Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Experiencing Nongae’s Sacrifice

Update: Here's a shot of the jumping spot:


It seems the experience is not reserved only for girls:


Original post:

Via a post by Yuna at the Marmot's Hole comes the story of netizen uproar over an activity at the Jinju Nongae Festival, further explained by the Korea Times:
Organizers of Jinju Nongae Festival, held last weekend in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, organized the event as part of the festival which commemorates Nongae, a gisaeng (Korean courtesan) during the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).

During the Japanese invasion of Joseon in 1593, Nongae lured a Japanese general to a cliff and threw herself into the Nam River below while holding the general tight in her arms, causing both of them to drown. People in the region have honored her as a patriotic martyr, holding festivals since 2002.

In the event named “Experience of Nongae’s Sacrifice,” visitors were encouraged to jump off an artificial cliff, while holding a dummy dressed like a Japanese soldier, onto an air mattress 1 meter below.

Not only adults but also about 600 children took part in the event, according to the organizer.
Wheeee! From here, via the Marmot's Hole.

I was going to say that I thought it was great that the festival was trying to make history come alive for children, but that they had taken things in a pretty tasteless direction, but... adults took part in this? That adults took part might be more shocking than the involvement of children. Might be, but not really. More anti-Japanese indoctrination (hating Japan is fun, kids! A few more years of this and you'll be ready for bayonet practice in Myeong-dong!) while providing possible solutions to poor test scores.

Not that a Jinju City official quoted in the article thinks that there's a problem with the event, however (though there will be a review over whether or not to continue it at next year’s festival):
Regarding the criticism [by netizens] that it is a “suicide experience,” [the official] said it is a “martyrdom experience.”

“Jumping off a cliff is an important factor of the festival as that’s what Nongae did. If the jump event is seen as a suicide experience, survival games should be seen as a war experience and the government should ban them,” the official said.
An intelligent and well thought out answer. Jinju (which is a nice place to visit, especially for the old fortress overlooking the river (which is likely where the festival is held)) is not so far from Masan, which passed an ordinance in 2005 declaring June 19 to be Daema-do Day (the anniversary of a Korean invasion of the Japanese island of Tsushima in 1419 (which is odd, of course, for a country which has never attacked anyone)). Daema-do is the Korean name for Tsushima, and the ordinance was a tit for tat for Japan's Shimano prefecture declaring Takeshima Day on the 100th anniversary of Japan annexing Dokdo a month earlier. (Daema-do is not a description of the island, as many disappointed English teachers were to realize after visiting Tsushima and not finding marijuana anywhere). Between these two stories of Jinju and Masan, one could perhaps quip that 'perhaps it's something in the water,' but that would be unfair to Masan, which was the location of protests in 1960 and 1979 which helped lead to the overthrow of two authoritarian presidents (one due to massive protests that spread to Seoul, another due to an argument over how to react to the uprising that led to his assassination).

But back to the story of netizens criticizing this celebration of Nongae. I certainly agree with the criticism that has come forth at the present time, but as Ben Wagner reminded me, in the past there were other netizens advocating the "Nongae experience" before Jinju's Nongae Festival drew attention:

Anti English Spectrum's homepage in 2006 sported this picture and caption:

"Nongae, we miss you."

Beset by images of and, according to their own front page at the time, "humiliated" by the thought of no-good whores dancing and sleeping with foreign men, it's not hard to see how they would long for a women who not only refused to sleep with a foreign man, but also killed him. Perhaps somewhere there are photos of AES members partaking in "Nongae's sacrifice" during a visit to a previous year's festival...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Expel those drug addicted, molesting foreign instructors

On May 3, the Gyeongin Ilbo published the following article:
'Expel' drug addicted, molesting foreign instructors
Provincial assembly board of education member submits bill to strengthen administrative measures for hiring by hagwons

In the midst of recent incidents - such as foreign English teachers smuggling and taking drugs and teachers within Korea committing molestation - becoming social problems, the Gyeonggi Provincial Assembly has, for the first time in Korea, submitted a bill to strengthen administrative measures aimed at such problems, and is therefore gaining much attention.

