Thursday, September 02, 2010

The February 2010 Donga Ilbo interview with Lee Eun-ung

In early February the Donga Ilbo published two articles (by the same reporter, Kim Hyeon-jin) about Anti-English Spectrum. A short piece, titled "'Stalkers' vs 'Protection of Korean Students,'" was translated by Korea Beat at the time. The longer interview with Lee Eun-ung, which was never translated, is below (many thanks to Coola for help with the translation). I'll follow this with a deconstruction of the claims made in the interview tomorrow.
Is the “Movement to Expel Bad English Teachers” stalking?

Stalking? Racial discrimination? The manager of the group to “Expel Bad Native Speaking Teachers,” Lee Eun-ung.

The 'LA Times' January 31 interview with the manager of “Citizens for Upright English Education,” Lee Eun-ung. Last February the newspaper published an article about this group in which foreign teachers living in Korea argued that (certain) Koreans who strongly believe that they are of a single bloodline (danil minjok) were conducting a campaign to spread xenophobia. Capture from site.

On January 31, the American daily LA Times published an interview with Lee Eun-ung (40). He is the manager of Naver Cafe “Citizens for Upright English Education (The Citizen’s Movement to Expel Illegal Teachers of Foreign Languages)”.

The newspaper published details about the activities of the group, which “expels illegal foreign English teachers who habitually take drugs and commit molestation,” side by side with claims by ATEK’s spokesperson that the group “follows foreigners in a stalking manner and utters racially discriminatory threats.”

After this article appeared on the LA Times website, numerous comments quickly appeared. Comments ranged from criticisms such as “Korea has always been a place where racial discrimination is severe” to rebuttals such as “To be honest, many of my friends also had nothing special to do after graduating from university and so they went to Korea to teach English. Isn’t the real major purpose to just earn money and party?”

On February 2, I met Lee and he said, “Compared to articles in the U.S. and Canadian media from last year, this LA Times article reflects much of our position. However, it’s still lacking.” At the interview, another member, A (37 years old, manager at a large company), was also present.

Currently the group has a total of 17,000 members, but in fact the number of members who take part in its activities is between 300 and 400. Lee is the group’s third manager.

Last February, an LA Times article gave weight to foreign teachers’ view that (certain) Koreans who strongly believe that they are of a single bloodline (danil minjok) were conducting a campaign to spread xenophobia. In that article, one native speaking teacher was quoted, “Some time ago in the U.S., a Korean exchange student was arrested for a sex crime against a minor. When problems like this occur, Americans do not lash out at all Koreans. This is only a personal issue.”

At the end of last year, the citizen’s movement was criticized in some newspapers and on the radio in Canada and the U.S. One newspaper offered the interpretation that "In Korea, the preference of sons over daughters has led to a shortage of women, and such changes in the population have created an atmosphere where there is an extreme dislike of foreign men dating Korean women, and especially of attractive Korean women dating foreigners. This has fanned the phenomenon of hatred against foreign teachers.”

Why are foreign media “attacking the citizen’s group”? An interview with Lee follows.

Donga Ilbo: It seems that foreign teacher groups and the foreign media have ruled that your “citizen’s group” is a xenophobic group. Why are you receiving such attacks?

Lee: The opportunity to form this group came in January 2005 due to a posting on a native-speaking teacher employment information website. During this incident, postings like “Picking up Korean women is easy… I had sex with a middle school girl” enraged Koreans. However, among the people who first joined our group, some concentrated only on attacking and degrading women who date foreigners. Because of this, a needless conflict structured as 'Korean men vs. Korean Women' was created. After this, through efforts at self-purification, it was settled on that our group would have the educational purpose of protecting our children from unqualified native-speaking teachers. However, foreign teacher organizations and foreign media still focus (only) on the issue of foreign men dating Korean women, which stood out at that time. They say, “Why is it wrong for Korean women to date foreign men?”

Donga Ilbo: They also claim that the compulsory criminal record checks and medical certificates instituted as native speaker conversation instruction (E2) visa requirements in late 2007 discriminate against foreigners.

Lee: “We checked with related institutes and found out that Korean teachers are also required to submit criminal background checks and receive physical examinations when taking employment exams. Our (Korean) physical examination includes tests for sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis, and teachers are even fingerprinted. Also in the case of hagwon teachers, it’s necessary to verify that there are no sex crimes against children in their past. I don’t know why they say it’s discriminatory."

A December 8, 2009 Vancouver Sun article titled “Native speaking teachers are the target of a slander campaign.” Capture from site.

Donga Ilbo: ATEK says the members of the citizen’s group engage in stalking by roaming around foreign teachers’ homes and workplaces. They claim this is a violation of their human rights by those who do not have the authority.

Lee: The vast majority of our members are salary men and housewives in their 30s and 40s. Among the managing members, many especially work for major companies. How could they engage in stalking every day? When a tip about an illegal teacher comes in through the cafe, to verify if it is true, the managing members only inquire with the hagwon to see if the ESL teacher works there. Then we relay the tip to law enforcement. In fact, it is likely that whoever teachers claim is following them are actually members of law enforcement.

Donga Ilbo: According to the LA Times, late last year ATEK received a threatening email from a group called “KEK (Kill White in Korea)” saying “We will punish foreigners one by one. Do not make a fuss, get out of Korea.” ATEK suspects the citizen’s group is linked to this.

