Friday, December 31, 2010

From a cabinet meeting into your arm

Lee Myung-bak and his cabinet delivered a gift to Anti English Spectrum just in time for New Years. As AES manager M2 writes here (first result),
We've all worked hard.
The efforts of native speaking teachers who really hate Korea to abolish the E-2 visa AIDS test finally came to nothing at a cabinet meeting on the 28th. A cabinet meeting presided over by the president passed an amendment to the enforcement ordinance abolishing the AIDS test for foreigners on E series visas. The E-2 visa was omitted from [this]. Native speaking teachers on E-2 visas will continue to receive AIDS tests for some time.

Meanwhile, low quality teachers have denounced our group as racist in order to try to abolish the AIDS test. They distort things saying that we are a racist group, that after we influenced public opinion the policy of AIDS tests for [their] ethnic group was made, and so mislead [people into thinking] its a bad policy in order to try to abolish it. Once again their efforts ended in failure.
Heartwarming stuff. Remember, if you think AES is racist or criticize them in any way, you are a low quality (저질) teacher. How having a negative opinion of them reflects on one's character or has anything to do with the quality of one's teaching is beyond me. They included this photo in their post, ostensibly of the cabinet meeting (it's obviously fairly recent, as new defense minister Kim Kwan-Jin can be seen on the left).


The post also includes this:


It reads in part "AIDS prevention law enforcement ordinance amendment. Submitted by cabinet member Jin Su-hui (Health and Welfare Deputy Secretary)"

It's obviously not the complete amendment, however, as it only says that people entering Korea and planning to stay longer than 91 days (including people extending for longer than 91 days) and intending to earn income as entertainers or athletes... "(Deletion) E-2 visa subject current [system will be] maintained" [...] The first sentence doesn't finish and it doesn't say anything about the testing being abolished (or about migrant workers) so it's clearly not the complete amendment.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare have made interesting comments about AIDS before, at least according to a post at AES from 2006 which talked about foreigners deliberately trying to infect Koreans with AIDS:
An official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention said, “There is little probability that someone will be infected by AIDS as long as that person does not have sex with a foreigner. However, if the rumors are true, then Koreans who have had sexual contact with a foreigner will almost all contract AIDS.”
In the same post as the quote above, M2 posted text and a photo from this article, which quotes Kim Ji-young of the Daegu AIDS Prevention Center talking about a HIV+ foreign teacher she met. The photo (of her and two others) has since been removed from the site, and the reason for this can be found in unpublished interviews for this article by Adam Walsh (thanks to Adam for sharing them with me and allowing me to publish them). In the interview, Kim Ji-young was asked about AES:
I think they are highly nationalistic and they treat foreigners as our enemies. I contacted them in 2006 to delete all the discriminating things they wrote about foreigners (especially those from the third world countries). However, they said “this is just a measure to prevent HIV/AIDS.”
For a group so concerned with preventing HIV/AIDS, they've been very quiet when HIV+ Koreans actually have knowingly had unprotected sex with people. Needless to say, considering the fact that the group formed due to the "unendurable humiliation" they felt after seeing photos of western men dancing and cavorting with Korean women (how they punished those women is discussed here), and considering the fake quote above saying "Koreans who have had sexual contact with a foreigner will almost all contract AIDS" (so much for only 'low quality' foreign teachers distorting and misleading), and the fact that AES now has at least eight posts about Quincy Black (with several more mentioning him) at their site, it shouldn't be too hard to see what their real reasons are for wanting to maintain HIV testing for teachers - stigmatization. Especially now that foreign teachers on E-2 visas are apparently the only foreigners being tested, they hope the connection between "foreign teacher" and "AIDS" will be strengthened (it's apparently strong enough, what with 80% or so people voting in an online poll by the prime minister's office to maintain HIV testing for foreign teachers back in July), in the hope that it will scare Korean women away from them.

So, for the foreseeable future, foreign teachers are going to be enjoying more of this:


Happy new year!

NHRCK ruling on native speaking teachers

Not the ruling you might be expecting, however. The National Human Rights Commission announced yesterday (in one of 8 articles on the topic) that it had judged that not acknowledging someone's qualification as a native speaker because they were born in Korea is discrimination, and warned an English Village about this practice. I noticed this yesterday but imagined one of the English dailies would translate it, and both Arirang and the Korea Times obliged. Here's how the KT reported it:
A 30-year-old Korean-American filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) last May, claiming Busan Global Village, an English-immersion facility in Busan, paid him less than other native English speakers due to his birthplace, South Korea.

The petitioner was adopted by a family in the U.S. when he was 18 months old. He grew up there as a U.S. citizen, using English as his primary language.

He was hired by the institute last year and coerced to sign a contract that treated him like an English-speaking Korean, whose annual pay was roughly 7-10 million won ($6,100-8,700) less than those of native English speakers who were not ethnically Korean. He worked there between July 2009 and April this year.

The NHRC investigated the case and concluded the petitioner should not be differentiated from native speakers when teaching English.

“Considering that he lived nearly his entire his life in the U.S. and speaks English as his primary language, the petitioner should be treated the same as other native speakers in payment,” the NHRC said in a statement.
It's nice to see the NHRCK speaking out about such discrimination. At the same time, it's hard not to notice that this person filed a complaint with the NHRCK in May - fifteen months after Ben Wagner and ATEK filed complaints with NHRCK over HIV and drug testing for E-2 visa holders - and has already gotten a response. One difference is that the rights commission isn't too worried about taking on an English village, but seems far more reticent to challenge the Ministry of Justice.

Death of an foreign English teacher

[Update]
 A commenter below says that "There was no gambling problem, nor debt of any kind. The Korean media hassled his friends, family and workmates for 'stories', and when they got none, made up their own." There was a similar post at Dave's ESL Cafe... but I can't find the link.

[Original Post]

On December 24, Yonhap (and 12 other news outlets) reported that on the evening of December 19 a 34 year-old Australian English teacher who worked part time at a university in downtown Seoul was found hanged in his office by his Canadian fiancee.

He’d apparently recently gone to a Casino in Seoul and racked up 8 million won in debt, and after a fight the night before with his fiancee, who he planned to marry in February, he killed himself.