53 members of the Gyeonggi Provincial Assembly, including education committee member Choi Chang-ui, will submit such a "Partly revised bill on the Ordinance for the establishment and management of hagwons and private lessons in Gyeonggi-do." to the 259th provisional session which opens on the third.

The ordinance bill mandates that hagwons who hire those addicted to narcotics, marijuana, or psychotropic drugs will face suspension of business for the first violation, and will have their hagwon license cancelled for the second violation.

In addition, the ordinance bill will order hagwons which do not carry out criminal record checks for sex crimes when hiring instructors to correct this the first time, and stipulates that hagwons with subsequent violations will face strong administrative measures such as suspension of business and cancellation of their hagwon license. The bill also establishes that hagwons caught hiring sex criminals as instructors will not face correction orders but will face immediate suspension of business and cancellation of their hagwon license.

Representative Choi said, "This bill was submitted amidst the emerging social consensus that sex criminals and drug takers who create a harmful environment for children should be made to disappear from places of education," and "I hope this bill will be an opportunity to strengthen the responsibility of private hagwons when hiring instructors."
While the title clearly states that native speaking teachers are the problem, the article has only one mention of foreign teachers, saying that this bill targets "foreign English teachers smuggling and taking drugs and teachers within Korea committing molestation." The second part - "teachers within Korea committing molestation" (국내 강사들의 성추행) seems to be intentionally muddy, as it does not make clear just who the teachers committing molestation are.

A look at the bill itself, which can be found here, makes things clearer. The goal of the bill is to change the criteria for taking administrative measures against hagwons, in this case, for failure to carry out criminal record checks for sex crimes and drug offenses. Thus the bill will revise the existing law for hagwons in places where it restricts the fundamental rights of students. In regard to this, it lists the following aims:
To establish standards for administrative penalties according to the enforcement of a system to restrict employment of those who have committed sex crimes against children or youth, according to article 44 of the 'Child and youth sexual protection law.'

As there have been cases of foreign instructors arrested for things such as taking and trafficking drugs, in order to prevent the teaching activities of those addicted to narcotics or other drugs, penalty clauses will be established and criteria of administrative measures will be prepared.
Another aim is to set penalties for hagwon owners or instructors who do not complete training courses. The bill lays out the following punishments:
1. Failure to get a criminal record check for sex crimes: 1st offense, correction order; 2nd offense, suspension of business; 3rd offense, cancellation of licence.
2. Hiring a sex criminal: cancellation of licence
3. Hiring someone addicted to narcotics, marijuana, or psychotropic drugs: 1st offense, suspension of business; 2nd offense, cancellation of licence
4. Being absent without permission from training for those who manage or establish hagwons: 1st offense, correction order; 2nd offense, suspension of business; 3rd offense, cancellation of licence
5. Being absent without permission from training for instructors: 1st offense, suspension of business; 2nd offense, cancellation of licence.
Beyond the mention of foreign teacher arrests in the introduction, the only other mention the bill makes of foreigners is in regard to qualifications required by immigration for foreign teachers (with, of course, no mention of the pertinent visa). No mention is made of the fact that foreign instructors (on an E-2 visa, of course) require criminal record checks already. If the bill is calling for Korean criminal record checks (as Choi Young-hee's bills seem to do, and which have already been put in place by SMOE for its foreign public school teachers), it does not make that clear at all.

Otherwise, its nice to see pressure being put on hagwons to take more care in hiring, as the other aim - to ensure background checks are done on (presumably Korean) employees is something that should have been put in place long ago (though the move towards stricter punishments for (and prevention of) sex crimes against children has only really been an issue for the last five years).

That said, though the contents of the bill make only two mentions of foreign teachers (and do nothing to provide statistics backing up the assertion that there have been 'cases of foreign teacher arrests') as can be seen above, that's not how the Gyeongin Ilbo has chosen to report the bill, making it sound like its aimed at foreigners who are addicted to drugs and molest children.

The article sounds similar to an article back in January which said that "regulations for hiring instructors for hagwons in the Seoul area will be greatly strengthened," and though it was clearly aimed at Korean hagwon instructors, it used the example of a "native speaking English instructor who molested an elementary school student" to illustrate "sex crimes occurring again and again at hagwons [which] have caused parents a great deal of worry." That of course let to this nonsensical article about foreign instructors fleeing the new regulations in Seoul and turning Daejeon into a hive of scum and villainy.

