Monday, April 05, 2010

"It Doesn’t Matter Even if English Teachers are Criminals?"

On April 1, the Hanguk Gyeongje published this piece by reporter Cho Yun-kyung:
It Doesn’t Matter Even if English Teachers or Native Speakers are Criminals?

On March 17 in Incheon an ethnic Korean English Teacher was arrested for receiving marijuana cookies through International Express Mail. On the 24th an ethnic Korean English Teacher was arrested on charges of ‘making’ and selling marijuana.

According to a 2009 National Police Agency report on ‘The present state of crime by foreign English teachers,’ 274 crimes had been committed by foreign English teachers in the last three years. These crimes included theft, drugs, violence, rape, etc.

Included among these was a formal university teacher who appeared in re-enactments on many local networks.

There are more than 7,500 native English teachers placed in elementary, middle and high schools nationwide. According to estimates by the The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, there are 30,000 native speaking teachers working in hagwons or universities nationwide. However, due to the pressing need and rush for such teachers, a good many of them are unqualified.

In fact, there was a case of an American wanted for murder who was teaching elementary school students. It appears that for criminals from countries were English is their mother tongue, Korea, in the midst of a craze for English education, is used as a hiding place to avoid capture.

Native-speaking assistant teachers who work in schools need only to have graduated from a four year university, and because they didn’t complete a course in teacher training it isn’t verified whether they are low quality teachers or not.

In one instance a native speaking assistant teacher, using a bank note, showed his students the way to smoke marijuana [to roll a joint?] during class.

Cases of foreigners working as English teachers after entering Korea on a tourist visa are punished according to the case’s importance and at the discretion of the Ministry of Justice. Cases that are punished are very rare to the point that [only] those with bad luck get reported.

According to existing law, it is illegal for foreigners working at a fixed place to increase their income by working elsewhere. Students do not know this fact and think it natural to receive private lessons from foreigners. Police revealed that “In many examples of illegal tutoring, the students involved understand this but will not personally report on them and cannot turn them in.”

Many people have a prejudice that they can only learn English in the class of a “blond-haired, blue-eyed” native speaker. Generally, because there is higher demand for white teachers, they are paid more than ethnic Korean or black teachers. Because of this, cases have occurred where white people from Russia, Eastern Europe and other non-English speaking places have lied and pretended to be native English speakers in Korea. The reality is that this is not a desirable basis by which to choose English teachers.

Unqualified native speakers are working in Korea as teachers and our society is paying [the price] for employing unverified native speakers to satisfy the demand for English classes. Indeed, can we ever realize our expectations for high quality English education with these native speakers haphazardly brought to Korea with no regard for their major or skill?

To solve the problem, each step of employment visa issuance should be thoroughly verified. The verification process should not be loose like before. Always concentrating on national security and caution like the U.S., a stringent entry system with several steps, including a visa interview [should be] prepared. We should also, though a thorough verification beforehand, prevent Korea becoming a “funny country where if you only speak English everyone will give you money.”

Also, if there are cases of private hagwons hiring illegal native speakers, strong measures should be considered to halt their operations immediately.

Presently a revised bill proposing changes to the Kindergarten Education Law, Elementary and Secondary Education Law, and the Hagwon Education Law which requires native English teachers wanting to work in Korea to provide criminal records, a medical examination including drug screening, and academic background certificates has been submitted in the National Assembly, but the standing committee deliberations have not even been set up.

In order that we can believe in and entrust our children [to hagwons?] the National Assembly should promptly discuss this revision of related laws.
Let's look more closely at a few things:

The title: "It Doesn’t Matter Even if English Teachers or Native Speakers are Criminals?" The knee-jerk reaction is to think, "clearly this 'journalist' doesn't bother to read the news." There were over 300 negative articles about foreign English teachers last year, and about 1,000 since 2004. Every time a teacher gets arrested for smoking pot, there are 10-20 articles about it, and regarding these most recent cases, over 50 articles have appeared. As if crime by foreign teachers "doesn't matter." Of course, when you reach the end of the article, you see that this rhetorical question is meant to prod the national assembly into action.

Continuing,
According to a 2009 National Police Agency report on ‘The present state of crime by foreign English teachers,’ 274 crimes had been committed by foreign English teachers in the last three years.
Wrong. There was no National Police Agency report - it was statistics released by National Assembly Representative Lee Gun-hyeon. How difficult is it to get something that simple correct? (Apparently Rep. Lee contacted the Canadian embassy - and perhaps others - while researching the report telling them that he knew foreign crime and crime by English teachers was a big problem and wanted their help. They didn't respond.) Needless to say, the statistics in Rep. Lee's report are not put into context, but that would involve doing more than a Naver search, which is clearly not part of the job description. As I noted here,
The statistics reveal that 114 teachers were arrested in 2007 and 99 were arrested in 2008. So, for 2007, 114 out of 17,721 teachers were arrested - a rate of 0.64%. In 2008, 99 out of 19,771 teachers were arrested - a rate of 0.50%. As noted in Benjamin Wagner's report to the NHRCK, "The Korean Institute of Criminology... reported that in 2007 the overall “crime rate among [all] foreigners [in Korea] was 1.4% compared with the 3.5% rate among Korean citizens.” In other words, according to Lee's own figures, the foreign English teacher crime rate (0.64%) was more than five times less than the crime rate among Koreans (3.5%) in 2007 and half the rate of other foreigners.
At any rate, as the article above notes,
There are more than 7,500 native English teachers placed in elementary, middle and high schools nationwide. According to estimates by the The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, there are 30,000 native speaking teachers working in hagwons or universities nationwide.
I'd never come across that '30,000' figure before, which would mean that there are a total of 37,500 native speakers working in Korean hagwons, public schools, and universities out of this potential pool [2008 statistics]:

