Wednesday, April 07, 2010

"The country where murderers and drug criminals teach English"

[Update]

I added a few comments at the bottom of this post.

[Original Post]

This editorial appeared in the Daejeon Ilbo on March 25 commenting on the 'never-ending' crimes of foreign English teachers:
The country where murderers and drug criminals teach English

In Korea the illegal and law-evading activities of foreign language teachers are never ending. Some thoughtless teachers get into trouble because of their illegal and law-evading activities and now gang activity and murder have shockingly been uncovered. It’s incredible that such a brutal criminal and drug addict could play such a role and teach English to young students.

A Korean-American teacher who was exposed and arrested a few days ago was wanted by Interpol for murder. In 2006 he killed a Korean American in the U.S. and fled to Korea where he habitually did drugs and taught children. Another Korean American named Lee who worked as a teacher at a famous hagwon in Gangnam was arrested in a similar case. An LA gang member who was deported for attempted murder and came to Korea, he worked as an English teacher and was arrested for smuggling, dealing and taking drugs. In 2008 a teacher on the FBI’s most wanted list for murder was arrested, and thirteen English teachers were arrested for gambling and habitually doing drugs. There are also foreign teachers who get into trouble because of their disorderly private lives or molestation.

It’s not easy to keep problematic 'low quality teachers’ like these out . Under current law, for hagwons that employ foreign teachers the owner must report the teacher’s personal data to the education office within one week. For people from English speaking countries to receive a conversation-teaching visa (E-2), they must submit criminal record and infectious disease certificates and their addresses in Korea. However, for foreign teachers who have come to Korea fake diplomas or documents are difficult to verify. Moreover, there is no system to filter out undeclared instructors and instructors from non-English speaking countries.

At the end of July last year there were 21,498 E-2 visa holders in Korea. If we include those illegal teachers who came to Korea on tourist visas there are 50,000 foreign teachers. At Seoul public schools, among native speaking English teachers 16.2% are licensed teachers, and only 38.8% have TESOL or TEFL certificates. Teachers at private hagwons fall far beyond this level.

In the era of globalization, the need for foreign language education is an undeniable reality. As long as foreign language education is unavoidable the entire system should be improved. We must find a way to raise quality standards and block law-breaking foreigners at the source. At this time, we also wish that we could confidently check the conditions of private foreign language hagwons in Daejeon and Chungcheongnam-do.
So, we're told that "It’s not easy to keep problematic 'low quality teachers’ like these out," which is then followed by unrelated information about registration of teachers and the E-2 system (incorrectly - infectious disease certificates and their addresses in Korea must be submitted to get an alien registration card, not the visa) and talk of fake diplomas and ‘undeclared instructors and instructors from non-English speaking countries" who cannot be "filtered out" (forgetting that there are over 1,000 non-English teaching E-2 visa holders). There is nothing about F-4 visas, however which is the visa those caught in these most recent cases were on. As always, Korean Americans are treated according to the "Korean American + 'good' or 'successful' = Korean, Korean American + 'bad' or 'criminal' = American/foreign" equation. The editorial betrays a total lack of knowledge about these visa issues, and seems like it was just a chance for the writer to crusade against the long-standing 'foreign English teacher problem' and their 'never-ending' crimes in order to 'protect children.'

We're also told that there are '50,000 foreign teachers' if illegal teachers on tourist visas are included (are there even that many of such illegal teachers these days?), which is 30,000 above the number of E-2 visa holders. It's quite an exaggeration, and one meant to frighten (golly, are there really so many possible 'brutal criminals and drug addicts' out there?).

Then we're told that, "At Seoul public schools, among native speaking English teachers 16.2% are licensed teachers, and only 38.8% have TESOL or TEFL certificates." While it sounds similar to comments in this article attributed to Song Kwang-yong, the president of Seoul National University of Education ("Currently, only 20.5 percent of native English speaking teachers (at schools) have teaching licenses (according to data from the Education Ministry, November 2008)"), what's interesting is that neither a Google or Naver search turned up any other article referring to those stats except this one.

The article lists examples of "never-ending" crimes by foreign English teachers ('끊이지 않고 있다' is not an uncommon way to describe them - see here). Not to excuse the crimes that are committed, but something that should be pointed out is that few groups could be scrutinized in the way foreign English teachers are by the Korean media and come away looking good.

6 comments:

Geoffwah said...

That's pretty painful to read, for many reasons. Short of making a star-studded movie about how corrupt the entire education system is in Korea, I feel like there's little we can do to reach the Korean people on this topic.

We don't have a voice because so few of us speak Korean and even if we do...we're still outsiders and in no position to be critical of Korean society.

L Tron said...

There is so much exaggeration, conflation of "not having a teacher's certificate" and "being a drug taking, child molesting murder", inaccuracies and outright lies that it's hard to know where to begin with this article. I think I'll satisfy myself with saying that any discussion of E-2 visa holders is entirely unwarranted in the case of the Korean American teacher because he was here under an F-4 visa.

Captcha: unstypig - The action of removing a swine from its enclosure.
"I was going to unstypig, but the spider web really changed my mind."

Bob said...

Wow. What a mess. Thanks, Matt.

Mark said...

All these native teacher bashing articles are merely a reflection of the Koreans' paranoia, narrow-mindedness and backwardness and proof that they still have a long way to become a truly developed nation. Simply driving a Hyundai, owning a Samsung cell phone, and watching inane Hallya soaps on an LG wide-screen TV doesn't make a country or its people civilized. The statistics on native teacher crime (five times lower than Korean crime) speak for themselves: everything else is racism and propaganda circulated by uneducated and unprofessional so-called 'journalists' who might as well work for North Korea. In essence their warped ideas about foreigners and the 'pure' (homogeneous) Korean race are the same. Both are to be pitied.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

Christ, what an ignorant fuckhole.

for foreign teachers who have come to Korea fake diplomas or documents are difficult to verify

Uh, no, they are not. Diplomas are child's play to "verify".

Moreover, there is no system to filter out undeclared instructors and instructors from non-English speaking countries

If you're talking about the ILLEGAL teachers, sure. There's no way to keep them out without shutting down Immigration altogether.

If you're talking about teachers getting English-teaching work visas, then those from non-English-speaking countries can't get one.

Joshua Shannon Day said...

Except for the very exaggerated case of two bad apples the description of English teachers may as well have been made concerning certain places and teachers in the United States. We don't sensationalize it if an English teacher has a private history that includes the use of drugs at some point, but many English graduates are rudderless following college here. The incidence of marijuana arrests is not nonexistent. Besides, what would the Korean nationalists have to entertain themselves if it weren't for the horrifically loose morals of foreign English teachers. In turn, I am highly entertained, certainly because I am not there for the real social blowback from this rhetoric.