Friday, April 29, 2011

Gwangju & Jeollanam-do People for Peace and Reunification

[Update: A commenter at the Marmot's Hole says that Gwangju & Jeollanam-do People for Peace and Reunification is a branch of SPARK (Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea).]

Yesterday I posted about a protest held by Gwangju & Jeollanam-do People for Peace and Reunification in regards to a foreign teacher being investigated for assault who fled the country. I thought I'd look a little more into them.

In November 2003 the Hankyoreh reported that the inaugural meeting of the Gwangju & Jeollanamdo People for Peace and Reunification had taken place (at the meeting space of the Gwangju Women's Christian Youth Group) and that it was the fifth chapter after others started in Seoul, Incheon, Daejeon & Chungcheongnam-do, and Jeollabuk-do. Their aims are to cut back on national defense expenditures and stop the introduction of weapons in order to bring about disarmament and peace on the Korean peninsula. At the time the new Gwangju chapter had 30 members.

A profile of one of the leaders of the group, a minister who hopes for a peace treaty to bring about reunification and lead to the complete withdrawal of US forces, was published in early 2009.

In November 2009, they protested against re-sending troops to Afghanistan and urged talks between the US and North Korea.

In July 2010, they protested against joint Korea-US military exercises which "threaten the Korean peninsula with war" and make peace.

(The banner calls for an investigation into
the truth about the sinking of the Cheonan)

In October 2010, they protested against the ROK-US Security Consultative Meeting (and called for a peace treaty to be negotiated).

In April this year they have protested the construction of a military base in Jeju Island. One protest took place in front of the Jeju District Court, while another took place took place in front of the Gwangju District Court.

And then on April 25 they protested against the belated investigation by the Gwangju Prosecutor's Office which allowed an American instructor to flee the country, further victimizing the taxi driver he assaulted.

While there is a recent precedent for protesting in front of courts, it still has to be said that one of those protests doesn't really fit in with the others. Again, the constant references to the "American instructor" and hyperbole like "murderous assault," along with the SOFA-esque sovereignty issues may reveal their motivation, but then there could be other possibilities (perhaps the driver is affiliated with the Christian association the group has been holding protests with lately). Still, it's a pretty odd cause to take up for a group concerned with ending militarism and negotiating peace with the North. If it is due to the nationality of the teachers involved, then this would be the first time a group "critical of USFK's presence in Korea" has bridged the gap between that posture and criticism of foreign teachers in Korea (though members of Anti-English Spectrum have posted 'art' depicting the the murder of Yun Geum-i before).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Murderous assault" by "Assailant American instructor" who fled Korea prompts protest in Gwangju

Two weeks ago a post at the Marmot's Hole told the story an American teacher in Gwangju who fled the country while being investigated for assaulting a taxi driver who was arguing with another female foreign teacher over a taxi fare while in front of the elevator of her dorm. The assault left the taxi driver with a broken tooth and fractured knee.

MBC reported on the story:

"American assailant leaves country"

They were kind enough to depict what happened:

Apparently the taxi driver was just giving her a friendly tap on the shoulder, when suddenly -

It then depicts his injuries:

Now, while his injuries seemed clear enough, I was curious about what exactly happened between the taxi driver and the female foreign teacher which caused the male foreign teacher to intervene - the news reports all skipped quickly over that part of the story. At the bottom of the post at the Marmot's Hole are two comments (starting here) which tell a different story:
I live in Gwangju and know all the parties involved with the exception of the taxi driver. I would like to clarify a few things here.

Does it not seem strange that Mr.M would suddenly attack an innocent taxi driver and beat him around for no reason? The “squabble” referred to in the article was indeed assault. After extremely overcharging the “female” they had a verbal argument. She paid the fare and left. But not to lose the argument, Kim followed her into the dorm (breaking the door in the process) and began to manhandle her. M saw this and jumped in to protect his friend and co-worker.[...]

M was more than willing to pay the blood money and even met with a lawyer and Kim. However, Kim refused to accept anything less than 60 million won for his exaggerated injuries. He was not actually hurt as bad as he claimed and actually started driving again during the days while staying at the hospital. [...] If there had been any kind of fact checking done you would see that Kim’s knee was not broken. But yes, his tooth was.

Unwilling to pay 60 million won to Kim, the only other option for M was court, a large fine and jail time, after which he would be deported because of his criminal status while on an E2 visa.

Again, what would you do? Jail, compensation, and deportation or just cut and run?

“Female” was also told that she would not be allowed to file a lawsuit because poor Kim had been beat up already. Kim was not charged with anything nor was he forced to compensate for the broken dormitory door.
Another commenter adds that
the taxi driver followed the woman into the dormitory building & elevator, forcing his way through a security door that generally requires a fingerprint to gain entry. One would think that this point alone would place the taxi driver in a negative light – it seems to be being overlooked in the poor quality and superficial reporting on this issue, however, and was certainly pointedly ignored in the police investigation.
That's certainly a different story than what was reported in the media. That reporting, however, is not over, as the following article by Gwangju Dream, published on April 26, reveals (the story was also reported by NoCut News [Update: And Newsis, Yonhap, and Newsis again]):
Belated investigation to blame for escape of native speaking instructor who assaulted taxi driver.
"The prosecution should summon the instructor," denunciation by citizen's group at press conference.