Also worth noting is the use of "drug addict" to describe foreign teachers (as opposed to merely drug takers or traffickers, as the bill refers to them). While there have been periodic descriptions of foreign teachers as 'drug addicts' over the years, one wonders if the news reports on the case of the two (apparent) suicides of foreign teachers in Busan in February (reported on here, here, and here), wherein those who died were described as alcoholics and drug addiction was mentioned as a problem, have influenced the discourse on foreign teachers and drugs. Before those cases, when the government announced new drug tests for foreign teachers, the term 'addiction' was not brought up, but after those reports, a news report about a hospital in Busan chosen to do the new drug tests referred to teachers being tested to see if they "are addicted to drugs." And now, while this bill in the Gyeonggi provincial assembly does not mention the word "addict," every article (7 at this point) about this bill refers to it being intended to block foreign 'drug addicts' from working as hagwon instructors.

The debate over and outcome of the bill is covered here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

World Friends Korea's Blue House lawn birthday bash


On Monday the press, the diplomatic corps, hundreds of young volunteers and the president were present on the Blue House lawn to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of World Friends Korea.

While I was aware of Korea having a volunteer program inspired by the American Peace Corps, I hadn't realized that volunteers had been dispatched overseas by agencies like the Korea Overseas Volunteers (KOV) Program and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) since 1990 - only nine years after the Peace Corps left Korea. The number of volunteers sent overseas each year has grown quite a bit since then:


In 2009 the Korean government unified the overseas volunteer programs run by several different government ministries under the umbrella of "World Friends Korea." This was done with the aim of enhancing the effectiveness of the separate volunteer programs, while at the same time allowing Korea to project a coherent image of itself through its overseas volunteer programs. Korea’s Presidential Council on Nation Branding recently announced that, in order to expand its effectiveness and reach, WFK would be expanded to include private sector volunteer programs. And so the aim of the ceremony held on Monday was to welcome new members from the private sector and share Korea's vision for the future of WFK, which is many ways is to increase Korea's presence on the world stage through the activities of its volunteers and aid workers.

In many ways, Korea is an ideal candidate for these kinds of activities, considering its rapid growth from a poor, agricultural society scarred by war to first world economy (and G20 host) in less than 50 years. But though overseas volunteering may be relatively recent, sharing the lessons learned through its economic growth is not. In my research looking through old Korea Times, I've come across stories from the 1970s about poorer countries sending students or technicians to Korea to learn from its experience.

That mention of the G20 wasn't tossed in randomly either - several mentions were made of the conference, and it's clearly being held up as a benchmark of progress ("the only country in Asia to host a G20 conference"). A book handed out as we got on the bus to leave was titled "G20 Generation," and featured lengthy profiles of several young Koreans making waves around the world today. By the time we'd left, we'd already heard the stories of several volunteers, many of them university students, from throughout Korea. Young people from places like Pohang, Chuncheon, and Daejeon had been to, or would soon be sent to, places like Egypt, Vietnam, Paraguay, and Ethiopia.

Now, the reason I and several other bloggers were brought in to take part in all of this was as a trial run to see just how useful English language bloggers might be in getting the message out, so to speak. Rob's post has already gotten good feedback from the powers that be, and I'd tend to think they could use all this kind of publicity they could get. I mean, really - compare this Yonhap article to Rob's post. It's not too hard to see which one is more engaging.

Entering the Blue House grounds was like lining up to board a plane (but much faster going through the metal detectors). Soon after we arrived, we found ourselves surrounded by dozens and then hundreds of multi-coloured (t-shirt-wise) volunteers, as this photo by Michael Hurt reveals (all of the photos in this post were taken by Mike):


Also present were government bigwigs and foreign diplomats, and at a later point, after the speeches, the members of the diplomatic corps were encouraged to mingle with the volunteers, especially those who had (or who might one day) spent time in their countries.

After a documentary (in English, of course!) explaining the aims of World Friends Korea and showing the work of volunteers in Ethiopia and Bangladesh, the president took the stage.