E-1 - 705 professors from English speaking countries
E-2 - 19,771 in total - 18,604 from English speaking countries
F21 - 3,060 spouses from English speaking countries
F-4 - 37,286 ethnic Koreans from English speaking countries
F-5 - 220 permanent residents from English speaking countries
There are an unknown number on tourist visas who teach English.

Of course, it seems odd, then, that "there are 50,666 F-4 visa holders [but] the government does not know how many are involved in English teaching." Of course, that's from a Korea Times article, so take that how you will. I thought I'd do a search to see if I could find out more about this estimate by The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, and used terms in Korean from the original article:
전국 초 · 중 · 고교에 배치된 원어민 영어교사는 7500여명이다. 대학이나 학원에서 일하는 원어민까지 합하면 국내 원어민 강사는 약 3만명에 이를 것으로 교육과학기술부는 추정하고 있다.
Oddly enough, this August 12, 2009 Money Today article seems to say the same thing:
지난 4월 기준 전국 초·중·고교에 배치된 원어민 영어교사는 모두 7088명. 대학이나 학원에서 일하는 원어민까지 합하면 국내 영어교육 원어민은 약 3만명에 이를 것으로 교육과학기술부는 추정하고 있다.
Actually, it says exactly the same thing. I wasn't joking about only using Naver to write the damn article. Control C, Control V. As for this,
Included among these was a formal university teacher who appeared in re-enactments on many local networks.
I'd never heard that before, but it turns out such a person was arrested last November, according to this Yonhap article (which is pretty much another cut and paste job). Also interesting is this:
In one instance a native speaking assistant teacher, using a bank note, showed his students the way to smoke marijuana [to roll a joint?] during class.
I was pretty certain when I read that I knew who the source would be, and yes - it's from a Breaknews article which features a (blurred) photo of Anti-English Spectrum manager 'L'. You know you're dealing with a credible reporter when they quote from Breaknews.

Also recommended in the article is that "To solve the problem, each step of employment visa issuance should be thoroughly verified." So let's see. An Apostille doesn't work for Canada, so for the process of getting my last visa I needed a criminal record check, two notarized copies of said check and two notarized copies of my diploma, and all of those notarized copies had to be stamped by the Korean embassy, three copies of transcripts, and drug and AIDS tests. Except that I decided to do a visa run to Japan after arriving in Korea and when I got to the Korean embassy in Fukuoka, they looked confused when I passed them all this paperwork and told me that - in Japan - all that was needed was the confirmation number, application, passport and the fee. But I digress. One wonders how more thoroughly verified it can get, but I don't doubt for a moment that it can't go further. It's worth remembering that what is important is not solving a problem, but the appearance that one is solving a problem. I imagine many of the players (AES, politicians, journalists with an axe to grind, or who need something to crusade against) do not want the 'problem' to be solved. Where would the fun be in that?

At any rate, some of the criticisms noted in the article - for example, that choosing teachers based on skin colour is not logical - and suggestions are worth noting, such as this:
Also, if there are cases of private hagwons hiring illegal native speakers, strong measures should be considered to halt their operations immediately.
Absolutely. However, you can be sure the Hagwon Owner's Association will make certain that never happens, so it's much easier to go after a group of foreigners that is essentially powerless.

The revised bills referred to at the end of the article are of course Choi Young-hee's bills which are translated here. I'll look more closely at those bills after I translate this article, which focuses on the bills and Choi Young-hee's recent comments about them. Anyone who thinks that she might take advantage the recent arrests to embiggen herself and push for the bills to be passed will not be disappointed.

19 comments:

Alex said...

The most frustrating thing about this article is how it bounces around between the issues of qualification, visa type, and criminal background.

Someone could be an absolutely fabulous teacher, have a degree in education---and be a criminal. Conversely you can be a criminal with none of those things and be a terrible teacher. Or even, a bad teacher, not a criminal who is "qualified."

The whole situation is incredibly frustrating. And you are right, it makes the powerless feel even more at helpless. What can we do, aside from setting our own personal examples?

B_Wagner said...

". . . if there are cases of private hagwons hiring illegal native speakers . . ."

Seems like hagwon owners were the only ones to be accorded any sort of presumption of innocence in this article.

louve9 said...