This is the third death of a foreign teacher this year that I'm aware of, after a Korean Canadian teacher hanged himself in Busan in late March, and a teacher died of an apparent brain hemorrhage in Pohang in May.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Incheon Airport Line opens

As the Joongang Ilbo reported, the Seoul Station - Gimpo Airport section of the Incheon Airport Railway opened yesterday:
The Incheon International Airport Railroad (AREX) linking Seoul Station to Incheon International Airport will whisk travelers to their flights in 43 minutes, roughly 15 minutes shorter than via airport limousine. The fare is 13,300 won ($11.59) and makes no stops. The express train runs every 30 minutes, and operating hours are from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A local train with 10 stops runs the same Incheon route in 53 minutes and only costs 3,700 won. The stops include Hongik University, Digital Media City, Gimpo Airport, Gyeyang, Geomam, Unseo and Incheon International Airport Cargo Terminal. (Gongdeok Station will open at the end of next year.) The hours of the commuter line are 5:20 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Travelers departing for Gimpo Airport can use the local line from Seoul Station. The trip takes 19 minutes and costs 1,200 won.
As I posted back in November, according to a Hankyoreh article I read, the transfers at Hongdae Station and Gongdeok wouldn't open until later. Obviously, I was confused when I saw this sign at Gimpo Airport Station.


The Hongdae transfer was listed, and though I didn't get a chance to try it out yesterday, a friend of mine (who I sorely disappointed when I mentioned the Hongdae transfer wouldn't be open for some time) messaged me to tell me it was indeed open, and that the trip from Banghwa Station to Hongdae took 20 minutes. When I tell people I live near Gimpo Airport, I often hear about how 'far' away it is. It started getting closer with Line 9, and it's even closer now with this new line open. It'll be nice to finally take a ride on it, seeing as I've been photographing its construction for the last four years.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Update on the English teaching robots

Today the Joongang Ilbo reported on Daegu's English teaching robots, saying that "the bots strutted their stuff at a demonstration at Hakjung Elementary School yesterday, with about 150 government officials coming to get a look at the technology employed." According to the school's site, winter vacation has begun, so one would imagine those kids were there for the winter camp. The teacher chosen to lead the class must have been thrilled to receive the news.
The 1-meter (3.28 feet) egg-shaped robot, named “Engkey” (an abbreviation of English key), spoke, asked questions and conversed in English with students, and even entertained the crowd by dancing to music.
(From here - it seems there was more than one.)

Of course it danced. If there's no dancing, it's not English education.
Within each of them, in a sense, is a real human teacher controlling the machine by remote from the Philippines. The teachers in the Philippines have cameras to record their faces - which show up on a flat panel screen that forms the robo-teacher’s face - and they can also see the Korean students through a camera installed in the robot. Basically, the robot is a rolling Internet link between students and teacher, although the human teacher can also command the robot to make human gestures with its arms and wheels.
Rolling forwards, backwards and from side to side is what separates humans from other animals, that's for sure.

Were's then told that “The robots will teach students in after-school programs, not in regular classes,” Kim Mi-yong, an official at the education office, said. “The robot can handle only a small number of students per class, about eight students.” How useful! No wonder they are being considered helpful for children living in rural areas where "foreigners [or anyone else, for that matter] are reluctant to live." Those kinds of schools would be the only ones with class sizes small enough for the robots to be effective. We're also told that
The English-speaking robot has already made headlines in the foreign media. Time magazine dubbed it one of the 50 best inventions of 2010.
Time also declared, back in 2006, that then Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak was a green warrior dedicated to the environment, and is responsible for this poorly written article, so I don't know how far Koreans should go in listening to Time (the latter article has already gotten attention here).

According to the Korean language version of the article, Lee Eun-suk, who is in charge of after school education, said that, "There are no significant differences between this and direct instruction by a native speaking teacher." She also noted that their correct pronunciation would be a big help for English education for children.

The English language article ends by saying that, “We will continue to study to improve its teaching ability until it’s very close to that of real human teachers.”

Golly, I wonder if that means Korean teachers' jobs will soon disappear?

Robots one step closer to total domination of English learning in Korea

The Maeil Shinmun reported on the 24th that from March next year, the Daegu office of education and the Korean Institute of Science and Technology will put English teaching robots into 21 elementary schools. The robots will cost around 20,000,000 won each, and will be able to be controlled by native speaking teachers remotely. I liked this sentence:
Because students can see the native speaking teacher's expression via the robot's LED video screen, they can feel like they're learning English from a real foreign teacher.

The resemblance is uncanny, to be sure.

It seems this model is a new addition to the robots we've already seen (though those seem to be lacking the codpieces so evident in other photos).

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas caption contest


Hey, your guess is as good as mine. (From here.)
I can't help wonder what he's going to do with that thumb...

This artist has depicted foreign English teachers before; one wonders if he acted out part of the scene below before drawing the cartoon above.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The new E-2 visa regulations will be put in place - with exceptions

It seems the new E-2 visa regulations are to be put in place, but there is an exception being made for those renewing contracts. Ben Wagner used the e-People site to write an e-petition to the government asking them for clarification on the new regulations, and sent me the response. The site can be used to ask questions of or make proposals to government agencies (Anti English Spectrum has used it on many occasions), and offers instructions in English on how to file a petition. Below is the question and response:
Q: "According to this official MOJ notice the '범죄경력검증 강화' (enhanced criminal record verification) process will begin effective 2010.12.31. However, many E-2 visa holders have been informed by their schools that the '범죄경력검증 강화' (enhanced criminal record verification), which require countrywide (FBI, etc.) criminal background checks has been delayed by the Ministry of Justice until 2012.

I see no confirmation of any delay on the Ministry of Justice website. Will the '범죄경력검증 강화' (enhanced criminal record verification) begin as planned in 2011? Or is it correct that the '범죄경력검증 강화' (enhanced criminal record verification) has been delayed until 2012?"


A: "Ministry of Justice decided to strengthen the verification for the qualification of E-2 visa applicants, and required them as of January 1, 2011. to submit the criminal record that manifests nationwide criminal background check of the applicant at the time The Certificate of Eligibility for Visa Issuance would be applied.

Regarding this, the transitional provisions was prepared as follows;

'In case E-2 visa holders who got the visa by submitting such criminal record ineligible under the current regulation, entered Korea before July 15, 2010. and have stayed since that time have the visa expiration date after January 1, 2011. and wish to renew the stay, they should apply for the extension of stay with the submission of the criminal record that manifests nationwide criminal background check'.

