Monday, December 06, 2010

'Deviant and criminal acts by foreign teachers are now common.'

Back in July a 55 year old American foreign teacher at an elementary school was accused of molesting grade 6 boys, but was able to flee the country due to inaction and slow responses by the school and the police. Korea is apparently trying to have him extradited from the US.

There were several articles responding to this at the time I didn't get a chance to read. A few of them follow. Many thanks to Coola for help with the translations.

The story first came to light on July 7. That day, Yonhap reported on the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union's response to the case:
Daegu KTU: 'strengthen qualification standards for native speaker placement'

In regard to the native speaking English teacher suspected of molesting elementary school students, the KTU's Daegu branch urged on the 7th that, "The city education office should strengthen qualification standards when placing native speaking teachers, and should do its best to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents."

The KTU explained that "With the reckless strengthening of public English education and resultant explosive increase in native speaking teachers, there was concern over qualifications beforehand. Instead of just utilizing native speakers who come and go only for the moment to make money, creating more substantial training programs that would produce excellent Korean English teachers is more urgent."
To be certain, "native speakers who come and go only for the moment to make money" could stand to learn a great deal from KTU members, who, given such criticism, we can assume work purely on a volunteer basis. One also wonders how qualifications prevent sex crimes by teachers; this teacher was qualified, but that didn't seem to stop her. Nitpicking aside, this statement is several steps above the statement the Gyeonggi-do chapter of the KTU released after students were allegedly molested at English Villages in Ansan and Seongnam in May 2006 by non native speaking teachers. As translated at the Marmot's Hole, the KTU said that
"because the English camp sexual assaults are a structural problem brought on by unchecked native speakers, such incidents could potentially occur at any time.”
They also said this was due to "native speakers' relatively free attitudes about sex." Nice to see the Daegu chapter was more restrained.

The next day the Maeil Sinmun reported that "There is no native speaking teacher verification system," telling readers that
Native speaking English teacher deviance is serious. As molestation and drug crimes by foreign English teachers and instructors continue to occur, anxiety in places of education is growing. According to the ‘Current Crime Status of Foreign English Teachers’ report submitted by the National Police Agency last year, the number of foreign English teachers arrested between 2007 and August of 2009 reached 274, while the types of crimes committed were mostly violent crimes such as theft, drug crimes, violence and sexual assault.
It also provides this chart showing the growth in the number of foreign teachers in Gyeongsangbuk-do and Daegu schools since 2007:

One wonders how many articles there were about Korean teachers' deviance being 'serious' in the wake of this molestation case in Gwangju which came to light a day after the Daegu case. As for the crime statistics quoted above, they were never reported as being from National Police Agency, but came instead from Rep. Lee Gun-hyeon. If we ignore the ridiculous statement that drug crimes are 'violent crimes,' the statistics (analyzed here, and available here) show that in 2007, 27 of 114, in 2008, 46 of 99, and in 2009 (to August) 28 of 61 crimes were violent crimes. Those numbers are not insignificant, of course, but still do not represent 'most' of the crimes.

On July 9 YTN published this article:
Daegu office of education to strengthen native speaking teacher crime prevention education

In response to a YTN report about the native speaking teacher who habitually molested students at an elementary school, the Daegu office of education is calling for education to prevent a recurrence.

The Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education has implemented crime prevention education for about 30 people including mostly native speaking teachers hired by public and private schools who do their own recruitment.

Also, the native speaking teacher training course will involve an enhanced sex crime prevention program, and a policy where all elementary schools entrust their selection of native speaker teachers to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is being considered for the future.
The teacher accused of molestation in Daegu had not been hired by EPIK; the school had hired him independently. The above announcement by Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education was in response to this. I'm still curious what this sex crime prevention program (or this one) involves. Perhaps there are exhortations not to sleep with students over the age of 12, even though it's perfectly legal and at most you'll be fired.

On July 11, NoCut News reported that new visa regulations were on the way for native speaking teachers:
'Troublemaker' native speaking teachers being governed through visa
Ministry of Justice to strengthen visa requirements for conversation instruction (E-2) visa from the 15th.

Recently native speaking teachers have been committing various crimes such as molestation or drug use again and again, and amidst this the government has decided to strengthen visa requirements in order to filter out substandard 'troublemaker' native speaking teachers.