Mr. Wagner,

Your comment reminded me of another section of my master’s thesis that I will reprint below. In it I discuss the research of Walther H. Slote, Senior Research Associate in the East Asian Institute of Columbia University. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Anthropology and Sociology. I believe that his take on the psycho-social dynamics of Confucian families explains why hagwons are generally not held responsible for questionable business practices. I also believe that it is where much of the ultra-nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-foreign sentiment originate in South Korea. In my work, I frame Slote’s theory thus:

Fear of Authority

Walter H. Slote discusses the concept of fear in Confucian societies as being of paramount importance. Slote explains that fear of authority, dependency on those in a position of authority, and hostility towards those who have authority are the axis points that the hierarchical relations of Confucian societies are predicated on. Slote writes:

"The three predominant psychological processes that derived from Confucian authoritarianism were fear, dependency, and hostility: dependency was built into the hierarchical system, and it was maintained throughout life—there was always someone who was superior, whether through age or position; fear, because it is a universal reaction to authoritarian domination; hostility, primarily in the form of deep-seated resentment, because we are always resentful of those we fear and upon whom we are dependent. All three emotions were seriously restrictive as long as they remained unresolved, and thus each played a major role in maintaining the stability, although not the integrity, of family and nation. (46)"

Slote goes on to clarify that fear of authority has been the most significant aspect of Confucian culture, although it is rarely acknowledged. He explains, “. . . respect, deference, and submission as responses to authority are euphemistically presented as synonyms and commonly discussed; fear is not” (46). He also states that Confucianism was based upon authoritarianism. Principle aspects of authoritarianism found in the concepts of filial piety were established and maintained as instances of absolute domination of subordinates. Fear on the part of the subordinate is the modus through which Confucian hierarchical relationships are maintained (46).

Furthermore, Slote also asserts that, “All who are repressed are fearful of those who repress them. The fact that there were significant compensations for acquiescence does not eliminate the response. Essentially we are dealing with subconscious process, rarely available to the conscious awareness and then only under unusual provocation (46-47).” Classic psychological denial functions from such repression in the Korean psyche. It is because these fearful attitudes are engendered in the core Neo-Confucian societal value system that the seeds of ultra-nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-foreign sentiment sprout, grow, and flourish.

louve9 said...

(Cont.)
That is as far as I discuss Slote in my thesis in this vein of thinking; however, I believe I should also point out that Slote says:

"Overt hostility was universally suppressed, subject to cultural restraint and strong disapproval. A child might be seething inside, but it was forbidden for him/her to reveal how he felt. Not only was the expression of anger toward a parent forbidden, but the conscious awareness of hostile impulses was also stringently prohibited. The source of this was filial piety, which, together with ancestor worship, constituted the central underpinning of the Confucian ethic. Thus, the dissociation of any awareness of antagonism, either toward or from the parent, was rigorously enforced from early childhood. I have seen two-year-olds who could get mad at a stranger (me) but not at their parents, who were actually responsible for their frustration. Historically, it made for a stable society; psychologically, it was the source of inner turmoil…The result was that much of the hostility toward the parent, which could not be admitted into consciousness, was both internalized and displaced onto the husbands, wives, children, and select others." (47)

Now, “Before my view is rejected as a monstrous one [by some]…,” as Frued so eloquently put it when discussing the function of suppressed feelings and displacement, Neo-Confucianism is the philosophical root that South Korean society grows from. The current South Korean society may have added and subtracted certain aspects here and there over the years, but the core remains.

When the South Korean media is writing about ills in their society, particularly in the ESL industry, it is all but impossible for them to point the finger at the actual original cause of those problems—themselves. If they were to actually hold the hagwons responsible for the irresponsible business practices that occur in the ESL industry in South Korea, they would ultimately have to hold the parents responsible for funding them despite having knowledge of serious problems with the system. It is just easier to lay the blame on the backs of the non-Koreans that are not part of the “family.” The only reason any of this story is coming to light is because the rational for the “bad Korean” is displaced. The actual blame is being placed on the “other” of Western society for tainting the purity of the Korean perpetrator. This is done so Korean society can save face at the expense of whatever outside agent is handy at the time.

Psychological displacement really is an amazing thing, especially when found on a social-psychological scale. Articles like this are essentially trying to say, “Shame on you bad non-Koreans for fooling the morally upstanding South Korean nation. We trusted you; so when we did not do our job and check to make sure you were not liars, killers, and thieves, and you did not tell us, it is you lousy non-Koreans (or in this instance, Koreans tainted by Westernization) who should feel ashamed for not telling us that you were liars, killers, and thieves. Never mind the fact that the vast majority of you non-Koreans actually are not liars, killers, and thieves, you should have told us that you are. That way, when the South Korean media paints you as liars, killers, and thieves, you will rightfully be ashamed of your non-Koreaness.”

The real problem here, in my humble opinion, is the society being structured on an aesthetic of moral harmony, rather than one of accountability and law. That’s right, shame based culture vs. guilt based culture. In a shame based culture one is never guilty, they only make mistakes. And the only mistake being made here in the view of the South Korean media is that non-Koreans are not Korean; and similarly, that “bad” Koreans are only bad because of a corrupting foreign influence.

Sorry about the length, but that is my two-cents.

B_Wagner said...

@louve9

Thanks very much for that comment. I'll be back to reply in a bit.

B_Wagner said...