▲On the 25 "Gwangju & Jeollanam-do People for Peace and Reunification" held a press conference in front of the Gwangju District Prosecutor's Office calling for responsibility to be taken for the incident in which an instructor at Jeonnam University's foreign language hagwon assaulted and injured a taxi driver and fled the country.

"The prosecution should summon the American instructor who fled the country and apologize to the victim's family! Jeonnam University, who is morally responsible, should take suitable action to prevent this from reoccuring!"

On the 25th the Gwangju Christian Council and the "Gwangju & Jeollanam-do People for Peace and Reunification" held a press conference in front of the Gwangju District Prosecutor's Office and criticized the Prosecutor's Office and Jeonnam University for the "Jeonnam University American instructor's taxi driver assault and flight incident." They criticized the prosecution for their belated action saying, "The flight of the American Jeonnam University instructor after assaulting a taxi driver is due to an investigation which took place after it was too late, which is typical of the prosecution." "Immediately after the incident, the victim and his family members requested that the instructor be arrested during the investigation and an exit ban be placed on him, but the prosecution completely ignored this request." Also, "Generally, if someone inflicts injuries that take 4-6 weeks to recover from, detention during the investigation is customary, though the American instructor who inflicted eight and two weeks of injuries was not arrested, fled to America and is not returning." "When such a degree of injury was inflicted, and an agreement had not been reached with the victim, it's hard to understand how the victim's request for detention and an exit ban were refused."

They insisted that "If the request for detention had been accepted, then at least such an escape, and avoidance of the law's judgement, would have been avoided." "The prosecution should apologize to the victim's family for the flight of the suspect due to their irresponsible investigation and immediately summon the American instructor who escaped."

They are also pressing Jeonnam University take responsibility and formally apologize.

They criticized it, saying, "An instructor affiliated with Jeonnam University carried out a murderous assault on campus but the university is not apologizing and of course is not taking suitable measures." "Worse, the American native-speaking female teacher who set off the assault because she didn't pay her taxi fare is, even now, brazenly continuing to lecture."

The victim's family said, "This is something that couldn't occur in a country governed by laws." "The human rights of a single taxi driver are also the human rights of the Republic of Korea. We request they quickly, cooperatively investigate and summon and punish the attacker so that such a thing never happens again."

On February 20 at 1:30 am, Mr. Kim, the taxi driver, drove a 23 year-old American woman working as native-speaking instructor at Jeonnam University from Gwangju's Geumnam-ro to Jeonnam University. However, the female instructor thought the taxi fare was higher than usual and didn't pay it. As Mr. Kim and the female instructor argued over the late night surcharge, another, male American instructor assaulted him. Mr. Kim had a front tooth broken and his knee fractured, which respectively took 8 weeks of dental work and 2 weeks to heal completely.

Afterward, Mr. Kim reported the male American instructor to the police but the American instructor assailant fled the country during the investigation, and so Mr. Kim's family is appealing against this injustice by doing such things as submitting complaints to the National Human Rights Commission.
I'd be curious to see what the National Human Rights Commission might say. Though I'm sure any recommendation they might make - if they took Mr. Kim's side - would be in regards to dealing with foreigners in general, it would be interesting if they sided against the teacher, as they've proven unwilling to take a stand for non-Korean foreign teachers (despite assurances they would), (though complaints by ethnic Korean foreign teachers have gotten results).

As for the protest, this is certainly first time I've seen a banner referring to a foreign teacher.

One wonders why the "Gwangju & Jeollanam-do People for Peace and Reunification" would get involved with an incident involving a foreign teacher. The answer? They don't seem to be concerned with a "foreign" teacher, but a teacher(s) of a specific nationality. Perhaps the following list will help illustrate this:

Well now... ten references to "American instructor." Pretty much any given article about a foreign teacher will mention the teacher's nationality once. Maybe twice. But ten times? And mostly in quotes given by the "Gwangju & Jeollanam-do People for Peace and Reunification"? I think I can see how they got involved:

"There's a case involving a taxi driver assaulted by a foreign teacher."
"The assailant is American."
"I'll call the banner printing company right now."

I'll also assume that, besides the interest in Americans who have committed a "murderous assault" and are "brazenly" continuing to teach after victimizing a citizen of 남조선, there may be a grudge match with the prosecutors and perhaps Jeonnam University involved here as well.

It's also interesting that they're calling for the teacher to be summoned back to Korea (though not outright calling for extradition). After the "Quincy Black" incident, members of Anti English Spectrum made it sound like they thought he should be brought back to Korea to face justice (even though the police seemed to have no interest in this). For those nationalists wanting the Korean state to exercise as much sovereignty as possible over foreigners (especially westerners, and especially Americans - which the whole battle over revising SOFA was about), the prospect of extradition is quite attractive, even if I haven't seen it voiced explicitly.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chojiya Midopa Young Plaza

Two weeks ago I posted photos of Korea in 1945 from Life Magazine. There were several aerial photos; one I didn't post was this one (the full size photo is here):

That's Euljiro running from the center to bottom right. At its far end City Hall and the Bumingwan can be seen. They still stand today (well, sort of), with the Bumingwan, after having served as the National Assembly until 1975, now the Seoul City Council. The photo also reveals Myeongdong (and the recently restored Myeongdong theatre) as well as Namdaemunno:

A close look at Namdaemunno reveals how built up it was. If you look at the far left, however, you can see what was then known as the Chojiya Department Store. Here's how it looked then:

It eventually became the Midopa Department Store after liberation, and in 2003 was reopened after being remodeled as the Lotte Young Plaza (its genealogy is noted here). It can be seen in the background here:

It wasn't until I saw the photo at the top of this post that I realized its colonial-era origins. It's nice to see that it has, like the former constitutional court and the Myeongdong Theatre, been preserved in some form.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Foreign teacher busted for smuggling and growing

Growing Marijuana, that is. On Friday, April 22, NoCut News issued the following report:
Prosecutors: Foreign instructor arrested and charged with growing and smuggling marijuana
Marijuana grown in a greenhouse, habitual smoking when staying overseas

A foreign instructor who imported and grew marijuana has been uncovered.

On the 22nd, Incheon District Prosecutors Office Violent Crime Section arrested and charged 20 year-old British English instructor A with breaking the Drug Control Law for secretly bringing into the country, smoking and growing marijuana.

From March this year until recently, A purchased 19 marijuana seeds from an American internet site and grew five plants in his house in Incheon.

A also purchased 5 grams of synthetic marijuana (JWH-250) from another US internet site and had it sent to him through international mail. The total amount he received the two times he did this totaled 6.52 grams, for which he has been charged with smuggling and smoking.

The prosecution's investigation also found that A used wood and an electric heater to make a greenhouse to grow marijuana in, and that when he visited Britain and Australia, he habitually smoked marijuana.

In the course of this investigation, the prosecution confirmed he was hired as a teacher without a concrete verification process for the language hagwon instructor qualification requirement and requested that the related education office strengthen its control over this.
The Gyeongin Ilbo also reported on this on Sunday and added a little more information about the 'greenhouse:'
As a result of the prosecutor's investigation it was found that M used wood, a heater, and a ventilator to build a heating cabinet 170cm high and 65 cm wide in which he grew marijuana.
It's interesting to note that, though drug testing has been strengthened for foreign teachers, what with marijuana being added to the E2 drug tests last July and new tests were mandated in January, this is the first reported drug bust involving a foreign teacher in nine months. This is especially interesting because 'public perception' and media reports - not actual arrest statistics - were used to justify implementing the new E2 regulations in 2007 and also feature in Choi Young-hee's bills (such as in footnote 2 on page 6 of this file (clicking downloads a pdf file, also available here, under 검토보고서) ).

As for the prosecution requesting that the related education office strengthen its control over the hiring of hagwon instructors, it would seem justified in doing so. I mean, how did a twenty year-old - of any nationality - end up working in a hagwon?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Native speaking teacher sexually assaulted in Anyang

The Herald Gyeongje, Maeil Gyeongje, Chosun Ilbo, NoCut News, Gyeonggi Ilbo, and Hanguk Daehak Sinmun have reported on this story. Here a translation of the Chosun Ilbo article:
Four university students sexually assault drunken English hagwon native speaking teacher

On the 19th Manan(gu) Police in Anyang, Gyeonggi-do arrested three university students, including 18 year-old A, and booked without detention 18 year-old B for the group sexual assault of a foreign woman.

According to police, at 12:05am on the 12th, after drinking together at a bar in Anyang-1-dong in Manan-gu, the students took drunken 24 year-old American C, an English hagwon native speaking teacher, to a motel where they repeatedly sexually assaulted her and stole money and valuables such as her phone worth 800,000 won.

They approached C and drank with her after the group she was drinking with left her alone. When C became so drunk she couldn't keep her balance, they took her to a nearby motel. It's become known that after they arrived at the motel, they decided what order they would go in and sexually assaulted her.

During the the police investigation they confessed that, "At first we just wanted to sit and drink together, but when C became really drunk the idea of sexually assaulting her came to us." Police revealed, "None of the four have records of committing sex crimes."

When C discovered what had happened the next day, she told someone working at her hagwon the story and they contacted the police together. C is working as an English instructor at a hagwon in the Pyeongchon area of Anyang and has been in Korea for 6 months.
The "get her drunk and sexually assault her as a group" M.O. is not uncommon, as this 2007 article pointed out:
Another aspect of teenage sex crimes in Korea is that they frequently happen in groups. Some 50 percent of teenage rape cases occurred in groups, compared to 30 percent for adults. Experts say that this tendency is higher in Korea than in other countries.
I wouldn't be surprised if it's university students who help make the adult rate so high.

Is there no law to catch fake English instructors?

On March 23, Financial News published the following story:
Education Companies: "Is there no law to catch fake English instructors?"

This year has also seen the discovery of English hagwon instructors who have faked their academic backgrounds. Educational companies have prepared countermeasures to deal with the endemic "fake instructor" problem but they point out that "It's difficult to do through our effort alone."

On March 22, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency International Crime Division booked without detention Ms. Seol, a 35 year old Korean Australian, for faking her academic credentials from a foreign university and teaching at a well known English hagwon in Korea. It's known that she faked a diploma from UNSW in Sydney and, since 2004, had worked at two hagwons in Gangnam as an English instructor and made around 400 million won in ill-gotten earnings during that time. In Some hagwons' cases, in regards to blocking fake instructors at their root, they personally verify and take the lead in instructor education. Avalon Education, which speciallizes in English education for elementary and middle school students, runs courses for those specializing in English education (ACEE) supporting English education theory, research and practice for university graduates hoping to become specialists in English education.

