Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Seoul Wind"

The French foreign language teacher scandal of 1984

Prelude 1: The 1983 Law "Limiting Aliens' Residence Period" and banning "unqualified" foreigners from working.

Part 1: Le Monde and what came before
Part 2: Korea is "Ali Baba's" Cave
Part 3: Seoul Should not be a Workplace for Parisians
Part 4: In private foreign language classes, there are a lot of ‘fraud teachers’
Part 5: Jibberish
Part 6: 'I Want to Strike it Rich in Seoul Too' - Continuous Job Inquiries by the French
Part 7: Foreigners Enjoy Better Life With Mother Tongues
Part 8: Foreigners and Foreign Languages
Part 9: Sickening Face

Part 10: Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Part 11: The First Sanctions on Foreigners Working Illegally
Part 12: All Private Lessons by Foreigners Prohibited
Part 13: Institutes Asked to Hire Eligible Foreign Teachers
Part 14: "Seoul Wind"
Part 15: Foreign Language Teacher Shortage
Part 16: Troublemaking vagabond foreigner story finally airs

Part 14: "Seoul Wind"

수사반장 (Susa Banjang, or 'Chief Investigator') was, as this site at MBC explains, Korea's Columbo, a detective show focusing on 5 detectives that ran from 1971 to 1989. Here's the opening:

Another video can be seen here. If you have an MBC membership (ie if you are a Korean citizen) you can watch the 33 episodes that MBC still has in its possession at the website, which also hosts photos like this:

On September 27, 1984, in its TV section, the Joongang Ilbo listed the description of that night's episode of Susa Banjang:

Foreign Vagabond Attacked

MBC-TV “Chief Investigator 84” (8:05 p.m. on the 27th) = "Seoul Wind." Korea is a heaven for foreign vagabonds. French youth "Pierre" is injured after an attack in a dark alley. Two months earlier, he entered Korea as a penniless wanderer and used fake documents to con his way into teaching French conversation at a private school.

The investigation squad discovers the truth about the quarrel between Pierre and In-gyu, the boyfriend of university student Sun-young, who gave Pierre a ring.

On the same day, the Kyunghyang Shinmun added this:
Based on a report the investigators received, they begin an investigation to discover the truth behind an argument Pierre had with a young woman who was introducing students to him in return for sharing his earnings. Also, the investigators notice a woman’s ring on Pierre’s hand…

Here, with the story of 'Pierre' (the name taken from the teacher in the Le Monde article who married a Korean maiden) entering Korea as a "penniless wanderer" (a reference to Luc in the Le Monde article), we have at last a crystallization of the Korean media's attitude towards the spectre of unqualified foreign teachers who are treated too well, make too much money and marry Korean maidens. What is one to make of the fact that the teacher in this story is beaten in an alley?

That same day, another Kyunghyang Shinmun article appeared titled:

Two foreigners appear in "Chief Investigator"

Two foreigners without acting experience will appear on MBCTV’s ‘”Chief Investigator” episode “Seoul Wind”. The performances of German Cultural Center teacher Bernhardt Kubant (?) [Bernhard Quandt; thanks Liancourt] and US Air Force pilot MacMillan will be seen in the drama.

Director Kim Seung-su commented that, "I’ve tried to bring to light the problem that has arisen regarding Koreans’ blind, reckless kindness" and said that the two foreigners’ performances were as good as those of established actors.
Interesting that in trying to bring attention to "Koreans’ blind, reckless kindness" towards foreigners, the producers used two 'unqualified' foreign actors. This story has an unexpected ending, however, as a Joongang Ilbo article in its TV section the next day, September 28, revealed:

MBC’s “Chief Investigator” suddenly canceled without notice

On the 27th, the MBC-TV broadcast of the “Chief Investigator” episode "Seoul Wind," was suddenly cancelled without prior notice.

"Seoul Wind" was about the social problem that has recently come to light of the illegal employment of unqualified foreigners on temporary stays, and featured French youth ‘Pierre’, who is attacked in a dark alley at night after entering Korea on a tourist visa, conning his way into working as a French language teacher in a private school, and becoming part of a love triangle between a female university student who blindly follows him, and her boyfriend.

During production, continual protests by and pressure from a French association and the French Cultural Center were received, and suddenly on the morning of the 27th, the day the program was to be televised, the production director said it was to be replaced with the episode “Love Ward” for the reason that “It will be released after a preview”.

However, it is not common practice for "Chief Investigator" to go through a preview each week and sudden cancellation without warning is a “measure that doesn’t make sense,” according to talk within the broadcasting industry.
It's fascinating that French pressure managed to get the show canceled. As far as is known, it was never broadcast. I would have loved to have seen the show, but Benjamin Wagner checked with MBC and there are no copies of the episode or scripts left. In fact, the only episodes said to be left from the series 18 year run are the 33 up on MBC's website.

Note also the description of the program as being "about the social problem that has recently come to light of the illegal employment of unqualified foreigners on temporary stays." It doesn't sound like this at all, does it? Note also the fact that the female university student "blindly" follows him, much as the director wanted to highlight Koreans' "blind, reckless kindness" towards foreigners. Obviously, we need less blind following of and kindness toward such foreigners, and more beatings in dark alleys.

In case one is wondering if perhaps organizations representing certain nationalities had more influence back then, it might be worth noting that another episode of Susa Banjang, from almost ten months earlier, seems to have aired without a problem.

On December 8, 1983, the Donga Ilbo, Kyunghyang Shinmun, and Maeil Gyeongje all had descriptions of that night's episode of Chief Investigator.

Chief Investigator (MBC, 7:55 pm) "American Dream"

"Richard, a young American in his twenties, ends up staying in Korea working as a teacher at an English hagwon after entering the country on a tourist visa. Hwa-suk, who dreams of marrying a foreigner, learns English conversation from Richard and late one night on his way to her house he is murdered in an alley. Trying to pinpoint a suspect, the investigation team learns the fact that at the time of the murder Hwa-suk's ex-boyfriend Seok-gi was waiting for her at a nearby tea house."
The Kyunghyang Shinmun's article, shown above, also had the title "In love with a young American," and noted that it was Richard specifically who Hwa-suk wanted to marry. Note that this episode was broadcast less than a month after the bill was passed 'banning' foreigners from working in hagwons (as translated in the second half of this post), much as the later (unaired) episode was to come out a week after the new laws banning foreigners from teaching private lessons were announced (and a month after the scandal first blew up).

One wonders if other episodes of Susa Banjang dealt with foreigners, and if such episodes featured the 'bad' foreigners being beaten or murdered in dark alleys like the foreign teachers in these two episodes. I don't think it's too difficult to understand why foreign teachers were featured (and not, say, US military personnel), as they are - then and now - easy (media) targets.


Liancourt said...

The actor is Bernhard Quandt.

matt said...

Wow - Lee Cham? Head of the KTO? Thanks for pointing that out! I wonder if he remembers this episode...