@louve9 - very much enjoy seeing your posts here. lots of good information.

I am inclined to agree with the views of the scholars you have cited, yet I am uncomfortable with tagging these phenomena as "Confucian" (it seem that sometimes this term becoming so all encompassing as to just mean "Korean" or to have no meaning at all).

The predominant psychological process I see at work is good old fashion defensive projection. I made some comments about it here.

Oh and I found your Nietzsche reference in a recent comment thought provoking. I wonder if focusing more on Nietzsche's theory of ressentiment might also be fruitful.

Look forward to hearing more from you. Sounds like it will be an interesting thesis.

louve9 said...

Mr. Wagner,

Let me start by apologizing for not responding sooner, I have been busy for the last few weeks. I would also like to thank you for your astute commentary and suggestions. In relation to you being “…uncomfortable with tagging these phenomena as "Confucian"” because it has the tendency to be over simplistically reduced to mean Korean is noted, and shared to some degree. Indeed, that is why I spent some 300 pages explicating the subject in my work. However, when utilizing the term “Confucian” or “Neo-Confucian” to describe the base philosophy and social-psychology of Korean society is hardly anything but an empty misnomer.

When labeling something as being Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Jewish or Christian, one is utilizing interlocutionary shorthand that states: “Those who identify themselves as being “φ” maintain a given set of values that is generally associated with “φ”.” Yet, as I am sure you would agree, there is always a gap between definition and usage, and therein lies the rub. The same is true if we were discussing the values maintained by those who claim to be legal logical positivists or anarchists. They are terms that are used, in my humble opinion, to begin conversations regarding their meaning rather than an as end in themselves.

When I utilize the term Confucian or Neo-Confucian, I am using shorthand that says that those people whose socio-cultural and social-psychological values are denoted by and influenced by the teachings of K'ung-tzu, as well as any who modified and expanded K'ung-tzu theories. South Korean socio-cultural and social-psychological values most definitely fall under such a definition, just as Chinese and Japanese socio-cultural and social-psychological values fall under such a broad definition to varying degrees.

Now, such facts are base and well known. And, as you imply, if nothing more was said about it to explain the shorthand and unpack the density of the term, it would be simplistic and empty. Yet, to allay your fears, I feel it is necessary to define such terms so that we may further explore the meaning that such a label carries with it. In my view, what we are exploring here is the effects of Neo-Confucian on South Korean media and film, as well as how those mediums influence South Korean public opinion, laws, and government.

In my work I have stated:

[P]roblems displayed in South Korean [media and] film hold an indirect question: are modernization and Westernization really necessary for South Korea’s survival? At every turn, South Korean audiences are continually being asked to weigh questions regarding their traditional Neo-Confucian moral values against those of a Western-oriented modern ethic. It is a constant subtext that moves through all South Korean [media and] films like an oblique foundation. The films depicting the modern era in South Korea always show a bent which leans in the direction that modern Western culture is disruptive to traditional South Korean Neo-Confucian culture, and that South Korean citizens should be careful about the elements of foreign cultures that they adopt.

louve9 said...

(cont.)
This point is illuminated greatly by looking at the 1997 addendum of “Morals” courses that are compulsorily taught in South Korean elementary, middle, and high schools from the 3rd to the 10th grades. These classes are one of four key sub-areas that are utilized to teach democratic citizenship in South Korea and are used as major vehicles through which democratic citizenship is inculcated in the South Korean school system. According to Roh Young-Ran’s paper “Democratic Citizenship Education in the Information Age: A Comparative Study of South Korea and Australia,” “…the content of the 7th ‘Morals’ Curriculum attempts to harmonize Korean moral norms and universal values, but it places greater emphasis on the former. Thus it adopts as its goals, the nurturing of a desirable Korean citizen rather than a desirable human being” (170).

In Roh’s account, the South Korean Morals curriculum is set around twenty core values/virtues. These twenty core values/virtues are equally subdivided into four life areas considered necessary for leading the four dimensions of life. The textbooks produced by the South Korean Educational Ministry are built around units that are designed to convey those core values/virtues in the following manner:

(1) Personal Life—respect for life, sincerity, honesty, independence, temperance;
(2) Life in Family, Neighborhood, and School—piety, filial duty, etiquette, cooperation, love for school and hometown;
(3) Social Life—being law-abiding, caring for others, environmental protection, justice, maintaining a sense of community; and
(4) National, Ethnic Life—love for the state, love of the nation, security consciousness, peaceful reunification, love for humankind. (170)

As one can readily see, the form and content of four core values/virtues bears a striking resemblance to the aforementioned Mencius’ Neo-Confucian Four-Seven Thesis of:

(1) Shame and dislike as the beginning of righteousness;
(2) Courtesy and modesty as the beginning of propriety;
(3) Moral discernment of right and wrong as the beginning of wisdom; and
(4) Commiseration as the beginning of benevolence.

Indeed, one could go as far to say that the current ‘Morals’ curriculum in South Korean schools is a re-contextualized and expanded version of Neo-Confucian ethics adapted for the current times.