Crimes by native speaking teachers are now very common

On the 3rd there was an incident in which two grade six boys at an elementary school in Daegu were molested by 56 year old native speaking English teacher M when they went to clean a classroom.

The student victims reported the truth about the molestation directly to the health teacher, but the school did not report this to the police and in the interim M leisurely returned home to the US via Japan.

The police investigation found that from September 2008, M had a regular English class, and that last month as well, two other boys were habitually molested by being groped and having their clothes taken off.

Before that, in March, Lee (26), an American citizen and former Korean gang member with an interpol red notice wanted for murder, who openly worked as an English teacher in Korea, was caught by police.

In July 2006, in Los Angeles’ Korea Town, he stabbed a Korean-American to death in a cafe after an argument and secretly came to Korea and used a false resume to work, but no one realized the truth.

This is not the only incident in which substandard native speaking teachers have caused problems. In April, a native speaking instructor was arrested in Incheon for smuggling marijuana cookies, containing marijuana as an ingredient, through international mail. Now deviant and criminal acts by foreign teachers have become common.

Looking at 'types of crimes by foreign native speaking English teachers' compiled by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, from 2007 to August last year, police arrested 274 foreign English teachers. Also, by type, crimes such as assault (84 arrests) and drugs (57 arrests) account for the largest proportion of crimes, and violent crimes such as theft and sexual assault also comprise a large amount of these crimes.

Will strengthening visa requirements filter out 'troublemaker' teachers?

With the social problem of some native speaking teachers like these committing various crimes spreading, the government will strengthen visa requirements for the E-2 visa, which allows conversation instruction, from the 15th onward.

This measure is in response to criticisms against related regulations being eased in 2008 as demand for foreign English teachers increased, resulting in unqualified native speaking teachers entering the country unfiltered.

The Ministry of Justice first decided to include cannabinoid tests as one of the items required on health check reports, which would help determine whether or not one has inhaled marijuana, and to also unify hospitals capable of testing drug compositions.

A Ministry of Justice official said, "In 2008, the types of drugs that were tested for were streamlined into the TBPE test, which tested for the use of general drugs. However, this time around, testing for cannabis will be ramped up again, and the variety of drug tests will also be increased, appointing certain hospitals to manage the process."

In addition, criminal background check report requirements will also be strengthened, and instead of reports issued by local governments, only criminal background check reports from central government-level institutes such as the FBI will be accepted. This measure puts into consideration that most of the foreigners looking to receive E-2 visas for the purpose of working in Korea are Americans.

Also, the Ministry of Justice, along with the Korean Council for University Education, will take active measures to solve the problem of fake diplomas, by requiring native speaker teachers to submit an apostille together with their diploma-related documents.

At the end of June, there were about 23,600 foreigners in Korea on an E-2 visa. From elementary school assistant English teachers to private education TOEIC instructors, the importance of the position native speaking teachers have in our nation’s education has already reached levels that cannot be ignored.

Even though foreign instructors are brought to Korea out of necessity, some 'troublemaker' instructors are continuously being held under criticism due to various crimes they commit. Attention will be focused on whether such instructors will be filtered out due to the government’s strengthened visa requirements.
As mentioned above, Lee Gun-hyeon's statistics on foreign teacher crime were reported by the Maeil Shinmun as being from the National Police Agency, and in the above article are reported as being from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. I'm sure we'll soon hear that they actually come from a report compiled by a fortune teller working for the KCIA in 1967.

Mention is also made of the Korean American teacher wanted for a 2006 murder who "openly worked as an English teacher." I'm not sure how "openly" he was working, considering he legally changed his name, something he could do since he was a Korean citizen (and as such did not seem to require a criminal record check). But I'll look more closely at him another day.

As for the new measures being "in response to criticisms against related regulations being eased in 2008," the only regulation that was eased was the marijuana check (and one of the few people or groups who has criticized this has been AES), which is now being made mandatory for symbolic reasons, in order to make it look as if something is being done, according to KIS official Yoo Byung-kil:
"Those who habitually use marijuana could stop the drug for a while in order to have negative results on the cannabinoids test. But it would be better than not doing the test."
The NoCut News article also notes that "some 'troublemaker' instructors are continuously being held under criticism due to various crimes they commit." NoCut News would know something about this, of course.