However, considering the extenuating circumstance that preparation of the nationwide criminal record takes long time, new transitional provisions was prepared as follows;

'In case E-2 visa holders who got the visa by submitting such criminal record ineligible under the current regulation before December 31, 2010. and have stayed in Korea have the visa expiration date after January 1, 2011. and wish to renew the stay, they should apply for the extension of stay with the submission of the criminal record that manifests nationwide criminal background check when they apply for the second time since January 1, 2011.'.

For example, if a E-2 visa holder who got the visa on February 15, 2010. with the ineligible criminal record under the current regulation and has stayed for a year, the person does not have to submit the nationwide criminal record at the first renewal application probably in February 2011., but should submit it by the second renewal application (maybe in February 2012.).

cf) The application for the Certificate of Eligibility for Visa Issuance for E-2 which is applied after January 1, 2011. should accompany the criminal record that manifests nationwide criminal background check.

If you have a further question, you can get specific information from below.

-Immigration contact center (☏ without an area code 1345)."
To sum up, anyone renewing a contract does not have to submit the federal criminal record check for a year (should they renew again), but I'm not quite certain if the cut off point is for visas issued (or renewed) throughout 2010 (to December 31), or only those issued (or renewed) before July 15, 2010. It seems the 13 month visa period is already being put in place, as a friend who renewed his visa (received in February 2010) this week had it extended to March 2012.

Also, while Choi Young-hee's three bills aimed at native speaking teachers - which call for a Korean criminal record check to be submitted by teachers - have not been passed, SMOE now requires them for contract renewal (and perhaps for new applicants - I'm not certain). Luckily, they're very easy to get, and are free. I got mine at the Gangseo Police Station, and it took about ten minutes after I filled out the form (which the person working there offered to help me with). It's just unfortunate that the obligation to submit these, according to the three bills' statements of purpose, was because
there are native English speakers who have committed crimes in Korea and been expelled from Korea for those crimes, yet these native English speakers are being rehired as English teachers in Korea a few years after their expulsion from the country,
but the only basis for that statement, according to Choi's office, was that they'd seen a newspaper story, but didn't remember the title or where they saw it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The trophy thieves

Newsis reported on the 13th that two foreign English teachers working at a university, including a 28 year old Irish teacher, were booked without detention for stealing a soccer trophy from a bar in Itaewon on the 12th after they lost a game between members of a foreigners' league. They were apparently pissed off about losing the game, so they stole it, but were so drunk at the time they don't remember what they did with it. It's not very often you actually see English teacher theft stories reported, which makes sense, as according to these statistics, there have been at most three cases a year. Luckily, Newsis considers the theft of a 200,000 won trophy to be news.

Monday, December 20, 2010

In the Korea Times, Andrew Salmon writes about the 2002 candlelight protests. I've looked at the celebration of the World Cup that year here and the candlelight protests (which took place in the same spaces as the World Cup cheering) here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The sorrows of fake native speakers

A week ago I posted on an article about Koreans working as 'fake native speakers' at phone English companies, which put the blame on the companies for the situation. On the 15th, Sports Seoul decided to go a step further publishing an article titled "Ddeokbokki should be pronounced 'ddeobbogi'" - the sorrow of fake native teachers."

You really can't make this stuff up.

The article begins by referring to Mr. Kim (27), who works at a famous language hagwon as a native speaking teacher, who was startled by the news of the recent crackdown on 'fake phone English native speaking instructors' because he also poses as a native speaker at the hagwon. Saying that one can't easily distinguish between a fake and the genuine native speaker based on pronunciation alone, he asserted that hiding one's identity is easy at Phone English companies. The same is not true for those pretending to be native speakers at hagwons, where instructors frequently come into contact with students. After the crackdown on phone english companies he is sweating over having to disguise himself as a native speaker more thoroughly, saying, "I feel grief in my life." The author then urges readers to listen to the difficulties of fake native speaking teachers.

Most Korean instructors acting like native speakers lived in places like the US during their childhood and so their pronunciation is the same as a native speaker, and their command of Korean differs according to each person, with some being stronger than others. Obviously, in language hagwons they pretend not to know a word of Korean, and sometimes make up that they are mixed race Koreans.

We're told that the reason they have to pretend to be native speakers is that because of the demand for native speaking teachers. As an official from a famous hagwon in Seoul explained, "Parents prefer native speakers over Korean instructors who are good at English because they want them to teach not only English but also their culture and etiquette, so parents only send their children to hagwons with foreign teachers."

The next section is titled "Ddeokbokki should be pronounced Ddeobbogi," and tells the story of Mr. Gang (29) who works at a language hagwon in Seoul, and who has become fearful during meal time. Not too long ago, thinking he'd just grab a quick meal at a gimbap place near his hagwon, he ran into students he taught there, and for awhile he didn't know what to do and debated and agonized over how he should speak while his students watched. Almost instinctively, he placed an order for 'ddeobbogi,' deliberately using poor pronunciation [that's also how it's been newly Romanized]. Another fake native speaking teacher always carries an electronic dictionary because after class students often inquire about the English terms for particular Korean words, and acting as if he doesn't know the word (or Korean), he shows the students the English words in the search results. At that hagwon, if the students ask what a word is in Korean, another instructor acts as if he doesn't know and puts on an agonized expression while finding the relevant English word.

Up next is a look at what happens when teachers who are 'invisible' because they are thought not to understand Korean hear secrets said in front of them by unsuspecting students. At one hagwon in the capital area, Mr. Song (29) was amazed when he heard a girl in her early teens speak in Korean to her friends about a sexual experience. He said he'd heard students speak openly in front of him and many times had wanted to tell the parents. There are students who bear untold animosity towards their parents, and others who are overworked and stressed. He hears private conversations and secrets and agonizes over the 'sad fact' that he cannot do anything about it.