Roh goes on to explain that one of the most emphasized values in the 7th ‘Morals’ Curriculum is the sense of community, which falls under the heading “Social Life” in its current incarnation or, if my analogy to Neo-Confucian value sets is accepted as being true, the moral discernment of right and wrong being the beginning of wisdom (170). That is, according to the curriculum, the civic/community education supports the basic order of liberal democracy in the context of the discernment of right and wrong moral values as being the rule of law. In the Western legal system, there is the tradition of making a strict differentiation between the propriety of the rule of law as opposed to moral sensibilities. However, the context of a thing being moral has the weight of being law in the Neo-Confucian based civic/community system in South Korea.

louve9 said...

(cont.)
Furthermore, the sense of community is not only depicted in the core values/virtues of Social Life. It is also represented in a slightly different approach in the other core values/virtues such as ‘love for school and hometown,’ ‘love for state’ and ‘love for nation.’ In this way, values of national and ethnic development are given priority over other ideals such as tolerance, which Roh also explains is not included as one of the twenty core values/virtues. Indeed, Roh goes so far as to say that,

It can be said that the emphasis on the sense of community is made as part of that on traditional ethics. The 7th ‘Morals’ curriculum places more stress on traditional ethics, including the sense of community according to the idea that the young generations have been steeped in inordinate and irresponsible individualism in the process of modernization and westernization. (170)

In this way, the 7th ‘Morals’ curriculum is an attempt to rekindle Neo-Confucian values in South Korean society that is believed to be slowly disintegrating as the result of foreign influence.

Consequently, if there is a tendency to reduce the term “Confucian” to simply meaning “Korean,” I do think there is some warrant for it.

As for your recommendation regarding ressentiment, I already had the same thought, which led to the following passage in my work:

[T]he “woman in white” figure is a metaphor for Korea itself. The dilemma of the “woman in white” is one that holds within it the interpretation of Korea being a neglected woman who has unnecessarily been made to endure an unjust hardship through no fault of her own. Similarly, the use of a common person caught up in extraordinary events beyond his or her control is typical of the antihero in South Korean movies. However, such stories are manifestations of the minjoong nationalistic ideology that seeks to depict hardships, or han, of the Korean populace as being the result of circumstances beyond their control. It illustrates the Korean populace as being nothing but hapless victims who have no responsibility for the dilemmas they must face.

This sense of being both innocent and powerless is often noted as originating from well-documented subjugation of Korea by foreign powers throughout history. Nevertheless, what is interesting about han in this respect is that it is at the same time the central principle of a person’s character and also the source of a cathartic sense of self-pitying, yet noble resignation within the agent experiencing han. In this manner, han is similar to what Aristotle outlines as catharsis in the Poetics: it is a purification of the emotions of the audience. In Aristotle’s words, “Tragedy . . . is mimesis of action which is elevated, complete, and of magnitude; in language embellished by distinct forms in its sections; employing the mode of enactment, not narrative; and through pity and fear accomplishing the catharsis of such emotions” (1449b 26).

If Aristotle’s view of tragedy is taken to be analogues to the Korean Neo-Confucian view of han, the subject matter of South Korean speculative fiction is a reflection of real South Korean attitudes. Indeed, in Rhetoric, Aristotle twice points out that what one fears in oneself is what one pities in others (1382b 26, 1386a 27). If one takes pity on others, does one then fear something in oneself as Aristotle states? However, one might ask, what occurs when the one being pitied is oneself? That is what han is supposed to be, right? Is han not resignation to one’s unavoidable fate? Does this resignation not create a sense of self pity? Would this then mean that the reciprocal of what is feared in others is what one pities in oneself?

louve9 said...

(cont.)
In one sense, han is an antagonistic circumstance that allows a character to perform heroic actions. In this manner, Fredrick Nietzsche’s view of slave-class mentality is also similar to han. In On the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzsche explains that slave morality is a human tendency that is formed from ressentiment, in which the slaves look to overthrow their perceived masters to become masters themselves in turn. Nietzsche finds that such moral ideals can be understood in the dichotomy between noble morality and slave morality. Nietzsche states:

"The beginning of the slaves’ revolt in morality occurs when ressentiment itself turns creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of those being who, denied the proper response of action, compensate for it only with imaginary revenge. Whereas all noble morality grows out of triumphant saying ‘yes’ to itself, slave morality says ‘no’ on principle to everything that is ‘outside’, ‘other’, ‘non-self’: and this ‘no’ is its creative deed”." (20)

This is, quite literally, the creation of an “evil other.” It is the creation of a scapegoat for the perceived troubles of a society. To explain this tendency, Nietzsche again points out:

"How much respect a noble man has for his enemies!—and a respect of that sort is a bridge to love . . . For he insists on having his enemy to himself, as a mark of distinction, indeed he will tolerate as enemies none other than such as have nothing to be despised and a great deal to be honoured! Against this, imagine ‘the enemy’ as conceived of by the man of ressentiment—and here we have this deed, his creation: he has conceived of the ‘evil enemy’, ‘the evil one’ as a basic idea to which he now thinks up a copy and counterpart, the ‘good one’—himself!..." (22)

Han, in a very real manner, is a manifestation of Nietzsche’s slave morality. It is the laying of blame on a created “evil other” in an attempt to make oneself “good.”