[It then mentions Jeongcheol's training system (for Korean instructors).]

Pagoda Academy runs its own instructor employment management system. In order to work in Korea as a foreign instructor, one must have graduated from a four year university program. In the past, Pagoda entrusted the Korean Council for University Education with verifying degrees, but from January this year entered into an agreement with 97 countries to have the academic backgrounds of newly hired instructors confirmed.

However, it's been pointed out that it's difficult for hagwons themselves to completely and realistically manage and crack down on fake instructors. An official at an English education company who requested anonymity said, "In cases where people who are proficient at English or are native speakers go ahead and request a forger to make a document, neither national investigative agencies nor hagwons find it easy to verify if something is false." "Moreover, in cases where someone is good lecturing or is popular, if you have doubts, sometimes you might overlook them due to their performance."

Therefore, "What's needed is a government-backed investigative organization."
Despite the way it begins with the arrest of a Korean-Australian (presumably native speaking) instructor, looking at how the article focuses on the training of Korean instructors, it seems native speaking instructors are not really the target here, only English instructors with faked backgrounds in general. The single person they interviewed makes it seem as if the hagwons have been left out to dry by the government in this regard, but it does at least look at the problem in a non-accusatory way. I'm not sure if a government-backed investigative organization is necessarily what's needed, but it would at least lead to a cohesive policy. One wonders what this "agreement with 97 countries to have the academic backgrounds of newly hired instructors confirmed" that Pagoda has entered into is about. Do any readers know?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

1946: Warnings, beatings, scorn, and mixed race babies

I was searching for something else (as always) when I came across this page about the 1949 book Irma and the Hermit: My Life in Korea by Irma Tennant Materi, the wife of an American officer serving in the US Military Government in Korea. Truth be told, I hadn't imagined dependents were brought over at that time. I had a chance to skim through some of it today and found that, among the complaints about maids (and other aspects which got a thumbs down from this brief review), there were some pretty fascinating pages. It goes some of the way towards answering questions I posed about relations between American soldiers and Korean women in this post, and serves as a prequel to it.

So, more tales of the "warnings," "beatings" and "scorn" that awaited Korean women seen with foreign men, and a figure of at least 52 babies conceived in the first 6 months of the US occupation. And that story of the first "Negro-Korean baby" - wow. I doubt subsequent children of such parentage proved so "lucrative." Also interesting is being reminded that interracial marriages in the US were illegal. I also wonder, if most of the 22 couples married in Korea were of "Oriental extraction," what exactly that extraction was. And then the tales of Americans being spit at, assaulted and robbed. All in all, a pretty eventful three and a half pages.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Accurately determining if E2s are alcoholics or drug addicts

On April 12, Doctor's News published the following article:
Foreign English teacher drug addiction 'verification' at hospitals
On General Hospital selected as 'Ministry of Justice conversation instruction employment medical exam institution'
Establishing a drug screening system... certification as excellent laboratory

Blood is being taken to check whether foreigners seeking jobs are addicted to drugs. Busan On General Hospital was selected by the Ministry of Justice as a "designated medical institution for conversation instruction (E2) required medical exams."

In order to ensure a safe learning environment for youth, the government has made it so that, from April 1, when native speaking instructors register conversation instruction requirements or receive permission for activities outside of residence, only medical exam certificates issued from medical institutions designated by the Justice Minister will be acknowledged in order to improve the system.

Due to English early education fever the demand for foreign instructors has increased, and, outside of foreign native speaking instructors who have received conversation instruction visas (E2 visa) and legally entered the country, cases of foreigners who come on tourist visas and teach English in hagwons and reside here illegally are increasing. Among foreign instructors who do not have legal visas, some have caused incidents which have led to social criticism and, along with it, increasing worries by parents.

Through the employment medical exam certificate, the Ministry of Justice will be able to distinguish whether a foreign English teacher is a drug addict or alcoholic.

Until April, foreign English instructors had gotten employment health checks at public health centers, but it was argued that it was not possible to accurately determine if they were alcoholics or drug addicts.

In order to secure reliable test results, the government will only acknowledge conversation instruction (E2) employment medical exam certificates issued by a fully equipped medical institution with a HIV exam system and a drug screening system including a cannabinoid test and a TBPE test confirming whether drugs such as marijuana, amphetamine, methamphetamine, heroin or philippon have been taken.

Busan On General Hospital said that to be hired, foreigners entering the country for conversation instruction have been verified, which will reduce the worries of parents and students.

On General Hospital director Jeong Geun said that, "Last October, we were recognized for our reliability and accuracy based on our cutting edge diagnostic testing equipment and excellent laboratory personnel." "With the accuracy and reliability of our test results, we can provide greater help in the important hiring of foreigners qualified for conversation instruction."
So, let me get this straight: "Among foreign instructors who do not have legal visas, some have caused incidents which have led to social criticism and, along with it, increasing worries by parents," but now these newly government-designated testing centers will take care of this by accurately testing... only teachers who are legally here on E2 visas. Well then, problem solved! Certainly, the way to figure out if these illegal teachers (who are increasing, so it's said, though there are no numbers to back that assertion and from my own experience it seems there are actually less teachers here on tourist visas now than there were 5 years ago) are alcoholics or drug addicts is to come up with more stringent tests for the... legal teachers. Makes sense.