Then we learn that it's not these teachers' fault for doing what they do, and the special circumstance that we have to understand is that "the idea of preferring blue eyes" mass produces these fakes. We're told that not all korean instructors act like native speakers, but the number of fake native speaking instructors is higher than one would imagine. Mr. Song, who has for 8 years moved from one famous hagwon in Seoul to another, says that usually at famous hagwons in seoul, the rate of real native speaking instructors and Korean instructors is about 5:1, but at small scale hagwons there are no small number of fake native speaking instructors. In October a Canadian wanted for murder in Canada was discovered teaching as a native speaking teacher in Korea, showing how difficult it is to properly obtain native speaking teachers. Even if fortunate enough to retain good teachers, the cost is not insignificant. For them insurance and accommodation, and even utility bills should be paid. Because if this, some hagwons pressure Korean instructors to pretend to be native speaking instructors. In spite of deception regarding nationality, the backdrop to their business is the parents' preference for native speakers.


What a tale of woe about these fraudulent native speaking instructors.

Back in September there were several reports, including one from the Chosun Ilbo, which were basically advertisements for Best ID Korea, which purported to be the best at doing background checks, which told readers that "The problem of foreign instructors with criminal records who have faked their background is becoming serious." Much of the reports back in 2005 and 2006 about foreign teachers focused on them being 'unqualified' or having fake diplomas, and we can see outcries against foreign teachers with fake diplomas here (Chosun.com!), while NoCut News reported in July that new E-2 visa rules would require an apostille with a diploma, an "active measure to solve the problem of fake diplomas."

Neither article about these fake native speakers has shown calls for them to be punished, and both go out of their way to defend the fake Korean teachers, revealing that it's not really their fault, they're forced to do it by hagwons, or can't resist the lure of easy money (never an excuse for foreigners). It's not really the hagwons' faults either, as they are forced to do it by parents who want their children to be taught be native speaking teachers and by the high costs of real native speakers who are treated so well that even their bills must be paid by the hagwons. The case of the Canadian teacher [no mention of his ethnicity] wanted for murder in Canada who taught in hagwons in Seoul is just an example of how difficult it is to hire good teachers, not an example of how a policy of excluding F-4s from criminal background checks has allowed wanted killers to teach children.

The accompanying cartoon, depicting the ddeokbokki incident and the teen talking about her sexual experience in earshot of the teacher raises questions:


Do they have blond hair (and a goatee and earring) because they are masquerading as foreigners? Hard to know, considering how bizarre it is.

I have no doubt that there must be a lot of pressure on these Korean teachers, and that some of their experiences acting as someone they're not must be unpleasant. It would just be nice if media reports about real native speaking teachers gave even 20% as much consideration to them as is given to the fake ones. But that's probably 20% too much to ask.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Scouting the City

The other day I posted an excerpt of Nelson Algren's story about Busan in the late '50s or early '60s, and briefly mentioned James Wade's review of Algren's book published in One Man's Korea. Here it is, along with another offering about Busan (which both parodies and refers to Algren) from Wade's Scouting the City column (which was published in the Korea Times in the 1960s and 1970s under the pseudonym Alf Racketts).



Haeundae has changed quite a bit since then. (It's also changed quite a bit since I first visited in 2001.) I'll post some of Wade's other columns in the future, especially those where he criticizes western portrayals of Korea and Koreans.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sighing over unqualified native speaking teachers, and other tales of Choryang-dong

On December 9th, the Busan Ilbo's 'reader's forum' section featured this letter from a concerned reader:
Sighing over unqualified native speaking teachers

In 2010 the university entrance exam curriculum is changing, which is relevant to those who are currently middle school third graders, because the entrance exam they will take the 2014 school year will feature social studies and science and will focus on English, math and Korean. For this reason, English, math, and Korean will grow even more in importance and the study of English by children is becoming more of a concern.

At the hagwon our children go to there is a native speaking English instructor. However, I often hear that the instructors change every two or three months. In the children's hagwon alone, already in one year there have been three instructors.

According to the children the instructors went home, but parents in the area have said that they were illegal sojourners from English speaking countries, or if here legally, were vagabonds who did not hold English hagwon instructor qualifications who caused trouble after being employed and were sent back home.

It's said that among instructors or teachers in English hagwons which children attend, not a few of them are unqualified. And then when their ordinary salary is 3 to 4 million won a month, and we see our circumstances of unemployment, financial difficulties and the crowds of unemployed, we can only sigh.

Lee Sun-ae, Choryang-dong, Dong-gu, Busan
A native speaker's normal salary is 3-4 million won a month? Wow. Who knew? As I mentioned in this post, the employers of native speaking teachers are almost never criticized in the media, so perhaps it's not surprising that she would blame the foreign teachers for the ridiculously high turnover at the hagwon she describes. Either the hagwon had really, really terrible luck with its foreign teachers, or something is wrong with the hagwon.

On the one hand, this goes to show the influence the hundreds of negative articles about foreign teachers published every year have upon regular folks. On the other hand there were some sentences I found difficult to translate in the letter which a coworker told me she found hard to to understand - that they were badly written in Korean. Make of that what you will.

She does, however, describe the teachers as '뜨내기' (though she incorrectly spells it '뜨네기') a word meaning 'vagabond,' 'wanderer' or 'itinerant,' a world that was more popular back in 1984.

This is not the only letter published about foreign teachers recently. I'll post another one from a week or two ago before too long.


Oh, and I couldn't help noticing her address, Choryang-dong in Busan. The area has been written about before:


That's from the Nelson Algren story "472 Cho-Ryang-Dong: A Parlor One Purple Now Faded to Rose," first published in 1965 in a collection of stories about his sea travels. I'll leave you to guess what kind of establishment was at that address. As James Wade put it when he reviewed it in his 1967 book One Man's Korea, "Talk about kiss and tell!"

Friday, December 10, 2010

More sex crime prevention for foreign teachers

Newsis published this article on December 3:
Foreign hagwon instructor qualification improvement training by Dongnae education support office

[Busan] On the morning of the 3rd, the Dongnae Education Support office held training for around 200 area foreign hagwon instructors in Nammun Elementary School’s AV room to improve the responsibility of foreign instructors.

That day the training for foreign hagwon instructors, whose numbers are growing day by day for the vitalization of English education, was to help them understand our country’s education system and lifelong education system, to show the foreign teachers the dos and don’ts of hagwons, to [help them] understand immigration law and to provide education related to child and youth sexual protection laws.