Works Cited

Aristotle. Art of Rhetoric. Trans. John Henery Freese. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press, 2000.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morality. Trans. Carol Diethe. Ed. Keith Ansell-Pearson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Roh Young-Ran. “Democratic Citizenship Education in the Information Age: A Comparative Study of South Korea and Australia.” Asia Pacific Education Review. 5.2 (2004) 167-177.

louve9 said...

Again, sorry about the length. There was a lot to unpack there.

B_Wagner said...

A lot to unpack indeed. Well worth reading though.

I'm no authority on Korean Confucianism and I am well outside of my area of expertise here but I will try to offer some comment.

I think your have an argument that the Ministry of Education's (MOE) 7th ‘Morals’ Curriculum resembles "Mencius’ Neo-Confucian Four-Seven Thesis". But how is this any different from Korean educators telling us (as is their wont) that "Koreans are Confucian"? To quote Nietzsche again, "When someone hides something behind a bush and looks for it again in the same place and finds it there as well, there is not much to praise in such seeking and finding." (On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense)

I have no problem accepting your proposition that the MOE has placed a Confucian-looking text in the 7th Curriculum, but does that tell us that Korean education is Confucian?

While looking at the English teacher issue, I spent a lot of time going through the MOE's Sixth National Curriculum (on English Education).

The new official curriculum for English language teaching was supposed to represent a shift from the old unfashionable audiolingual method to the new communicative language teaching (CLT) method, which of course had become so popular internationally (and continues to be popular in Korea).

The problem is that - while the term "CLT" was used like never before, and the entire 6th (and 7th) curriculum was full of cut and paste "CLT theory" buzz words, and Korean foreign language education had officially become a "CLT theory" based system - none of the Korean teachers really knew what CLT was.

There are several studies on this, but a good one with interviews from Korean teachers was Defeng Li's "It's Always More Difficult Than You Plan and Imagine: Teachers' Perceived Difficulties in Introducing the Communicative Approach in South Korea, TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Winter, 1998).

Some of the quotes from Korean teachers include the following:

Like many of us, I learned CLT when I was studying at university. But it was taught as a piece of knowledge for us to remember, not to use. I did not practice using it while at university, though I did try it a few times later when I became a teacher. (Eom-Mi, July 25, 1995)

I learned the term CLT at a teachers' conference. To be honest, I did not quite understand how it works. (Myong-Sook, July 30, 1995)

Even if I have enough time for material writing, I do not think I can write good communicative materials. First, I have never been taught how to do it myself. Secondly, there are few authentic English materials around me. That means I have to create everything. That's beyond me. It also means I have to spend more time than I can afford. (Young-Cheol,July 26,1995)

In such activities, I often see the kids struggling to express themselves in English, only to make each other more confused. ... I do not know whether I am doing the right thing with the kids. To be safe, I prefer to use the method I am familiar with to help the kids learn. (Eom-Mi, July 25, 1995)

When I had questions about what I was doing, I talked with my fellow teachers, hoping to get help from them. Often they could not help me. How I wished there was a CLT expert for questions and support.(Joon-Suk, July 26, 1995)

It's difficult to get help from our administrators. Particularly before the new curriculums were published, the principal in my school didn't care about the method I used. He was only interested in the scores my students got in exams. Even now after the publication of the new curriculums, he still cares mostly about the students' scores. (In-Ran, July 24, 1995)

B_Wagner said...

I doubt that the situation is much different when it comes to inculcating the "moral values" embodied in the MOE's 7th Moral Curriculum.

The first moral value listed, as you explain, is "personal life" and "respect for life". But the Korean education system can hardly be said to give much consider to students' "personal life". In fact, it is the lack of respect for students' personal life that seems to rub off, leading students to respect their own lives so little that suicide rates are higher than anyplace on earth. (And studies tell us that suicides are getting younger.)

In short, I'd suggest that the whole thing is more of a show piece than anything. I think Myers made a similar point about scholars mistakenly trying to understand North Korea by studying its Juche philosophy.

louve9 said...

Mr. Wagner,

I think I can agree with your premise that ideal and execution of school curriculum rarely match. And, I can agree with you that the 7th morals curriculum is probably a showpiece full of nostalgia. But where South Korean education may be wanting in the realm of English education, I find that it is wholly successful inculcating values. All one needs to verify this is look at the 2002 and 2007 Pew Survey on Global Attitudes that demonstrates that the values the 7th morals curriculum looks to instill has occurred successfully and repeatedly. Again, 90% of South Koreans consider their culture as being superior and 5 out of 6 South Koreans see that culture in need of protection from foreign influence. Both are premises derived from the values taught in the 7th moral curriculum. Also, when stating their culture is a thing that needs to be protected, what is being referred to is their traditional Neo-Confucian culture.