As for this measure "reduc[ing] the worries of parents," the same thing was said by the Ministry of Justice back in 2007 when it announced new E-2 regulations:
[S]teps will be taken to regulate the entry of foreign teachers into the country [...] in order to prevent from living in Korea native speaking conversation instructors who arouse public criticism through their drug taking, molestation, and alcoholism. [...]

It is expected the unease of citizens caused by unqualified conversation instructors will be largely resolved by t
he Ministry of Justice's recent measures regarding conversation teachers which will make it possible to block drug users, those with criminal records and illegal conversation teachers who acquire visas using fake documents from entering Korea and stop unqualified conversation instructors who have entered the country without visas from teaching conversation illegally.
Three and a half years later, it seems the 'unease' with foreign English teachers hasn't gone anywhere - in fact, with more improvements to the E2 visa system announced last July, these new, improved drug tests (testing for amphetamine, methamphetamine, heroin and philippon - popular drugs with the E2 crowd!), and the removal of HIV tests for all foreigners except E2 visa holders (due to 80% of citizens polled disagreeing with them being done away with), it could be argued that the unease has increased. Or at least, that the unease is perpetual, with parents' stomachs kept churning in worry by periodic (and regular) news reports depicting the threat foreign English teachers pose to their children.

Oh, and it would seem the deaths (seemingly suicides while drunk) of two teachers in Busan - which left an editorial writer at the Busan Ilbo "aghast" that such people were teaching children and were also talked about in the media here and here - have influenced talk of testing to determine if teachers are alcoholics, something that generally has not been talked about in regards to foreign teachers* - possibly because even the lowest quality journalists might realize how hypocritical that might be.

[*An exception being the MoJ announcement above.]

Monday, April 18, 2011

A busy weekend

Hope everyone had a chance to enjoy the cherry blossoms this weekend. If it's not raining I might head over to Yeouido after work. Actually, I might head there if it is raining - it'll be less crowded that way. Below, James Wade describes a weekend spent (in 1965) setting the world right, in response to a letter in the Korea Times... (click to enlarge).

The fourth paragraph on the first page refers to a Time Magazine article discussed here. The Male magazine reference is to a 1965 article in that magazine which "extrapolates" on the Time article. Rev. Clump Duthers may be simply an amalgam of different religious characters found in Seoul at the time, or may refer to Rev. Ernst W. Karsten, who supplied the material for both the Time and Male articles.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Photos of post-liberation Korea

While I've known that you could use Google to search Life Magazine's photo archives (these photos of communist murals in Pyongyang during the Korean War were linked to at the Marmot's Hole a few years ago) , I hadn't thought of doing more exploring until a few days ago. What turned up were dozens of photos taken by photographer George Silk in the fall of 1945 when US troops arrived in Korea after the end of World War II. These include aerial shots of the city (click on the source or other links to find the original, full size photos):

GIs were also photographed entering the town of Songdo, being led by a firetruck filled with local reporters...

...while being greeted by those watching the impromptu parade.

Photos were also taken of refugees "celebrating release from slavery in factories and returning to their farms," such as the one below and this one.

Other photos show buildings, such as the one below, decorated with signs welcoming soldiers and "displaying flags of occupying forces and portraits of the leaders of Allied countries" (note the use of the 'c' in Corea).

Some well known buildings, like the YMCA, also had such signs; Seoul Station apparently did not.

After signing the Japanese surrender, US troops disarmed Japanese troops before sending them home.

Source (see also here)

No doubt the Korean onlookers here were happy to see them go.

Seeing as a river is in the background, and the photo below shows the Hangang Rail Bridge at far left, the soldiers are likely walking across the present Hangang Bridge.

Of course, the Americans weren't the only troops who had entered Korea. Below is a photo of Russian troops (where exactly, I don't know):

Below is a photo of Russian and American soldiers gathering around a US jeep while Koreans watch.

Several photos, such as the one below, show the US soldiers and Russians interacting. The Americans seem especially taken with the female Russian soldier.

Other photos from this time period can be found here and here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Curbing The Seoul of Hospitality

In a Time Magazine dated June 4, 1973, an article titled "The Seoul of Hospitality" was published. Some excerpts:
Between 1971 and 1972, the number of Japanese visitors to Korea more than doubled, reaching 190,000; this year Seoul officials expect more than 500,000, about 70% of them in all-male tour groups. Last year Japanese tourism was worth $58 million; in 1973 the figure is expected to reach $120 million. The major reason: many Japanese males have come to believe that the Korean kisaeng are more accomplished (and quite a bit cheaper) than the ladies patrolling the Ginza back home. [...]

Not all the tourists spend their time wenching: Seoul has a host of scenic and historic attractions. But the main lure still seems to be the sight of hostesses rather than the host of sights. Complains Korea's Director of Tourism Yong Kul Lee: "The Japanese men seem far more interested in unwholesome things."[...]

Seoul offers 1,500 registered kisaeng, most of them young and pretty. The girls are licensed, as an official directive specifies, to "entertain her guest in his hotel room." Among licensing requirements: a rigid twice-a-month physical checkup. (Kisaeng pick up their cards, oddly enough, in Seoul's Y.M.C.A.) Once approved the girls trip off to work in one of Seoul's twelve "licensed restaurants," don their time-honored chogori (loose blouses) and chima (flowing skirts) and get to work.[...]