Following cases of threats to the safety of hagwon students such as the employment of unqualified instructors and the increase in sex crimes by foreign instructors, precautionary measures were prepared through this foreign hagwon teacher training, which is also a good opportunity to induce sound management of hagwons and attempt to improve the qualifications of foreign hagwon instructors.
This seems like another sex crime prevention lecture for foreign teachers (after one was reported on in Asan in October).

Anyone interested in how it was determined that there has been an increase in sex crimes by foreign instructors can email reporter Gang Jae-sun here to ask. The currently known stats can be found here.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

"Disguised" native speakers are not to blame

"Native Speaker Phone English? Turns out it's a korian
Deception by yuhaksaeng [posing as] 'neitibeu seupikeo'"*

The Munhwa Ilbo published an article yesterday with the above title featuring interviews with several yuhaksaeng (Koreans who have studied overseas) who say they - and many others like them - pose as native speakers for Korean companies who operate 'Phone English' services. It notes that the reason they take the job is because they are tempted by the money they can easily make by speaking with a student for only 10 minutes. The article notes that the businesses promise native speakers but do not live up to this, and that the teachers' contracts have non-disclosure clauses (regarding the fact that they are not foreigners). An official from one such business asserts that when the teachers sign contracts with them, they have to confirm their foreign nationality, but one of the teachers retorts by saying that the businesses require their (Korean) resident number and address.

There's nothing specific about foreign native speakers in the article, which perhaps explains why the article clearly sides with the teachers and criticizes the companies that hire them. The yuhaksaeng teachers are simply young people tempted by the amount of money that can be made - quite different from (real) "native speakers who come and go only for the moment to make money" (as the KTU put it), and whose broken contracts are "a key factor intensifying regional disparities in English education," according to Yonhap, who based this on [mistaken] statements by National Assembly Education, Science and Technology Committee member Park Young-a. I'm sure the number of articles published this year which criticize hagwons or education offices based on the testimony of foreign teachers working for them can be counted on the fingers of one hand (if they can be counted at all, I mean).

Oh, and you have to love the illustration accompanying the article:


A girl with a nose long enough to dry laundry on compared to two Koreans with eyes the size of pencil leads. The Korean woman is probably wondering where her nose went.


* In the title, "Korean" is rendered "코리안" instead of "한국인" or "우리나라 사람" or "같은 순수한 민족 사람," while "native speaker" is rendered "네이티브 스피커" instead of "원어민."

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Former US bases in the Netherlands and Korea

My friend Jacco wondered if I'd be interested in posting an article he translated about a US airbase closing in the Netherlands, and I thought it might provide an interesting comparison to the Korean experience. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to put up links and some photos of former US bases in and around Seoul.

The original title of the article is “Soesterberg van pilotendorp tot toeristenoord,” which was published in the December 2008 issue of M magazine (published by the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad), p. 36. Many thanks to Thomas Schlijper for permission to use the photos.

Story: Leendert van der Valk
Photos: Thomas Schlijper [ schlijper.nl ]
Translation: Jacco Zwetsloot

The airbase can be found on Google Maps here.

SOESTERBERG: From Pilot Town to Tourist Destination

Flying from Soesterberg in a helicopter, an Air Force Chinook, June 2001.


Soesterberg Air Base is closing on December 31 (2008). The massive 380-hectare site on the Utrecht Hill Ridge is to become a nature, residential and work complex. The neighboring village will have to adjust. Hence, a report on the past and future of Soesterberg.

The young men on the sports field near the air base had everything that the boys in Yolanda Bonouvrié’s class did not have: well toned bodies, a car, neatly kept hair, a salary, an American passport. And a uniform. Yolanda often went with her girlfriends to watch those boys played football and baseball. In 1978 she fell in love with one of them, Marc. He took her to the highly guarded Soesterberg Air Base in the luggage compartment of his VW Bug to get around the security check.

The boys were older, more macho and looked fantastic, recalls Yolanda in the backyard of her house on the edge of the American district of Soesterberg. There you will find houses with giant carports on dead-end streets. The Dutch children of Soesterberg used to go there to see how the houses were decorated for Halloween, July 4th, Christmas and Thanksgiving. Nowadays it’s almost exclusively Dutch people who live there. When the Cold War was over, the Americans left in 1994, to the great sadness of the Soesterbergers.

American style: houses with carports in Soesterberg.


A Chinook flies low and interrupts the conversation, but Yolanda keeps talking. As the chirping of crickets is to a village in the South of France, such is the noise of aircraft to Soesterberg. You’ll miss it when it suddenly disappears. And that moment is imminent. In October the helicopters moved to Gilze-Rijen Air Base. Soesterberg Air Base is closing. Yolanda says, “Here is where aviation all began in the Netherlands. From here the country was defended. I’m going to miss the sound of the flights. It will be very quiet here.”

She has come back to Soesterberg from the United States when her husband was deployed again. They’re divorced. This is no exceptional story in the little town on the ridge.

Of the one hundred girls who went to the United States, 98 came back, says Linda Grollitsch (blond hair, gold chains round her neck). They could not put roots down, or it turned out that life was not quite as nice as the soldiers had portrayed it. An Austrian by birth, Linda has already spent 38 years behind the bar of the café-restaurant Spitfire alongside the Amersfoortseweg Road. It lies diagonally opposite the field where the soldiers once played sport. She saw the girls and the military types come and go. What is now the smoking room of the café was then the backroom. That’s where they would sit and make out.

Those who preferred to meet darker boys could go to Pinokkio in the town of Zeist. That’s where they went dancing. From the base all the soldiers came to café Spitfire, where they were allowed to show up in uniform, unlike in nearby Zeist. Linda recalls, “On pay day they sometimes ate steak and fries three times in one day.” And they could drink well. On Mother’s Day she invariably received loads of gifts, and she consoled the youngest soldiers who missed their moms back home. On Valentine’s Day it was just the same.

Back then, Linda had 28 types of whisky behind the bar. The big American limousines belonging to the higher ranks stood in the parking lot. University students came to wax them for a dollar. Not anymore. Now there is still a Wurlitzer jukebox still in the corner and aviation paraphernalia on the wall. Now café Spitfire opens at four o’clock in the afternoon instead of nine a.m., as it used to. Luckily, even after the departure of the Americans, the Dutch military has kept coming, and the airplane spotters too. Often to tell stories about the Americans.

