Our favourite Korea Times reporter is now on the case.
AP (Via the Joongang Ilbo) reports on Aijalon Mahli Gomes, the most recent American to be arrested for entering North Korea illegally (one hopes he is better treated than Robert Park was).
A spokeswoman for the man’s family in Boston, Thaleia Schlesinger, said that Gomes had been teaching English in South Korea for about two years and that it was unclear why he would have gone to North Korea.[...]Leaving out the possibility of the last sentence being a back-handed compliment, it's nice to see a media report in which a school official compliments a good English teacher (even one who is as wacky as to make an unauthorized visit to the DPRK). I was curious to see how these comments were reported in the Korean media but - brace yourself, this is shocking - they weren't. Some nice things about him said by a former co-worker in another AP article were translated by Yonhap (via the Chosun Ilbo), but not the principal's remarks.
Authorities at Sinbong Elementary School in Pocheon, north of Seoul, said he taught English there from April 2008 to March last year.
“All the memories we have of Gomes are only good. Everyone here liked him,” school headmaster Cho Kyoo-Sig told AFP. “I remember him as a very mellow and calm person. He was very kind to everybody and all the children liked him so much.”
Gomes left the school, saying he would find a better-paying job in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi.
“If he wants to return to this school, he would always be welcome. It’s hard to find a native English teacher as good as Gomes,” Cho said.
Meanwhile, a search at Naver turns up 39 articles about this story of the arrests of former Korean American gangsters teaching English in hagwons - one wanted in the U.S. on murder charges and another who has been importing and dealing drugs. Nine other unqualified teachers have also been arrested for drug use. As the Marmot's Hole notes,
The Segye Ilbo has more if you care to read it, including this quote by a police official, “Language hagwon, getting on the English education boom bandwagon, have recently been indiscriminately hiring native speaking teachers. We must strengthen screening of educations and career histories when hiring English teachers.”Police often seem to give the media such great quotes, which sound more like editorializing by crusading journalists or editors than quotes from police officials. Here's another example from 2007:
A source at the foreign affairs division of the Seoul Police Department said, "American and Canadian English teachers think Korea is a 'land of opportunity.'" They become hagwon teachers not only because there is no country which has much desire to learn English as Korea but because they believe they can make up to 1,000,000 won per month through illegal private lessons. The source also said, "the majority of them find it easy to seduce Korean women and do drugs with them." Foreign English teachers see Korea not only as a 'land of opportunity' but also as a 'perverted heaven'.On a related note, the Korea Herald reports today that
Police sought an arrest warrant for a Korean-American English instructor Wednesday on charges of growing and selling marijuana worth 20 million won ($17,000), according to Yonhap News. The suspect, 27, allegedly cultivated marijuana at his home since January and sold it to foreign residents, according to the Ulsan Metropolitan Police Agency.YTN might not have reported on the nice things the principal said about Aijalon Mahli Gomes, but they did end another report by tell us this:
The reality is that as long as they are good at English, violent criminals and habitual drug users can easily become English teachers.Allow me to fix the first sentence:
The anxiety of parents of young children is growing.
The reality is that as long as they are good at English, violent criminals and habitual drug users can easily be hired by unscrupulous hagwon owners and become English teachers.I'm not sure if anything has been said about the visa status of these former gang members. No doubt if they are F-visa holders, then it's much easier for them to get jobs here than E-2 visa holders. As for the final sentence, to assess that the anxiety of parents is growing... wait, they did nothing to assess that. Well, if you're going to report this case in that way, I'm sure that last sentence will become a self fulfilling prophecy. Especially if you report it, as the Donga Ilbo did, with a title (in English, despite it being a Korean language article) like this:
He is a killer, drug dealer… and your teacher
It helps to have this cartoon to illustrate the dire situation:
I'm not sure why he has a tail. I believe South Korean propaganda used to depict North Koreans with tails and horns, and North Korean propaganda has depicted Americans with bestial characteristics, so I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean. A wolf in foreign English teacher's clothing, perhaps, but since foreign English teachers are routinely depicted as wolves, so to speak, that metaphor makes little sense. Not that I expect any of this to make sense, mind you.
[Update] Having read this Korea Times article, I think I understand the tail now:
Both immigration and education authorities have long turned a blind eye to loopholes in screening "unqualified" foreign English teachers. That inattention occasionally horrifies parents and students when such teachers show their true colors.I see. 'unqualified' teachers (which seems to mean teachers who do drugs, commit crimes, or who 'paint the Han River black') are wolves, and the teacher in the cartoon is showing his 'true colors.' Alternately, it could mean "We thought you were Korean, like Hines Ward, but it turns out you're foreign, like Cho Seung-hui."
I think this cartoon, from the last time former Korean American gang members teaching English in Korea were arrested (in October 2006), was better:
Still, the Donga Ilbo has done better cartoons of this sort before, and it's always just wonderful to have more of this 'art' to add to the collection.