Lee: "In December of last year, ATEK representatives even accused and sued me for spreading false rumors that 'an (ATEK representative) contracted HIV by having sex with a minor.' They claimed it was defamation.) Someone cleverly edited a site capture of a piece of writing regarding foreign teachers that I posted on our café and disseminated it. Everything about the threatening e-mail and this case is a fabrication by someone to denigrate our group. When the police investigation ends in 2 to 3 months, the entire truth will be revealed."

Donga Ilbo: ATEK spoke of unjust treatment: “Because of a few problem teachers, foreign teachers as a whole are misunderstood to be all criminals.” The crime rate for teachers with E-2 visas is less than 0.5%, which is much less than the overall South Korean crime rate.

Lee: "We also feel sorry for that. We even persuaded and sent back one reporter who wanted to do a story on our group with just the goal of degrading foreign teachers. We agree with their claim that those teachers who act properly should be respected. However, the crime rate of 0.5% is in fact a statistical trap. In truth, the majority of problems are caused by teachers who have not legally obtained E2 visas. Statistics do not catch these."

At this time Mr. A, who was watching the interview, added:
"In a city in Gyeongsangbukdo there was a case where a teacher stabbed a child with a pin claiming the young student was being noisy. The teacher, who was fired because of this incident, said this was unjust and brought a suit against the hagwon. As it turned out, this person had been stripped of his teaching qualification in Canada because of a similar problem.

Canada's ‘National Post’ article of December 7 of last year, with the title 'Korean group accuses Canadian (English) teachers of harassing women, drug use.’

Donga Ilbo: The citizen group started more than five years ago. Do you still see the bad native speaking teacher problem as being serious?

Lee: Presently in the Seoul metropolitan area, there are almost no problems at major English hagwons. Adult and youth hagwons are also alright. At so-called 'English Kindergartens' managed by large hagwons, there are also almost no particular cases. The problem is cases of illegal employment at so-called “Education facilities that mimic English-teaching establishments” such as day cares, general kindergartens and English play rooms. Especially these days, a lot of these problems are being found in the provinces, places which get less attention from crackdowns."

Until now the citizen’s group has succeeded in turning out around 100 unqualified English teachers from places of education, due to their tips to law enforcement agencies. But throughout the interview he had a cautious attitude. "I’m most concerned that a movement started for educational purposes has been distorted and is deteriorating into a collision between Koreans and foreigners," he said.

"Among our members are foreign teachers who have joined who want to cooperate as a foreign teachers' “purification movement.” Also our group has plans to more actively spread a positive “movement to properly view foreign teachers” by doing things like making an “introducing good foreign teachers” corner at our site.”

How long will the conflict between the citizen’s group and ATEK continue? Lee said, “It would be good to at least get into the open and clear up misperceptions about our group.”
 An analysis of the claims made in this article can be read here.


Unknown said...

You know... If he would just start treating Koreans the same way he treats foreigners (going after "unqualified" Korean teachers), then I wouldn't really have any problems with what he is doing.

brent said...

1. he lied about just passing the tip along- he has said he has worn disguises and followed people

2. the law is discriminatory because Koreans keep their criminal record for only 5 years!

Unknown said...

Thanks for keeping people up to date, getting all this translated, providing insight and context. It's like a public service that I have come to take for granted. It's much appreciated.

Unknown said...

Mr. Lee is dressing up these days. It's like putting lipstick on a pig.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

After reading that smorgasbord of lies and half-truths, it seems Mr.Lee is heading for a career in politics.

With all the things he's said in his own website and even in other interviews (that contradicts everything he said in this one), he looks to be toning everything down and obfuscating the actions of his group to the point of making them seem harmless, yet still on the forefront of "protecting the children".

I'm waiting on your fisking, GPF, and expect that you will completely destroy everything he said, as you usually do.

I'm still waiting for the day when a foreign reporter, armed with ammo from Lee's own lips, will interview him and show him for the ass he is.

I'm no Picasso said...

No one sees this as a positive? Lee is not going to change his views -- that much is obvious. But the fact that he is now being called out in the Korean media (however indirectly) for being an embarrassment for Korea in the foreign media means that he has been forced to tone down his claims and speak more diplomatically. He's realized his blatantly racist and xenophobic methods and expressions of his viewpoints are not going to be acceptable within Korean society, that he's going to have to tweak things if he doesn't want to be destroyed completely.

He's kowtowing. He doesn't get to say and do whatever he wants anymore, without backlash. He's already lost.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

"tweak things"? You mean re-write history. It's disingenuous and misleading.

He wasn't anywhere close to being "destroyed completely". The media and the congressmen kissed his ass and ate his shit up, and all at face value without questioning a single thing.

Not only did he originally make us look bad with his demonizing of the foreign teaching community in general and foreign male teachers specifically, but now that he's softened his sound bites with outright lies and obfuscation, he's making it seem like WE are the ones out to get HIM (with our "lies and exaggerations" about him).

He is now the sad misunderstood and oft-maligned victim ("they even tried to arrest me and get our cafe shut down! shame on the foreign teachers who misunderstand us!")... and we are the bad guys. Again.

I'm no Picasso said...

I don't know what expectations people have sometimes. Is it perfect? No. Not even close. But you don't eradicate people like Lee -- you control them. And Lee having to make disingenuous claims and cover up his agenda and actions is a huge step from when he was able to be completely open about what he wanted, why he wanted it and what he was doing to get it, as GOPF showed he has in the past in the second posting.

This isn't going to happen overnight. Becoming a well-integrated society is a process -- a huge one, and this is a big step in the process.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

I'd rather he was completely open about his actions and motives. At least you can counter the things that are done out in the open.

Once they get hidden, bad things happen. It also becomes much more difficult to fight against.