The departure of the Americans 14 years ago did not leave the village unmarked – an empty commissary (a gigantic supermarket), separated families, an abandoned Camp New Amsterdam. But the air base continued to exist and the crates continued flying. To Iraq, to Afghanistan. That’s how Soesterberg kept going. The F16s moved away and Soesterberg came to house choppers. They made less noise, to the dissatisfaction of some residents. But at least they flew.


The town of 6,000 has always been an international, military town, from Napoleon’s time on down. The first drive-in McDonalds opened in the neighboring village of Huis ter Heide and young people all around would listen to the radio station American Forces Abroad. It played lots of country music, but rock & roll, jazz and rhythm & blues also arrived in the Netherlands through the base in the 1950s. On the road leading to the base there has always been a coming and going of trucks with number plates beginning with BN- and GN- (for vehicles not of Dutch origin or ownership). And everywhere you would see brownish-green uniforms. That’s all coming to an end now. On the part of the local population there is a deeply felt need to make an appropriate goodbye, which will certainly contribute to the process of working through the emotions, as it says on the website of the committee “Vaarwel Vliegbasis Soesterberg” (Farewell Soesterberg Air Base), a local initiative for collective bereavement.

The Ministry of Defense will remain in Soesterberg’s future too, with a museum built on 60 hectares of the historic site. But from January 1, 2009, the other 380 hectares will fall into the hands of the regional authorities. Everything from the base has moved to Gilze-Rijen. Cost cutting. An undeveloped property this large is an unheard of luxury 20 kilometers from the city of Utrecht in a wooded area.

This offers a chance for Soesterberg to finally grow. For decades, construction had continued literally up to the fence line. The air base that the town is so proud of has also worked as a hindrance to development. Although just about every family had something to do with the base in one way or other, the town itself saw little in the way of economic profit from it.

Soesterberg town center. The middle-class had little benefit from the military presence.


“I have waited 50 years for this,” says retired pharmacist Cor Sukking (67). Not on the base closure itself – he finds that a dreadful shame – but on some kind of boost for the town. The military wasn’t all that good for the place. Over the years the town has deteriorated. On his table there are newspaper clippings, books and notes about the base and the town. From his living room above the drugstore he owns in the main street of Soesterberg he points outside. In places Rademakers Street makes a sad impression. “There is a store nailed shut. You can’t really call it busy. The hospitality industry is limited to a pancake restaurant that opens irregularly and the Oriental Swan. It was once called ’t Zwaantje, a hotel and café where aviators would meet. Now it’s an oriental restaurant with a take-out service.”

“The gas station, he benefited from it,” says Sukking. “Those huge American cars stood in line at the Esso. And I sold car paint - that went well too. The Americans would buy three liters at once. But apart from that they had everything else on post.”

But don’t get the idea that Sukking hates the base. Quite the opposite. Suddenly his windowsill is a runway and his right hand a Hawkhunter. “That’s what it was like. Up into the air like a rocket. Within one minute an altitude of 12 kilometers. What a racket! That thing weighed 15 or 16 tons. I love it. As a young boy I went to the base to watch. You could see the pilots wave. Later you couldn’t come that close anymore.”

Soesterberg is the birthplace of the Air Force in the Netherlands. In 1910 The Hague car dealer Verwey and Lugard carried out one of the first experiments in flight at Soesterberg. Thousands came to see. Three years later in 1913, Queen Wilhelmina signed a decree creating the Air Wing in Soesterberg: the forerunner of the Royal Dutch Air Force.

Some of the hundreds of buildings that stand on the site of the air base have cultural and historic value. The long line of sight over the flatness of the landing strip is exceptional in this forested area. At the same time the base has always been an obstacle to the national ecological network, and a hindrance to the migration of animals over the Utrecht Hill Ridge. On the other hand, it is an extraordinary nature preserve, because the Ministry of Defense has allowed little in the way of growth for a century. The ground was kept bare so that the airplanes could more easily take off and land.

The nutrient-poor soil attracts deer, foxes, pine martens, 28 varieties of butterflies, 55 kinds of breeding birds and 400 types of plants. In the bomb-proof shelters there are even bats. So bulldozing everything and building is not an option.

The Zeist and Soest local councils and the province of Utrecht, which would like to build houses here, are trying to come to an agreement in which the environmental groups can be acknowledged and the Ministry of Defense can stay with a National Defense Museum. A tricky task. An international advisory panel was flown in, the Urban Land Institute (ULI). Its advice was to keep the site mostly green and it launched the term “Peace Park.”

The preliminary plans cost 55 million Euro. The business park that now abuts the base will have to be rebuilt elsewhere in the district. In its place will come offices and houses. Soesterberg is to be fitted out with an entertainment complex, hotels, restaurants, galleries and a visitor center, in order to function as a tourist town. Building is not only possible on the base, but also within the town it will become easier, because the noise restrictions won’t be exceeded any longer.

The Soesterbergers look on in anticipation. It is clear that their town will grow from 6,000 inhabitants to 9,000, and that the plane spotters who used to come to the spotters’ hill will now be replaced by daytrippers who want to amble over the Utrecht Hill Ridge. Maybe they will want to spend money in the town.

But there is also skepticism. Particularly regarding the Soest local council, which is in charge. It’s never paid any attention to the small town before, goes the complaint.

Soesterberg has always looked more to Zeist than to its big brother Soest. That has long been the way, because if you went by bike or on foot you first had to go over a hill to reach Soest. Farmers, beekeepers and shepherds preferred to go to market in Zeist or Amersfoort. But for the last 50 years, since the Americans came, Soesterberg has been completely blocked off, says Carel Bense, architect and chair of the Farewell Soesterberg Air Base committee.

“Around the town there lies a collar of barbed wire,” says Bense. He grabs a map. “Aside from the base in the north, there are military training grounds to the east and southeast up against the town. Therefore, Soesterberg has not been able to expand in any direction for fifty years. And note well: the barbed wire on the fences is angled towards the direction of Soesterberg, not the military area. The only way out is if you go to Zeist. But even then you have to surmount another obstacle: the A28.”

