There have actually been several articles about this in the past week or so. According to a November 23 Yonhap article, next year Gyeonggi Office of Education will reduce the number of native speaking teachers for the first time. Out of 2,183 elementary, middle and high schools, 2032 have 2,256 native speaking teachers working for them, and next year 200 (or 8.8%) will be cut. This has led to worries of rising private education costs. The Gyeonggi-do office of education has pointed out that they already have equivalent of 1 teacher per 1 school, the related budget will be increased 500 million won to 4.5 billion won next year, and specialist Korean English conversation instructors will be hired.
A November 25 Donga Ilbo article elaborates further on the latter instructors, saying that Gyeonggi-do began selecting Korean English conversation specialist instructors in June 2009, and there are currently around 650 working in schools, with plans to raise the number to 1000 next year.
It also notes that as the plan to reduce native teachers has become known to students' parents, there has been resistance due to fears of private education costs rising. According to parent Jeong Suk-hee, (39, Bundang): "Among parents there has been talk that Korean English conversation specialist instructors lag behind native speaking instructors," and, "If there isn’t much difference in the supporting budgets, we want native speaking teachers to be placed [in schools]."
On the 28th, Newsis, and on the 29th, Suwon.com reported further on this. Here's a translation of the latter article:
Only 2% of Gyeonggi-do native speaking teachers are at Level SOne wonders if the 'comprehensive assessment' the teachers receives actually involves evaluating their actual teaching, or if it only takes into account what is known about the teachers on paper.
It has come to light that among Gyeonggi-do native speaking teachers, only 2% were given the highest rating, ‘S Level,’ given to high quality teachers, when evaluated by the National Institute for International Education (NIIED - part of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology).
As these excellent teachers are concentrated in big cities like Gunpo, Uiwang, Suwon and Bucheon, analysis points to a serious imbalance in the region.
According to comments made by representative Rep. Jo Myeong-ho, member of the Gyeonggui provincial council’s education committee, on the 28th, of 2203 native speaking teachers working in Gyeonggi-do, 1274 are from the US, 332 from Canada, 253 from South Africa, 169 from England, 78 from New Zealand, 56 from Australia , 25 from Ireland, and 16 are from Korea.
By Rating, 46 teachers were at Level S, 89 at Level 1+, 320 at Level 1, 452 at Level 2+, 791 at Level 2, and 487 at Level 3, and 18 others.
Only 455 (21%) were rated at level 1 or higher, and in particular only 2% were at the S Level.
Most Level S teachers work in metropolitan areas such as Uiwang / Gunpo (7), Suwon (5), Bucheon (4), Hwaseong / Osan (4); there are none in rural areas like Yangpyeong, Icheon, Gimpo, Gapyeong or Yeoju.
Yeoju and Yangpyeong do not even have any teachers rated at or above level 1.
Native speaking teachers invited through NIIED's EPIK program receive their rating after a comprehensive assessment which takes into account their education and experience, and whether they have teaching qualifications such as TESOL.
Rep. Jo stated that, "If someone possesses a 4 year degree from a university in countries like the US, Britain or Canada, they can work as a native speaking teacher whether or not they have a related major or teaching certificate," and, "Expenses for a single teacher cost more than 40 or 45 million won per year, but there is no data to objectively evaluate their educational effectiveness."
"The time has come to verify their educational ability and qualifications," and, "it's time to improve English education which has given unconditional preference to foreigners with inadequate qualifications and ability," he added.
This isn't just limited to Gyeonggi-do, however. On November 26, the Busan Ilbo published the following article:
Controversy over unqualified native speaking English teachersNot "native speaking teachers should be required by the ministry of education (or immigration) to have a TESOL certificate," but, "the entire current enterprise of placing native speaking teachers [in schools] should be re-examined."
It has been exposed that four out of ten native speaking assistant teachers in the Yangsan area do not have teaching certification or English (teaching) certificates.
According to Yangsan city on the 26th, a total of 58 native speaking teachers have been sent to teach English at 53 elementary, middle and high schools in the area. Out of 58 native speaking teachers, Yangsan city covers the costs for 52 (1,880,000,000 won), while the provincial education office spends 170,000,000 won on four teachers, and two are paid directly by their schools themselves.
However, among these native speaking teachers only six (10.3%) have teaching certificates from their home countries, 27 people (46.6%) have TESOL, TEFL, or CELTA English teaching certificates, while the remaining 25 teachers (43.1%) only graduated from university.
Yangsan city council representative Shim Gyeong-suk insisted that, "In order to ensure educational value and quality and the satisfaction of school teachers and students, the entire current enterprise of placing native speaking teachers [in schools] should be re-examined."
If we take into account the incorrect reports from the end of September saying that, due to their irresponsible attitude, 66% of native speaking teachers broke their contracts this year, leading to a "serious regional imbalance in English education," I don't think it's too difficult to see a pattern.