Thursday, April 01, 2010

Another journalistic classic

Ilyo Seoul, or the Daily Sun, a political tabloid paper (see its covers here), has picked up the story of the Korean American gangsters/murderer/drug dealer who became English teachers, which I looked at here, here and here. Apparently, the pressures of only writing about 'things that have actually happened' and using 'facts' was too much of a challenge for reporter Yun Ji-hwan, so he just decided to fabricate in its entirety the final section of the article below.
The Seriousness of Foreign Teachers’ Ugly Double Lives Cannot Be Measured
They have no taboos against money, sex, or drugs

Recently a Korean American who had taken part in gang activities and committed murder in the U.S. and who openly worked as a teacher in Korea was exposed. This incident has shown how lax the management of foreign teachers is. Problems concerning foreign teachers are nothing new. The teachers’ excesses and disordered private lives are a problem, but another problem is that hagwons do not carry out proper verification when hiring native teachers. Calls are becoming more urgent for laws to regulate hagwons in Korea that allow foreign lawbreakers to disguise themselves as native speaking teachers. As well, foreign teachers are of course distributing drugs which are being abused. For this reason areas around universities where young people gather have been a paradise for drugs for some time.

The number of foreign teachers buying, selling, and of course producing drugs is increasing. An American working as a teacher at an English hagwon who grew, processed, sold and smoked marijuana for several months was caught by police.

[From there it reports on the familiar story of the ex-gangsters and pot growers, and then continues.]

Unkempt activities every night

Foreign teachers' disordered private lives have highlighted numerous social problems. Not only drugs, but also incidents of sexual violence by foreign teachers are increasing yearly. Especially, incidents involving foreign teachers taking pictures of lewd acts with Korean women and putting them on the internet are common. If we examine recent incidents related to foreigners, there numerous cases where drugs and sexual assault are connected. After taking drugs rape occurs in a drugged state.

There are surprisingly many women who have associated with foreigners and become mired in drugs, police explained. According to an official of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, in recent years drugs and marijuana have persistently increased at the hands of foreign teachers who have come to Korea.

A police official said, "There are many women who come into contact with marijuana or other drugs in clubs or foreign teachers’ houses and become addicts,” and “Because they’re young and curious they think that if they just try it once or twice they’ll be okay and then become caught up in drugs.

For most, drug-taking is followed by sex. Many drug cases occur because men and women gather together. Police have seen a considerable number of women who suffered an unexpected rape when they were high. It’s known however that most of the women who suffer rape in this way do not report it to the police, because they fear that the fact they took drugs might be discovered.

A police official said “Among foreign teachers there have been reported cases of them having sex with an unbelievable number of Korean women.” “One teacher showed symptoms of drug addiction, and I was speechless when he told me he slept with 200 women and did marijuana or other drugs with most of them,” he sighed.

Drug addiction leaves one in a state where normal behavior is not possible, and regarding hagwons which allow such lectures, strong measures against the thoughtless recruiting of foreign teachers are urgently required.

Reporter Yun tells a chilling story of debauchery and ruined lives. The only problem is that I haven't come across any newspaper reports of sexual assault against Korean women by foreign English teachers (there are a small number of molestation charges involving students), and certainly none involving sexual assault and drugs. The English Spectrum incident and another case involving a blogger who posted photos of adult students and nude 'models' are likely the basis of the claim that posting lewd photos of Korean women on the internet is 'common.' There are some pretty bold claims made in that article, but not a single case or statistic is cited to back anything he wrote up. Perhaps he simply saw things like this on TV, or read this equally dubious quote 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'.
At least tabloids like Breaknews would base a [totally exaggerated] story on at least one or two facts. Instead of writing about the 'disordered private lives' of foreign English teachers, a good source of material would more likely be the 'disordered writing habits' of Korean journalists and editors. Reporter Yun can be reached here:

On that topic, I was told that after reading an article about foreign bloggers, an editor from one of the English language dailies (I'm sure you can figure out which one) told someone involved with the article, "You know that many of these foreigners who come to our country are uneducated," in reference to the bloggers.

Oh, and I found another Korean American gangster/teacher cartoon from 2008:

"Wanted" "Teacher"

We can now complete the collection:

English instructor (2006)


The article translated above used the word 둔갑, which as a verb (둔갑하다) means to transform into or take the shape of (as in "외국인 범법자를 원어민 강사로 둔갑시키는 국내 학원," or "hagwons that let foreign criminals transform into native speakers") and it's interesting that one of the first examples given by Naver's online dictionary is "사람으로 둔 갑한 여우," or "a fox in the shape of man," which likely explains the photo above; further discussion of the meaning of the photo can be found here.


bahz said...

Thanks very much for your diligence in catching these important articles, bringing them to our attention (including often translating them!) and documenting them. I'm sure it gets tedious but its important work and we appreciate it.

bahz said...

oh, and that first cartoon seems to sport a pretty big nose for a Korean-American 'gangster teacher', doesn't it?

matt said...