The Committee actually wanted to organize a big farewell, to soften the blow for the town. The Ministry of Defense and the local council seemed to cooperate. In the beginning the base was supposed to close down last year already, but the mission to Uruzgan threw a spanner in the works. The closure was postponed. After that, Bense received little cooperation from the council. Not much has come of the plan for an official farewell for the town.

Despite the loss that he too feels as lover of Soesterberg and aviation, the architect is full of ideas for a new start for the town. He has lived there 15 years already, but fell for the place right away. Lately he has been immersing himself in local history. Bense wants to recapture some of the glory days of Soesterberg, around 1920. The first entrepreneurs and pilots experimented with aviation on the heath for enjoyment, not just their own but also for the daytrippers. That was when the clean air and the big country houses in the area around the town still drew rich folk; a tram ran through the town; the worldly aviators and their chic women came together in ‘t Zwaantje. He has photos from those days hanging on his wall, as inspiration.

They have come in their hundreds, maybe thousands. Not just from Soesterberg, but the wider region. On this drizzly Wednesday afternoon they have brought binoculars and thermos flasks. With stools to stand on and collapsible stepladders. On this November 12 it’s the last fly-by over the airfield. Amongst others there are helicopters, F16s and a Fokker 50, taking off and landing as a farewell to the base, and passing once more over the spotters hill, where enthusiasts have been coming for years to have a look. These are the last aerial maneuvers above the birthplace of the Air Force.

Jacobus Haring is there too, better known in the town as Mr. Co of Saint Carolus Elementary School. He used to come here as a child to see, when a spotters hill wasn’t even necessary; you could just walk over the landing strip. It saddens him that the base is closing. But he too can see the chances for the town, as member of the Future Vision Soesterberg Working Group.

And there are those who have been eagerly looking forward to this day. Like Rob Dashorst from Den Dolder, who, together with others, for years complained to the Ministry of Defense about the noise above their houses. “I now find myself in the happy circumstance that I am able to disband the Soesterberg Noise Pollution Association,” he says over the phone. Not that many inhabitants of Soesterberg were members of his organization.

Of course they do exist – Soesterbergers who hate the air traffic, especially new residents, who came after the Americans. But they keep a low profile in the town. “Whiners,” Henk Kraan calls them. “So don’t come and live here!” He lives right beside the fence. The council has given him triple glazing for his windows, against the noise, but he could have done without it. His wife Ineke too. When something flew overhead, they would look out of their attic window to the base where it would land. “Now they call it noise pollution. Before, they used to say ‘ah, the sound of freedom.’”


Right: Living in the flight path. Attic room with a view on the Soesterberg Air Base, closed to the public.

For 23 years he worked as a meteorologist on the base. “I know every blade of grass there. But there’s still all sorts of stuff under the ground – unexploded bombs, underground passageways that the Germans made during the Second World War. They’re going to have trouble with all that when they try to dismantle the place.” His wife chimes in, “One of these days we will probably get moved out too.”

The residents preferred not to think about it, but for all those years they were living in a deadly dangerous little town. There were accidents on the base, and airplanes have also crashed or been forced to make emergency landings. In the 1980s some activists thought that there were nuclear weapons. They protested at the base and at Camp Zeist.

The American base was naturally also a target during the Cold War, although everyone says that the Russians really wouldn’t lob any bombs on top of Soesterberg. In the town it felt a bit like war when the Americans were at war. And that they were often. Says Henk Kraan, “The Cuban Missile Crisis was quite exciting, for example. At that time the whole town emptied out. It became quiet. That was also the case during Vietnam and the First Gulf War.” Ineke Kraan says, “I found that very scary, macabre even. In the town people chose not to talk about it. I only realized later how dangerous it had actually been.”

In café Spitfire Linda saw it happening too. The boys were virtually yanked from behind their steaks to go to Vietnam. Some of them came back disturbed. One of them got all worked up when a helicopter flew overhead. At that moment he was back in Vietnam again.

Yolanda Bonouvrié noticed it in her own family. In 1983 it was unsafe in the American district where she lived. The anti-Americanism was strong and there were many demonstrations in the area. “We had BN- and GN- cars. We weren’t allowed to drive them.” She found it scariest when Bush Senior found it necessary to start that war in Iraq, she says. “Lots of missions were flown from here. The whole district was blocked off. You get very personally involved. My ex was an F15 specialist and could have been deployed. The kids always went to school on the air base; that closed for a few days.”

Whatever indirect inconvenience the Americans may have caused, in Soesterberg you won’t hear a bad word about them. Henk Kraan says, “What I’ve seen from the Yanks is that they are polite people, helpful. Not assholes at all.” Linda says, “In forty years there has never been a fight here. There were no bad kids there. But we did educate them here. Some of them, the ones from poorer areas, had never seen a knife and fork before.”

Relative newcomer Carel Bense can comment some more about that. First of all about pilots in general: “Pilots, not just the American ones, are wild boys, skirt-chasers, but I can’t really say that. They were heroes; they took the risk that they might die. Among men, criticism of pilots is unthinkable. Women know the other side: they know the fear that their men might die, and they were abandoned.”

The air force town will become a tourist town – full of memories, that’s for sure.

In America there is mourning about the base closure too, as can be seen on various Internet fora. Hundreds of reactions on Soesterbergwolfhounds.nl, beside an English-language recipe for boerenkoolstamppot (kale stew). “Loved the place, loved the people - lots of great times - wish I could go back...”

Linda says that many retired soldiers still come back to the Netherlands each vacation season. At café Spitfire they stop for steak and beer. Linda can’t believe that it’s really all going to stop. “As far as I’m concerned they will always fly here.” But the silence in the air betrays the fact that something has changed.

Info: Leendert van der Valk is a correspondent for NRC Handelsblad in Utrecht. Freelance photographer Thomas Schlijper puts a new photo on his site www.schlijper.nl every day.

[This article is protected by copyright. All rights belong to NRC Handelsblad BV or the original author.]

----

The issues surrounding who benefits and who suffers from the existence and disappearance of military bases, and how they impact the surrounding community, is just as applicable to Korea, as seen specifically with the planned closing of Yongsan Garrison and expansion of Camp Humphries. There are in fact still several smaller US bases in and around Seoul, as ROK Drop has documented, while others closer to the DMZ have been closing. Beyond these, in the past there used to be even more bases.

