit's history can be traced, and all of this can be done online in a matter of minutes. For those who survived the war - as luckily everyone on my mother's side of the family did - learning about where they served is more difficult.

My grandfather, Donald Berry, had often talked about his service in the Royal Canadian Air Force. I heard his stories many times, about how he had failed a Latin exam when he was sixteen and his mother, who was a teacher, told him to retake the test or get a job. My grandfather was incredibly bright, but, as he told me about Latin, "I had no use for it." So he did what his mother couldn't have imagined - he asked his neighbour if there were any jobs available at the law office he worked at, and soon my grandfather was employed there, much to his mother's chagrin. It was because he had dropped out that he needed to take classes after he enlisted to catch up on his studies (mostly math, I imagine). As my grandmother noted recently as I was scanning photos, the soldiers who were married during the war wore their uniforms at their weddings; my grandfather was no different:


Their wedding had to be moved to an earlier date, due to his leave, which is why they ended up being married on April Fool's Day, 1943. While there is a military document saying he had permission to marry, apparently he was not given enough time off. His father waited outside Toronto's Initial Training School to drive him to the wedding, and then they went to London, Ontario, for their honeymoon. He was actually Absent Without Leave, and when he went to St. Catherines to begin his flight training, he was asked, "What's your excuse?" When he said he'd gotten married, the officer replied, "Best excuse I've heard all day," and didn't punish him.

I'd known that he was at Summerside air base in P.E.I., and had assumed (actually, I think someone mistakenly told me) that he didn't finish his training before the war ended. Most of his stories took place there. Like the time he followed a river inland to its source and marked its location on a map so he could go fishing there. Or the guy he talked to who'd returned from England who'd told him he'd fallen asleep on top of barracks, missed a call for everyone to go inside, and saw a plane, he swore, that flew without propellers. Or seeing a beluga whale nurse its young in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Or seeing a U-boat slipping into the water near shore. Or the time he chartered a plane so the other pilots could go off the island to buy booze (P.E.I. was dry at the time, and only, if I remember correctly, pregnant women could get it with a 'script' (prescription)). Or my grandmother remembering flying from Toronto to return to P.E.I. after the birth of my aunt, and having to land and warm up a bottle of milk in a hangar. Or how my grandfather bought a car in P.E.I. and with friends drove it back to Toronto through the U.S. (Canadian roads weren't very good at the time), where, being in uniform, they were well treated by the Americans they met, who were so happy the war was over.

So it was with interest that I picked up Ted Barris's book Behind the Glory when I was at my grandparents this summer, and started flipping through it. The book is about the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and especially focuses on the instructors who trained around 200,000 pilots, navigators, wireless radio operators, air gunners, flight engineers and ground crew in Canada during WWII. My mom or dad made an offhand remark about my grandfather having been an instructor, which amazed me. How could I have heard these stories over the years and not known that? This book was very useful in helping me decode and understand another book: my grandfathers flight log. Basically, reading it, I can see what he did almost every week he was enlisted. At the back is his service record:

Enlisted 1942.06.24
Central Tech, Toronto 1942.07.31 - 09.21
#1 Manning Depot, Toronto 1942.09.25 - 1943.01.23
#6 Initial Training School, Toronto 1943.01.24 - 04.03
#9 Elementary Flying Training School, St. Catherines 1943.04.04 - 05.28
#16 Service Flying Training School, Hagersville 1943.05.30 - 09.15
#1 General Reconnaissance School, Summerside 1943.10.02 - 1945.09.18

This page of the flight log describes his fourth week at #9 Elementary Flying Training School in St. Catherines; you can see on April 22 he had his first solo flight, after about nine and a half flying hours training in a Tiger Moth.


A newspaper article shows him (D.F. Berry) learning to identify enemy planes:


He received his wings as an Air Navigator in September 1943 and served as a flight and navigation instructor for almost two years at Summerside in P.E.I. Here's a list of what instructors had to teach:


I can remember him describing dropping three buoys into the water and viewing them through a sight which could then judge how far they had moved and could be used to calculate wind speed which was then used to correct the course being plotting. It sounded quite complicated. He flew Ansons, which were reliable twin engine planes used to prepare pilots for flying large planes like Lancaster bombers. As the page linked to notes, the Anson was "dubbed "Faithful Annie", inspiring this poem which lauds the Anson's superiority over the Cessna Crane:

Oh, the Crane may fly much faster
Inside she may be neat,
But to me the draughty Anson
Is very hard to beat.
Her plywood may be warping,
Her window glass may crack,
But when you start out in an Anson.
You know that you'll come back.

-Andy, No. 7 SFTS (Fort Macleod) 1943"

I found these photos awhile ago. I'm not sure if my grandfather took them or not:






Pretty neat. My grandfather told me that the war had been pretty good to him. He'd gotten to learn how to fly, and then got to keep flying as a flight instructor. His flight log has him down for a total of 1300 flying hours, with over 1000 of them as an instructor (I have no idea how many pilots and navigators he trained). I'd imagine the reason he told me all the stories he did was because he looked back on that time so fondly.

My grandfather with his father.


In the photo above you can see the headgear and goggles he is wearing, and I can remember as a child putting them on and playing with them and trying (and failing) to imagine what it must have been like for him to wear them when he was flying. As years went by, his stories, and, much later, photos and his flight log have helped give me some inkling. It's a dark irony that as I became more interested in these stories, Alzheimer's Disease was robbing him of his memory.

He passed away six weeks ago, so it's to him I dedicate this.