In some sense you seem to be advocating that these attitudes are simply human and occur as a form of displacement, which is a premise I can wholly agree with you on. You, however, (and if I am wrong in saying this please forgive me) seem to take the position that since these attitudes are common in all societies, making the statement that they are the effects of Neo-Confucianism has no meaning. This, I believe, is where we differ. Yes, psychological displacement does occur in people from other nations; however, I would say that nowhere in the world is it as successful as a government mandated point-of-view (except, maybe, in the Middle East and North Korea). Therefore, the reason why I would disagree with you on this point is because the ultra-nationalistic, xenophobic, and anti-foreign attitudes seen today in South Korea can be seen throughout Korea’s history. And when I say throughout its history, I mean before the Japanese colonization of the peninsula. These attitudes are at least as old as the Chosŏn dynasty, which is when Neo-Confucianism became the official state religion displacing Buddhism—a religion that was displaced from power based on the idea of it being a corrupting foreign religion. Today, as you know, these anti-foreign attitudes are mandated as laws that violate the basic human rights of non-Koreans based on international conventions that South Korea is party to as well as its own constitution.

As for the idea that one cannot understand similar effects of Neo-Confucianism on the Korean psyche in North Korea by studying Juche, I’m not so sure of that either. Indeed, North Korea still calls itself Chosŏn, a name that looks to derive its power from that defunct state of the past. Juche, as I see it, is merely a continuation of Neo-Confucian policies between states. At the moment I am pressed for time and cannot look up the specific quote, but if memory serves, Wanne J. Joe, who holds the theory that modern Korea is an extension of the Yi dynasty (a view that I agree with), states that when Neo-Confucianism became the main modus operandi through which both Korea and Japan functioned, both countries became inwardly focused. It was believed that if interaction between peoples was limited to official functions between countries, each would stay out of the other’s business. Juche, simply put, is an extension of this policy. In a similar fashion, I would also say that the anti-foreign attitudes in South Korea are derived from a similar premise.

louve9 said...

I wanted to make one final comment to address one of your main points that I neglected before. When you state:

“I think your have an argument that the Ministry of Education's (MOE) 7th ‘Morals’ Curriculum resembles "Mencius’ Neo-Confucian Four-Seven Thesis". But how is this any different from Korean educators telling us (as is their wont) that "Koreans are Confucian"? To quote Nietzsche again, "When someone hides something behind a bush and looks for it again in the same place and finds it there as well, there is not much to praise in such seeking and finding." (On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense)

I have no problem accepting your proposition that the MOE has placed a Confucian-looking text in the 7th Curriculum, but does that tell us that Korean education is Confucian?”

I think you have already answered your own question here: It is what they want to be. Whether they are doing an adequate job of it really isn’t the point. It is the goal that they have set for themselves and it is their aspiration to fit this ego ideal. In fact, I would say that the goal is not attainable, which is all the better to make people eternally strive for it.

In any case, whether we come to agree here or not, I have enjoyed this discussion and thank you for it.

B_Wagner said...

I find that [the 7th Curriculum] is wholly successful inculcating values. All one needs to verify this is look at the 2002 and 2007 Pew Survey on Global Attitudes that demonstrates that the values the 7th morals curriculum looks to instill has occurred successfully and repeatedly. Again, 90% of South Koreans consider their culture as being superior and 5 out of 6 South Koreans see that culture in need of protection from foreign influence. Both are premises derived from the values taught in the 7th moral curriculum. Also, when stating their culture is a thing that needs to be protected, what is being referred to is their traditional Neo-Confucian culture.

Ok, I want to stress that I am not saying you are wrong. I'm just suggesting that perhaps you haven't proved your point. I really couldn't be more sympathetic to your focus and scholarly interest, as I'm sure you realize.

But, that said, how does 90% of Koreans saying that they consider their culture superior and that it needs to be protected have anything to do with "their traditional Neo-Confucian culture"?

Why shouldn't I accept Prof. Shin Gi-wook's explanation that this can be better explained in terms of Social Darwinism? Prof. Shin has survey data showing that 81% of Koreans believe that "the world is an arena of competition among nations" and 93% of Koreans believe themselves to be of a "single bloodline". (See here and here).

What does the fact that 90% of Koreans believe their culture is superior and 5 out of 6 believe it must be protected from foreign influence have to do with Confucianism? Why shouldn't I accept this as straightforward Social Darwinism?

Once more, "When someone hides something behind a bush and looks for it again in the same place and finds it there as well, there is not much to praise in such seeking and finding." Show me that this is not the case with your discovering Neo-Confucian values in the 7th Curriculum being successfully instilled because 90% of Koreans believe their culture is superior and 5 out of 6 believe it must be protected from foreign influence.

To my mind to prove your point you'd have to firm up the connection between the Neo-Confucian texts and then you'd have to show that the 7th curriculums professed goals, such as "respect for life, sincerity, honesty, independence, temperance" etc. are being taught and instilled in students.

B_Wagner said...

Finally, on your comment stating:

I think you have already answered your own question here: It is what they want to be. Whether they are doing an adequate job of it really isn’t the point. It is the goal that they have set for themselves and it is their aspiration to fit this ego ideal. In fact, I would say that the goal is not attainable, which is all the better to make people eternally strive for it.

Well, this is a slippery one, isn't it? Should we say, as you do, "It is what they want to be" so that's what they are? Or it is more a case of wanting to be perceived as something for a particular reason?