Awhile ago a reader sent me links to photos of former US bases in Korea. The bases in question belonged to the 508th United States Army Security Agency Group (USASA was the US Army's signal intelligence branch from 1945 - 1976), and are listed at the bottom of this introductory page. One of the bases was located on Ganghwa-do, and Elmer Hackbarth describes how the base on Ganghwa-do was set up in 1956 (including wiring the operations hut with only a hammer, nails, and a pocket knife), as well as this tale:
[I]n October of 1957 we were getting strange telemetering signals. Being bored to death I set up an unused DF set and got a good bearing on these signals. Guess it turned out to be control signals for Sputnik.
This later became home to the 226th company (follow that link for photos), home to 100 men, and even supported a ville (on Ganghwa-do!).

The 508th Group's Headquarters and Headquarters Company was located in Yeongdeungpo, at Camp Spade, photos of which can be seen here. Camp Spade was apparently operational from 1957 to 1967. This photo is of the traffic circle outside the gate of the camp:


The traffic circle can be seen below at bottom left in a photo taken in 1963, and the camp should be easy enough to make out:


A clue to where exactly it was located can be seen by clicking on the image and looking at the right hand side of the photo, two thirds of the way up. There are piers under construction for a bridge, which is obviously the Second Han River Bridge - now known as the Yanghwa Bridge, the first part of which was built between June 1962 and January 1965. The traffic circle and base area can be made out in the photo below (From Seoul Through Pictures 4) at top left (click to enlarge).


Here is a photo of the UN Allied Forces Memorial Tower which was erected over the north end of the bridge in 1964. It was Korea's largest memorial tower, according to the book, but was torn down in 1981 to make way for the expansion of the bridge.


Back to the base, the location of the bridge and the traffic circle in the photo below make it easy enough to see where it is today.


The street with the traffic circle is today is where Dangsan Station is, which can be seen below. The area of the former base is marked in yellow. Other than being bisected by a street running east-west in the northern part of the former base, the area where the base once was seems to still be intact, as part of a factory.


There are several other former bases around Seoul, especially in the area where I used to live; Gimpo airport used to be K-14, or Kimpo Airbase at one time, and other bases in the area (see map here) can still be seen today, though not all of them are in use. I'll look more closely into those bases another day.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Seoul in 1979


I managed to find the article "Seoul: Korean Showcase" in the December 1979 National Geographic at a bookstore in Toronto summer before last. That's the cover date, however. It actually hit news stands just as Park Chung-hee was assassinated (something it noted in its next issue, saying that it also published an (interesting) article about South Korea in 1950 just as the war broke out. One of my favorite photos, for obvious reasons, is the one below, of the Jamsil apartments, looking northwest from what is now Lotte World (click to enlarge).


The subway construction for line 2 can be seen. The apartments in the photo above are all quite new at that time (completed just the year before), but have since been reconstructed (except perhaps for those on the right), as can be seen below:

(The vantage point of the photo (likely from a helicopter)
is marked by the yellow circle.)

The article has many other photos; a few of the ones I liked most follow:

(Is that soju next to the beer?)


(No need for introductions.)


Female taxi drivers await their licenses at a ceremony.
(Note the Hyundai Pony taxis)


"Death to Kim Il-sung"
(See the captions below.)


Million person march.



I guess having the air raid drills at 2pm has made accompanying blackouts pointless. Interesting to see how many people reportedly came out for a protest after it was announced the north had dug a tunnel under the DMZ. It's interesting how different that response was to actually having Korean territory shelled. Mind you, back then people believed the reds were actually red, and had tails, etc. One also wonders if attendance at that million person demonstration was mandatory for some of the participants...

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.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Portrait of the leader-to-be as a young man


My friend Ryan just emailed me a link to this Globe and Mail article about a portrait presumed to be of Kim Jong-un which was recently photographed by a Canadian tourist in Rason, North Korea. It may give clues as to how Kim the youngest's past will be portrayed in future propaganda, with the suggestion that he was sent to the west to learn about its ways and technology.
“It’s big news,” said Brian Myers, an expert on North Korea at Dongseo University in South Korea. “It’s hard to be completely certain on the basis of an untitled image alone. … But I cannot imagine a schoolboy outside the Kim family meriting this kind of painting, and it is very similar in mood and layout to depictions of the young Kim Il-sung and the young Kim Jong-il. So I would assume that it is Kim Jong-un although it is not a particularly striking likeness in view of the Kim Jong-un we have seen photographed in the past few months.”[...]

The portrait appears to be the start of an effort to turn [a] potential liability into in asset. “It goes to the heart of what will be the regime’s main problem in glorifying the boy, namely the fact that he was overseas during at least part of the famine or [so-called] Arduous March. The regime is for some reason loath to let foreigners see this nascent personality cult,” Prof. Myers said. “We have seen footage of [Kim Jong-un], and of course we can see him on the TV news every few days … but we know next to nothing about how the regime is articulating his biography. This painting offers important insight into what kind of mythobiography the regime is either planning or is already teaching the masses in party meetings, study meetings etc. outside the view of foreign visitors.” [...]

There is, however, some debate among Pyongyang-watchers over whether the picture is important. Andrei Lankov, a respected North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul, scoffed at the notion that this was the new boy’s coming-out portrait. “This is his grandfather. Generalissimo Kim Il-sung. The background and school uniform leaves no doubt about it: the late 1920s,” Prof. Lankov wrote in an e-mail after seeing a copy of the portrait.
The entire article is well worth reading.

From there I clicked over to this article, which looks at the what responsibilities Canada might have as a member of the United Nations Command in the event of a Korean War. It has this to say about Canada's current military involvement in Korea:
The briefing note indicates Canada's military footprint in the Korean Peninsula today is very light. Canada's defence attache to Seoul, a colonel, and his assistant, a sergeant, represent the country on the UNC. Canada's defence attach in Tokyo represents Canada at the UNC's “rear” headquarters in Japan. And Canada also contributes a major to the Korean Army Staff College.
Meanwhile, this Korea Herald article provides some numbers when discussing North Korea's military capabilities, some of which are rather sobering (like the north having 5,200 multiple launch rocket systems).

And while on the topic of the north, Scott Burgeson sent me a link to this post about North Korean anchorwoman Ri Chun-hee. She really does need to be heard to be believed. She's also looked at in this broadcast by Jason Strother.