[A]fter an hour or so of eating and nervous fidgeting by the guests, the kisaeng leave, change swiftly into bell-bottoms or miniskirts, then lead their partners to a line of cabs and off to a hotel.[...]

An American tourist, shoved around at Kimpo Airport by a mass of eager arrivals from Tokyo, asked: "Does the U.S. have to post 40,000 G.I.s in Korea to defend these guys' right to have a good time?"

Most Koreans, however, take the invasion in stride. When Correspondent Chang asked three lovely kisaeng, who earn $500 per month, how they felt about the Japanese, one replied: "It's hard for us to accept some—but we must work hard not only for ourselves and our families but for our country's future. Our country needs more money for its economic development."
A similar attitude was displayed towards yanggongju, prostitutes who worked in US military camptowns:
[G]overnment officials often came down to Songtan to give special lectures. They praised the girls as “true patriots,” or “good people who reaped dollars.”
No doubt this has influenced the complicated way in which Japan and the US are perceived in Korea. The immediate government response to the Time article suggests that some Koreans were not "tak[ing] the invasion in stride," as this June 4, 1973 Stars and Stripes article reveals:
ROK Urges Curbs On Hotel 'Guests'
S&S Korea Bureau
SEOUL — All first class tourist hotels throughout Korea have been urged by the government to enforce hotel policies that would restrict male guests from escorting "female entertainers" to their rooms, a spokesman for the Transportation Ministry said Friday.

By female entertainers, the spokesman was referring specifically to prostitutes and the well known kisaeng who frequently accompany male escorts to hotel rooms to spend the night.

Kisaeng — similar to the famous Japanese geisha — are licensed hostesses who show male customers an enjoyable evening on the town and a rewarding night in a local hotel. The Ministry says there are about 1,600 registered kisaeng in Seoul alone.

The spokesman said the hotels were urged to strictly enforce existing regulations or draw up new ones prohibiting known prostitutes and kisaeng from accompanying male guests to their rooms. He said, however, this did not rule out male guests registering these girls as their wives.

Most tourist hotels have maintained similar rules in the past, but have done little or nothing to enforce them.

Now if men wish to be entertained by these girls without registering them as their wives, the spokesman said, they will have to go to second or third class establishments.

In addition, the ministry has asked all local tourist organizations to stop including kisaeng parties on the schedules of visiting tourist groups — mostly Japanese businessmen — as they have consistently done in the past. These parties, the spokesman said, will have to be arranged by the groups themselves.

The government's request came shortly after this week's issue of Time Magazine, which carried a revealing article about Japanese tourists and kisaeng hospitality, hit the newsstands in the capital city. The article, headlined "The Seoul of Hospitality," told of Korea's soaring tourism industry and how visiting Japanese businessmen were taking advantage of low priced, highly regarded skills of the kisaeng.

One ministry official did, however, voice his thoughts on why the article may have been written.

"I think," he said, "the Time article may have been prompted by what I think is growing American jealousy over the rising prices of female entertainment here, caused primarily by big-spending Japanese businessmen."
It's unfortunate that Korea was beset on all sides by Japanese "interested in unwholesome things" and "American jealousy." When one considers, however, that (according to Katherine Moon's Sex Among Allies, pg 45) the number of Japanese tourists visiting Korea reached 436,405 in 1973 and 649,707 by 1979, it's made clear that this government response was just a quick face saving measure.

Friday, April 08, 2011

"Too much democracy" leads women to a "mistaken impression of equality with men"

I was looking through 1940s-era Stars and Stripes and found some interesting articles from the time of the American military occupation (from 1945 to 1949, which I've written about before here and here) which point to concerns - on both sides - about the effects of American influence on Korean women.

First, this article from February 5, 1949:
Army Relaxes Ban
Korean Girls invited to Soldier 'Shindig'

SEOUL," Feb. 5 (AP)—If everything works out right there will be 150 Korean girls to dance with American soldiers at their Hourglass Club Feb. 13.

Brig. Gen. William L. Roberts, Redlands, Calif., who took over command here last month said Friday the plan of inviting Koreans to a soldier's dance was tried successfully last Saturday night at a Quartermaster depot at Ascom City, 20 miles west of here.

The Army had not permitted that sort of thing in Korea since late 1947 when a Korean operated dancehall was put off limits for soldiers.

Girls from Seoul colleges and daughters of good families are being invited, Roberts told the Associated Press.

He said the guests will come and leave in Army buses and during the dance there will be no strolling from the Hourglass Club.[...]
I'd certainly be interested in learning more about the dance hall which was put off limits. While this photo taken in late 1945 shows an off-limits red light district in Seoul, it's not as if it wasn't possible for "fraternization" to take place. As described in Katharine Moon's Sex Among Allies,
The women who sold sex to U.S. occupation forces from 1945 to 1949, who like other camp followers in other lands at other times, followed or greeted troops with a willingness to wash laundry, run errands, and provide sex for some form of remuneration - money, food, cigarettes. Prostitution took place in U.S. military barracks in the early years of the U.S. military occupation (1945-46) and in shabby makeshift dwellings called panjatjip (literally, houses made of boards). By the late occupation period (1947-49), simple inns or hotels... also became the loci of sexual exchange.
When the planned dance took place, however, there was to be none of this kind of fraternization, as this March 5, 1949 article describes it:
Social Experiment Held By U.S. Army In Korea

SEOUL, March 5 (INS)—American Army officials completed a relatively new "social experiment" in Seoul where American soldiers were permitted to dance with Korean girls for the first time in nearly two years.

