Thursday, March 03, 2011

Keeping Korea Clean

The Chronicle of Higher Education posted an interesting article Sunday titled "South Korea Brings in Foreign Professors by the Thousands, but Is It Ready for Them?" The article looks at Korea's globalization push, noting that
4,957, or about 7 percent, of South Korea's 77,697 full-time faculty members are foreign, the figure is up threefold in less than a decade, according to the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. That already puts it well ahead of neighboring Japan's 5 percent (out of 353,000 full-time professors), despite a much longer history of foreign hires there.
It also notes that "an Education Ministry survey of 288 foreign academics last year found [that foreign professors' stays] averaged just four months." Despite some negatives, the article notes that foreigners are very willing to come to Korea to work due to the job situation in their home countries. It also looks at another familiar topic:
One indication of South Korea's lingering fears about an influx of foreigners can be found at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, where $100-million in government money has been spent developing robot English teachers. Prototypes of the robot are operated remotely from the Philippines, keeping the "moral problems" associated with non-Koreans at arm's length, says Mun Sang Kim, director of the institute's Advanced Robotics Research Center.

"There are some problems and some accidents in hiring native speakers at the schools right now," he says. "For example, the immigration system in Korea is not good enough to examine whether the foreign visitors are clean or not, or they did some crime," he adds. "That's the reason why the government thinks about such robot systems. They don't have any such social problems, they don't do the drugs."
While I and others have made this point before, I believe this is the first time I've seen someone connected with the robots actually openly state that the "moral problems" of foreign teachers is the reason for the robots (and here I thought it was to "reduce discrimination suffered by the underprivileged [...i]n rural areas or remote islands" by giving them access to 'foreign' English teachers). The government connection - as a source of funding - is also made clear. This shouldn't be surprising, especially considering Lee Myung-bak's cabinet and its concern about the 'cleanliness' of foreign teachers.


Unknown said...

omg the robots are taking our jobs...i think this is hilarious. the story that won't go away makes The Chronicle.

i think we will survive the robot teacher prototype program.^^

Anonymous said...

The best way to see if a foreigner is "clean" or not is to take a wet tissue and swab it up and down their arm. If ant dirt presents itself on the tissue, then the foreigner is definitely "dirty" and unfit to enter the bacteria-free confinds of a Korean classroom.

Kamiza said...

It must also be noted that "foreign" in such statistics of university faculty include
South Koreans with foreign citizenship. At one of the universities I used to work at,
the "foreign faculty" number
was much higher (in the 200's)than
the actual number of faculty in the foreign languages department--about 25-30--(English, Japanese, Chinese) as well as researchers in the sciences (about 10 people from
S.E. and Central Asia).
Guess the ethnicity of the other 160 "foreign" people on staff.
Tricky statistics.

Global Studies said...

Could you post the whole article? I can't access it without a subscription and would really like to read it.

Great blog, by the way.


TWEffect said...

Hey Matt,

Thanks for the link! BTW, do yoiu think it would be possible to have a link on your sidebar somewhere to my blog? Thanks

matt said...

James - Send me an email (mattvanv at yahoo dot com).

TWEffect - sure, it's up.