Certainly the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and (to toss in another nation) the Lao People's Democratic Republic talk a lot about "democratic" principles. Both of these countries profess to embody this principle, and you can find all kinds of writing on the subject. But does this mean that they have set themselves a lofty goal, which although may escape them for the time being is worth eternally striving for? Or (pardon the French) is this just a bunch of bullshit design to create a particular impression?

As you well know, merely saying something is the case doesn't make it true. And we don't need to look to NK or Laos to see that this is the case. Take a look at the US's recent "war on terror," which on closer examination looks more like a "war of terror". We used to have a War Dept. in the US, now we just have a Defense Dept. Does that mean we are no longer interested in war in the US? Certainly this is the impression that the US intends to convey with the change in nomenclature. But....

My intention here is not to stray from the topic but just to point out that Korea is not alone when in comes to disingenuousness.

Anyway, as you put it, "whether we come to agree here or not, I have enjoyed this discussion and thank you for it."

louve9 said...

Mr. Wagner,

In my experience the hardest arguments are with those who agree with your premises, but only part of your conclusions. In many respects, I think we are simply splitting hairs here. Yet, that is why the discussion is intriguing.

I will agree that much more needs to be said to conclusively establish Neo-Confucianism as the sole root cause of the ultra-nationalism, xenophobia, and anti-foreignism in South Korea. However, I would not try to establish such a subject as complex and nuanced as this to have a single cause.

I do agree that Social-Darwinism has a role to play here. Just as I would not call North Korea a simple Communist state, but rather a feudal Neo-Confucian state dressed up in the clothes of Communism; I would say that Social-Darwinism is dressed up in Neo-Confucian clothes in South Korea. In that sense, I can agree with the premise that we are discussing the same thing—and agreeing. However, I think where we differ is that I see a discussion of the clothes that the thing in question is dressed in is as important as the thing being discussed itself. The reason why is because I believe it gives us incite in how to undress it, thus disarming the veils it uses to hide behind. You, I think, see it as one would a child behind a mask. That the mask is easily cast away, and all that need be discussed is the thing itself.

To paraphrase Slote, the trouble with such analysis though is that it is disruptive to a society that, for all intents and purposes, is stable; but psychologically in turmoil. People in Korea are taught to suppress anger toward authority figures. This repression, in turn, manifests as displaced anger and vilification of those who are not perceived as being part of the “Korean Neo-Confucian family,” not that displacement and abuse do not occur within the “family” (47). Indeed, such abuse, repression, and displacement is easily recognizable by anyone who has spent time living and working in Korea. In my seven continuous years in Korea, I have yet to find a single person who did not recognize this.

Yes, we all know the thing we are discussing here exists. Discovery of it is not our motive. Instead, analysis and neutralization of habits that have been built up over millennia is what needs to occur. Not because Korean culture is bad, but because Korean culture is doing damage to people who are not part of that culture. And, yes, to some degree such damage occurs as the result of all societies existing. But that favorite straw man used by Koreans, that, “But other countries do it, too…” is tired and does not hold water. Our purpose should not be to simply identify, but to stop (or at the very least limit) the damage a culture does to those who are not part of it.

By establishing Neo-Confucian ideology as the foundation for the abuses that occur in Korea, whether they are individual or on a scale that affects a minority demographic, we establish how these abuses are justified. In Korea, these abuses are justified under the auspices of protecting one’s family, which is bolstered by thousands of years of ideology that make the abuses culturally and socially acceptable. Koreans do have laws that they are supposed to follow to prevent the infringement of peoples rights, but as you point out, it is nothing but decorative paper. The only way to expose what is underneath is to remove that covering. Again, as Slote explains, “Essentially we are dealing with subconscious processes, rarely available to conscious awareness and then only under unusual provocation” (46).

louve9 said...

By establishing Neo-Confucianism as the foundation for the negative attitudes directed at non-Koreans, I would not say it is the only cause. Rather, it is a rallying banner that is used to justify actions. It is that banner that Koreans drape themselves in to hide from the reality of bigotry that lays beneath the cloth. Simply put, I believe Koreans will continue to hide within the clothes of Neo-Confucianism until those clothes are striped away to expose, as you put it, the Social-Darwinism that lies beneath. However, Neo-Confucianism, by design, is structured to do just that: to hide the idea that one is capable of wrong action. Neo-Confucianism functions on a monistic (or, even better, a non-dualistic) metaphysical structure that does not allow the agent acknowledge when he or she has done something wrong. Which, in my opinion, is why so many people commit suicide in this country…their Neo-Confucian ego ideal cannot come to terms with some situation that comes into incommensurable conflict with the realities of the self. But, I digress. That is another conversation.

Although I would hardly call myself a scholar on the subject of Neo-Confucianism, I am reasonably versed since I have spent a number of years studying it; particularly the Korean contributions to its philosophy. I would be happy to discuss the history and philosophic structure of Neo-Confucianism with you, if you so desire. It is long and complex, so there is much I am sure I do not know. However, I fear we may have taken up too much of this forum as it stands. Another time and another place perhaps.