The "experiment" was conducted in the Army's Hour Glass Club which attracted so many American soldiers that Korean dancing girls were outnumbered 17 to one.

Irene Karl, Army hostess and director of the club, said the whole affair was conducted under strict Army supervision which included special guards assigned to club exits to prevent "strolling."

Also, she said invitations to the dance were carefully screened and sent to the daughters of "good Korean families" living in Seoul.

During the dance, she said, a total of 2,868 American soldiers arrived at the club while only 150 Korean girls, were able to attend.'

"About 30 girls," she said, "had to get permission from, their husbands."

At the same time, she said some soldiers traveled 35 miles to reach the club from the 38th parallel where Army service clubs do not exist.

Actually, the tremendous attendance by American soldiers was partly attributed to the Army's fraternization ban which virtually prohibits American troops from associating with Koreans.
Interesting that married women were attending. As for the fraternization ban, this article, from February 22, 1948, makes one wonder how effective it was:
Korean Brides Called Advanced Phenomena

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (UP)—In the eyes of at least one authority, Korean women who marry foreigners are, for lack of a mere earthly definition, to be considered an
"advanced phenomenon."

According to the right-wing Cha Yoo Shih Mun[자유신문], this is the view of Ann Chai-hong[안재홍], who holds the post of Civil Administrator, the highest official position in the South Korean governmental stratum.

In answer to a question by a reporter of the newspaper, Ahn said "the fact that there are too many Korean women married to foreigners shows their adoration of the foreigners." Ahn then obliquely suggested, according to the newspaper, that these women "had better keep their self-respect since we cannot prohibit their marriages."
Somehow I doubt he went on to criticize Syngman Rhee for his self-hating adoration of his foreign wife (though Ahn did go on to run against Syngman Rhee as an independent in the 1948 presidential election). As I've pointed out before, this attitude was shared by others, as described in Donald Clark's Living Dangerously in Korea:
[T]he young, educated women who worked in USAMGIK offices were often approached for dates. The women, their families, and Korean society in general misunderstood these overtures, and they put the women in a difficult position. For example, one morning an American officer found that his Korean receptionist was very upset by a leaflet that a man had handed her on the way to work. He ordered up a rough translation and found that it said:

"WE COULD NOT OVERLOOK YOU, WOMANHOOD, when you fool around with Westerners in just showing your vanity and worldly devices, which is nothing but scandalous, while you should put all your strength on establishing the state of new Korea. From now on any one of you who shows the following scandalous actions beware that you will be insulted right in front of public.

1. Those women who are quite animated in riding automobile with Westerners.
2. Those women who wink at Westerners in saying “Hello gum” and “My home” and such short words.
3. Those women who chew gum and stroll all over town.
4. Those women who are whispering to the Westerners in the night.
5. Those women who go into the dance hall just because they are crazy about coffee and chocolate."
Number 5 has another mention of "the dance hall." While it's hard to know if the marriages Ahn was complaining about(which could not be prohibited) referred to US soldiers, they would seem to be the most likely candidates. It's interesting to see that not only guys on the streets handing out fliers, but even someone in the "highest official position" who ran for president also made such statements.

As it turns out, it seems that others had worries about Korean women being exposed to American culture, as this January 19, 1949 article reveals:
Movie Cut May Aid S. Korean Husbands

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (UP)—A government spokesman told the United Press U.S. movies imported into American-backed South Korea will be severely cut down because Korean authorities consider some of the movies "degenerating" from the standpoint of Korean morals and culture.

An official in the Motion Picture Section of the Korean Department of Public Information said imported American movies for Korean audiences will be cut to 17 per year from the current 40 because they are considered demoralizing.

The official said American movies tend to give Korean women a "mistaken impression of the equality with men." He added the Korean Government plans to produce a dozen movies of its own each year.
This reduction in the number of American films may have been too little, too late, however. It seems the men complaining about women getting "mistaken impression[s] of the equality with men" may have had reasons for feeling this way, considering the contents of this July 29, 1949 story:
Keeping of Concubines Assailed
Korean Women Call For Officials' Purge

SEOUL, July 29 (UP)—Three thousand embittered Korean women marched on the capitol to present a resolution demanding the "purge" of all government officials who keep concubines.

The reaction of the men as the line of determined females passed was, as one bearded Korean said, "There is getting to be too much democracy in this country'."

The women presented the resolution to the National Assembly which last week rejected a move that would have purged officials with "second and third wives." The ladies worked themselves up to a heated fighting rage before fearlessly heading for the Assembly chambers which, incidentally, were heavily guarded. At a rally in the city hall theater, the girls, representing all women's organizations, demanded quick action on their resolution.