Glad you liked it. I'm not really sure how important this kind of tabloid trash is (it's certainly entertaining in its own way), but it's A) creepy to see just how much stuff can be made up and attributed to foreign English teachers (as they're an easy target), and B) it's worth remembering that equally trashy articles in Breaknews owe their existence to AES, who then cited them as proof that there were problems with foreign English teachers and AIDS (among other things) when sending petitions to the Justice Ministry.

And yeah, that nose is huge. Love the smile though.

louve9 said...

When I read anything in a Korean "newspaper" I find it makes much more sense if I put myself in the same mindset as when I read or watch Korean speculative fiction. The plot structures are essentially identical.

Korean speculative fiction stories usually go like this: Good Korean culture is functioning in pristine Neo-Confucian harmony. All moral dogmas are perfect, absolute, and unquestionable. They follow the relational order of the Sam-Kang-Oh-Ryun:

The king is the mainstay of the state [Kun-Yi-Shin-Kang]
The father is mainstay of the son [Bu-Yi-Ja-Kang]
The husband is the mainstay of the wife [Bu-Yi-Bu-Kang]
Between father and son it requires friendship [chin]
Between king and courtier, righteousness [eui]
Between husband and wife, deference [pyul]
Between old and young, degree [saw]
Between friends, faith [shin]

The design of these vertical relationships is to preserve a patriarchal family infrastructure that is recalcitrant to accepting change. That way the Korean society is insulated from any evil occurring from the inside the family and bad things can only come from the outside.

That is, until somehow the big, ugly, non-Korean gets around the petito principi "We're Korean, so we must be good because we're Korean." Thus, mucking up the Neo-Confucian order with "foreign" ideas like logic. (At this point I think I should reiterate that Korean "newspapers" really are just speculative fiction. The editor tells the writer what he wants to see in his paper so he can sell add space, and telling the editor, "But, it didn't happen that way" just doesn't meld well with top-down, do as I say because I'm the boss mentality.)

Next, once the "foreign" element is unleashed in the Neo-Confucian Eden of Korea, all hell breaks loose. You have either lecherous big-nosed demons / aliens that steal all the Korean women and eat the children; shadow governments that control the hapless Korean population, forcing them to give up their culture; and, if, on the off chance, a Korean is the bad guy, it is because they were tainted by some external source. You know, like a Western education that functions like mind control (Damn Western logic, again!).

Anyway, to make a tedious story short, the Korean hero is successful at fending off the would-be attackers. Although, it is only after some horrible incident occurs taking the life of an innocent woman or child who is wearing white (the white outfit is so that they can be personified as baeksŏng, a metaphor for poor, innocent Korea and the cathartic purging of han). After the evil, Neo-Confucian harmony disrupting, "foreign" evil-other disturbance is expelled, the entire nation cries out in unison, "TAE HAN MINGUK!!!" and goes out for samgyupsal and soju.

In my opinion, I think if everyone just looked at Korean “newspaper” fear-mongering in this fashion --like it is a badly produced “B” horror film-- the non-Korean population wouldn’t feel so bad about being typecast as the villains. We could just write it off as a half-cooked plot and bad directing.

Marc Hogi said...

Matt, I'm with the others here: Thanks for your research (and occasional translation duties) here. I've lived in Korea for almost four years, but I've encountered a lot of relatively new info on this blog since discovering it a few weeks ago.

Also interesting comments from the above posters, especially louve.

Some of you may have seen the recent post from "Ask a Korean" about AES and anti-foreign teacher sentiment. The following quote is applicable:

"So what can the existence of AES tell us about the state of ESL teachers in Korea? Right now, Koreans are feeling deeply uneasy about their new reality--that there are many in Korea who do not look like them, affecting them in a way that they do not necessarily like. This uneasiness feeds into the tension between Koreans and ESL teachers. This tension right now is still mostly under the surface, because most Koreans are reasonable enough not to express that tension like AES does. However, there is always a chance that the underlying tension could blow up, sparked by a certain event. Therefore, it would be important to understand the factors that feed into the tension, and neutralize them in any manner we can."

You can read the whole post here:

Thanks again, Matt...hope it's OK for me to post a link like this.

Douglas said...


You are correct to wonder just how influential these tabloid articles are. But to make an American analogy, how many people get their news and have their opinions shaped by FOX News and their commentators like Sean Hannity and Glen Beck? I don't want to be an alarmist but I take articles like these seriously. Furthermore, it's not elitist to realize that most of the population is ignorant, illogical and essentially stupid, especially when dealing with a literal foreign presence in their society, whether its in Korea or anywhere else in the world. Articles like this reflect and inform a world view of and for people either unwilling or unable to the intellectual legwork for themselves.

Coffeewriter said...

I agree that sometimes foreigners are portrayed in a negative way, very often out of misunderstanding. Probably the best way to combat this 'bad press' is to act the opposite of what Koreans may expect you to behave. Act with compassion and politeness, respect the culture you have entered into (as you would expect foreigners in your country to) and just generally surprise the local people, pleasantly.
They will tell other Koreans about the 'good foreigner' and eventually the majority will come to expect this behaviour rather then being suspicious.
Put simply, be a constant good example to your students, colleagues and even the people in the streets. And try to be oblivious to the obvious drivel and anti-foreign sentiment that is actually the exception rather than the norm- they're just more vocal.