The article ends with the statement that "Attention will be focused on whether such instructors will be filtered out due to the government’s strengthened visa requirements." We can most certainly count on attention being focused on 'such instructors,' but it seems certain that these new measures will not entirely 'filter out' impure foreign teachers. This is not because no system is perfect, as law-breaking mistakes made by Korean teachers would reveal. It is because, with the "serious social problem" caused by their drug use (teachers treat Korea like "a perverted paradise" where "the majority of them find it easy to seduce Korean women and do drugs with them," according to Seoul Police*) and the potential for "foreign teachers in particular" to molest children, it should be clear that foreign teachers are inherently deviant - or that's what I understand from reading media reports and statements from the police, government ministries, and national assembly representatives.

* In (another) NoCut News article.


Unknown said...

something tells me the rhetoric about VISA regs will only become more strident now that ROK govt is actually streamlining, and in many ways, simplifying the process in a way that might be seen by many citizens as too lenient.

in other words, the the union is kissing up to conservative parents.

it's kind of ridiculous how the different angencies manipulate the media to create a consensus sentiment about what needs to be done rather than actually working with the govt.

Unknown said...

this paragraph:전교조는 "무분별한 영어공교육 강화로 원어민 교사가 폭발적으로 늘면서 자질 우려는 진작부터 있었다. 돈벌이를 위해 잠시 오가는 원어민을 활용하는 것보다 우수한 내국인 영어교사 양성 프로그램을 내실화하는 것이 더욱 시급하다."라고 지적했다.

I think it's wise for the union to insist that Korean English teachers need better training. Actually, I think bringing more NSTEs into Korea is, in fact, imprudent and reckless.

What's funny about (the apparently poorly) edited statement is that the union assigns the responsibility of government behavior to the NSETs: we're supposedly reckless. And why? Because we're "taking advantage" of shitty government policy. Well, they're right. The government encourages tourists to come to Korea to teach for money. There's no point in saying this isn't true. It's true. There are thousands of teachers here who don't give a shit about their jobs and their students.

Fact is, the government *can* change this by making it more difficult to teach in public schools: could easily change the environment making it necessary to have taught for more than five years and have proof of practicum experience on educational transcripts. Something like that would weed out the inexperienced without having to refer to them as reckless tourists.

It's funny that bad policy becomes a signifier of foreign perversion. So much rhetorical work. It's something I don't understand about cultural politics here: take a systemic problem and describe its undesirable traits, represent with as evil terms as possible, then assign those traits to a social group, then attack that group.

One method to addressing this issue is that dedicated foreign teachers should request several things of the government and the request should be public via the media: future NSETs should be qualified, experienced teachers; the government should bring fewer teachers into Korea; the teachers should be required to teach less and train more; Korean and NSET English teachers should train together.

What the KTU and government have done well is to pit the employees (Korean and NSET teachers) against each other and the employees against the parents effectively shielding the bureaucrats from much useful criticism.

I mean, as long as we're all talking about whether money hungry pervert foreigners are trying to sneak into Korea as teachers and are corrupting Korean English teachers or not, we're never going to do anything for the students, the teachers, the parents.

I don't know about you, but I'm here to teach students. I could give a shit about this sensationalist spectacle that KTU, government, parents participate in. It's not going to disappear because we prove it's not true. However, we can insist that we're dedicated and desirous of better workplaces and educational development. We can promote the idea that the government isn't interested in improving the educational environment when it actively understaffs SMOE in Seoul and other educational depts across the peninsula, underfunds training, relies on ridiculous contractual requirements to illustrate work completed, and relies on a seriously outdated concept of coteaching to promote successful curriculum development and integration in classrooms...

AND ETC...^^

brent said...

It's funny, at my school there are a ton of Korean teachers who don't give a shit about their jobs and the students.

It's funny, when I was a student in high school, there were a ton of teachers who didn't give a shit about their jobs and the students.

I just don't get the point, Gary.

King Baeksu said...

What, more unqualified, unprofessional Korean journalists whingeing about unqualified, unprofessional foreigners? Highly lollable!

Korea: The Land of We're Just Not That Serious!

CeilingofStars said...

I so share your frustration, Matt. I've never been on the other side of discrimination before (other than being a woman, of course, but it's hard to compare to the alternative since I've never NOT been one), and it's just constantly unbearable and frustrating. You wonder what these people would say to your face.

Well, if they could actually speak/understand English of course, which would require at least enough contact with a native speaker to recognize that we're not actually baby-eating monsters.