Humbleness seemed to be a theme of the speech, as he apologized for the hot weather and to the representatives of the embassies of countries he'd recently visited for all the work they had to do to prepare for his visits. He also encouraged the volunteers to serve others in a spirit of humbleness, bringing up the aid Korea had received in the past.

Up next was Uzbekistan's ambassador, whose lengthy posting to Korea was made clear when he gave a speech in Korean (eliciting awe from the audience) touching on how countries could benefit from emulating Korea's growth model.

Park Sang-won, an actor and goodwill ambassador for World Vision since 1994, spoke to the volunteers about his past experiences, which included time spent in India after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. At that time he said he felt kind of jealous at that time because he saw so many volunteers from other countries but hardly any from Korea, and was heartened to see so many volunteers standing before him.


He then introduced and complimented two former volunteers, who had served in Vietnam and Kenya, and another who was soon to set off for Paraguay, (which she noted is like Korea was in the 1960s and 70s).

This was followed by a surprise guest speaker (or at least, a previously unannounced speaker), US Ambassador Kathleen Stephens, who opened by saying that seeing all of the volunteers reminded her of when she first came to Korea 36 years ago as a Peace Corps Volunteer (where she taught English in a middle school).


She finished with three main points, one being that volunteers would be sharing their skills and hard work with people who really needed it; that they would be ambassadors for Korea (and urged them to keep this in mind and be good ambassadors); and pointed out that when they came back to Korea, they could become an ambassador for the country they had visited.

To be sure, this point hasn't been lost on some, including a Jeju board of education head who wrote an op-ed 2 months ago re-telling Stephens' story and then suggesting that the 400 foreign teachers living in Jeju should be viewed as potential promoters of Jeju.

After the speeches ended, it was time to mingle. The volunteers and diplomatic corps were encouraged to mingle while a long line formed to greet the president and first lady (and I think he spend around an hour greeting people). Below is a group of volunteers posing with KTO head Lee Charm.


More volunteers posing in front of the banner unveiled at the end of the ceremony.


Below is perhaps the most intrepid group I saw that day - elementary school-aged journalists:

(Couldn't help noticing the girl on the right has a Sony P-93,
a model I had years ago)

Even though they were a pretty small group, they could be seen everywhere, and one pair even fearlessly approached me and asked me in English why I was attending ("The same reason you are!"), asking how many visitors my blog gets a month, and otherwise being pretty impressive little journalists.

You can't outdraw them...

Our path on the way out took us past the Blue House, and security obviously relented and let Mike take a few photos. The view was actually more impressive than the photo lets on - just one of many such views to be seen within the grounds, what with its gardens, streams and lawns.


All in all, an afternoon well spent...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

33% of SMOE teachers are "lowest level"

Yesterday the Munhwa Ilbo published the following article:
1 out of 3 Seoul native speaking teachers have the "lowest rating"
461 out of 1215 teachers... One teacher is at S level.

It has come to light that one out of three "native speaking English assistant teachers" placed in Seoul elementary, middle and high schools have the relevant qualification requirements for the 8th level out of 9 levels. There are also teachers at the 9th level with only a university degree and no English education qualifications whatsoever.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education's report "The present level rating of native speakers in the first half of 2011 (to May)," which was released on the 23rd, out of 1215 native speaking English assistant teachers placed in Seoul elementary, middle and high schools, 36.4% (443) are placed at level G, the 8th out of 9 levels.

The city's office of education hires native speaking teachers and places them at 9 different levels (S, A-H) based on their education and experience and whether they have qualifications. Teachers at level F with an education related major and teaching certificate or who have an education-related master's degree, or who have worked for a year at level G for SMOE or other districts make up 27.0% (328 people).

Also revealed were the number of teachers at Level E (17%, or 206 people) and Level D (9.1%, or 110 people). There are 18 teachers at the lowest level, H, who possess only a bachelor's degree and are teaching together with a Korean teacher during regular English class time.

On the other hand, there is only one teacher at Level S, the highest level. The number of native speaking teachers at the highest levels, A (18 people), B (20 people) and C (71 people) is relatively lower those at the lower levels. A city office of education official explained that there were many reasons for the lower level native speaking teachers: "It's because a good many native speakers working in our country are young people just out of university who want to experience living overseas."