It included the following points:
1) The whole concubine question shocks Korean women extremely.
2) To use the question of women as a political tool is an insult to womanhood.
3) The constitution guarantees equality of sex. (The wording of the third point hinted that the women might consider exercising their constitutional rights and try matching men if men keep on with this number two and number three wife business.)
One imagines the men who read the last point (if it did indeed hint in that direction) must have thought the world was turning upside down. This concern with the effect on Korean society of western culture - and those who carry it - has ebbed and flowed throughout Korea's postwar history. While its most recent (and not so recent) manifestation is something I've looked into a great deal, over the next few months I'll be focusing on the events of the early 1970s, when Park Chung-hee declared war on Korea's western-influenced youth culture.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Rat Tales

On January 21, 1972, the Korea Herald reported on an odd economic venture - one which PETA would likely not approve:

I couldn't help but remember this story; the Simpsons episode where Fat Tony runs a rat-milking operation to supply the school cafeteria also comes to mind. The comment "I wanted to make them compensate us for what they have done to us" is interesting in the light of the economic damage rats are portrayed as causing in the article.

One wonders what became of this venture. I somehow get the feeling that when Korea and Canada celebrate the ways in which the two countries have worked together in the past, this is something that is not brought up.

Still, the Korea of ten years later, in 1982, would not have been imaginable to those living ten years earlier in 1962, and as odd a tale as it is, it points to the measures people were willing to take to create wealth and pull the country out of poverty.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Entrance exams... for high schools

I was looking through the Korea Herald from January 1972 (the National Assembly Library has the original papers bound in large books) and came across the tale of that year's high school entrance exam, as told in photos. I'm not exactly sure when the high school entrance exam was abolished; the middle school exam ended in 1968, as this photo published on January 12 also hints at:

This post also looks at the middle school entrance exams. Interesting to note the braids and pony tail (pig tails?) on the girls above - not something you see many middle school students wearing today - perhaps it allowed them to wear their hair longer?

With the applications received, the test took place on January 18, and this photo published the following day shows how enthusiastically the tradition of affixing yeot was followed:

I imagine that wasn't much fun to remove. As it turns out, the testing wasn't finished, as this photo published January 20 reveals:

Interesting that it might not have mattered how well you studied, but that your ability to attend high school could have depended on whether or not you could force one more push-up out of yourself. The results were announced two days later, as this January 22 photo reveals:

I'm not sure when general high school entrance exams were abolished (they still exist today for some schools, such as foreign language high schools). It was interesting to see that the university entrance exams were held after this. As this photo caption from January 14 notes, the exam was set for January 24, two months later than it is currently held:

The Washington Post also covered Korean education the other day, looking at the attempts by the current government to reign in hagwons and private lessons. I found this description interesting:
[O]fficials [...] policing after-hours study haunts [...] field tips from a watchdog Web site that reports tutors who charge too much or work past a 10 p.m. curfew, and forward them to investigators who comb streets[.]
I guess relying on 'watchdog web sites' is the done thing around here for government ministries and police forces?

Monday, April 04, 2011

The unruly crowd

A September 4, 1975 letter to the editor in the Korea Times:

At that point the Seoul subway (line 1) would have been operating for a year. One wonders if the writer had a chance to ride it at rush hour. Certainly, even on line 9 today, trying to get off the express train during rush hour sometimes requires "brute force" just to be able to step off the train and not get pushed back inside by those rushing to get on (and pushing those in front of them).

Friday, April 01, 2011

Bits and Pieces

According to the Korea Herald and Yonhap, the "English craze" is alive and well in North Korea:
But news reports say that North Korea recently requested that a Canadian relief agency send English teachers. The Mennonite Central Committee will select two English teachers and send them to North Korea to teach from September this year until July 2012.

The agency said that this is the first time North Korea has requested English teachers and believes the move is meant to enhance the English-speaking ability of students.

Another agency in New Zealand has posted a notice on its website recently, saying they are raising funds to send a voluntary teacher to teach for three months in 2011 in Pyongyang, according to the Radio Free Asia report Tuesday. The NZ-DPRK Society sent the first westerner to teach English in a North Korean school in 2006. Tim Kearn, a former school teacher in Christchurch, had spent two years in North Korea, teaching English at three secondary schools in Pyongyang.
The Korea Herald also reported that
A small county on Korea’s southeast coast is waiting for confirmation that a clay pot it completed last year will be recognized as the biggest pot in the world.

According to Ulju County officials, the onggi, or earthenware pot, passed the Guinness World Records application, and is waiting for a representative to arrive next month and confirm the claim in person.

Officials also believe that since the publication will have to create a new category ― largest earthenware pot ― the pot’s chances of receiving the title are good.
I guess that's one way to win a contest - simply have a new category be set up in which you are the only contestant!

Another interesting report:
The Ahn Jung-geun Peace Foundation Youth Academy said on Friday that Japanese living in Fukuoka and Saga Prefectures would erect the Ahn Jung-geun memorial at the entrance of a temple in Saga, Japan, on March 25 to mark the 101st anniversary of his death.
If I had to make a guess, I would imagine the article left out the "Korean-" before the word "Japanese."

In the wake of a 45-year-old Korean man being arrested on suspicion of murdering his 25-year-old Cambodian wife about a year ago to cash in on insurance policies, the Korea Times looked at "defenseless" migrant wives. Another article looked at migrant workers - in particular the Migrants Trade Union - calling for fairer treatment, as well as looking at the challenges faced by a Bangladeshi woman married to a Korean.

The Joongang Ilbo looked at groups dedicated to finding missing children - founded by parents haunted by their own children who have never been found.