Meanwhile, an article titled "The present state of support for managing and selecting native speaking English assistant teachers and plans for improvement" published in the 2010 edition of the Korea Foreign Language Education Society's journal "Foreign Language Education" argued that the rate of excellent English teachers continuously working was low and that there were far too many newly hired teachers.
We've seen articles like this before. Last November the Busan Ilbo and Suwon.com argued that "Placing native speaking teachers in schools should be re-examined' and complained that there are too few high-level foreigners (determined by pay levels).

As for the article above, I love the title: 1 out of 3 teachers are at the "lowest level," even though level G isn't the lowest level. No mention of drug addiction or child molestation, however, so I suppose there isn't really too much to complain about here. It's interesting to note that those at the lowest level, H, are "teaching together with a Korean teacher during regular English class time." Every foreign teacher is supposed to teach with a Korean co-teacher. I also like this description by the SMOE official: "a good many native speakers working in our country are young people just out of university who want to experience living overseas." Who knows how those native speakers end up in Korea. One day there's an empty cubicle in the office, the next there's a native speaker sitting there. They're apparently not hired by SMOE. (OK, I suppose it's EPIK who hires them now, so that's technically true, but...). As always, there's no taking responsibility for hiring these teachers, nor is there any mention of the fact that SMOE does not want to pay for 1200 S-level teachers. And if we wanted a better assessment of the teachers' actual performances, as opposed to merely their pay levels, they are made to teach open classes at least once a year. It would seem to me that this would be a better way to assess their teaching ability.

This was also reported by BBS (who cribbed from the above article).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Korea Must Beware of Growing Crime by Foreigners

Not the latest boy band.

Or so says the Chosun Ilbo, which compares foreign gang problems in the US to Korea and predicts a dark future if there isn't good enough screening in place. There's certainly fair enough reason to be concerned, as the foreign crime rate is rising, but one gets the idea from the article that Korean gangs aren't a problem, and that foreign gangs are a problem simply because they're foreign. I've looked at foreign crime stats before here.

The Chosun Ilbo also published this article, which says that much of North Korea's history will be removed from textbooks:
Lee Tae-jin of the National Institute of Korean History told the Chosun Ilbo on Thursday, "There is too much information about North Korea in high school history textbooks, and we decided to first reduce it to one-third in the portion describing the country's history after independence from Japanese occupation in 1945."

The institute plans to cut the post-independence part from 22 percent of the textbooks to 10 percent. It will revise guidelines for high school history textbooks by the end of this year and review the updated versions in the second half of 2012.
Does that mean that the history of the ROK will be reduced to only 10% of high school history textbooks? That hardly seems like much, but on the other hand, teaching too much about what happened between North and South Korea might make reunification even less appealing than it already is to many.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cha Ji-cheol, 5.16, and 5.18

I'd seen photos of Park Chung-hee's May 16, 1961 coup similar to this one, published by Yonhap the other day, (another is here) but had never known who else was in the photo. Yonhap's caption states that the man on the right in Cha Ji-cheol:


Cha became the head of presidential security, and towards the end of Park's reign Park tended to be swayed by Cha's hard-line point of view over that of KCIA head Kim Jae-gyu, who suggested a more conciliatory stance. Below is a photo of Park (front, center) and his children (front row; Geun-hye, Geun-yeong, and Ji-man) and inner circle, taken in the late 1970s. Cha Ji-cheol can be seen in the back row, center, flanked by Chun Doo-hwan (head of Defense Security Command), and Kim Gye-won (Blue house chief secretary), while Jeong Seung-hwa (army chief of staff) is on the far right in the front row.


Everyone in the photo (other than Park's children and Chun Doo-hwan) was present in the KCIA compound on October 26, 1979, the night Park Chung-hee died - the only person missing is KCIA head Kim Jae-gyu, the shooter. Park and Kim had known each other since they were trained as officers together by the US Military Government in 1946 as part of the second class of the officer training school for the Korean Constabulary (the precursor of the ROK Army). That night in 1979, Kim killed Park and Cha, but spared Kim Gye-won (who would point out Kim as the assassin). Jeong Seung-hwa, who was present in another part of the KCIA compound the night of the assassination, was essentially put in charge of the country when martial law was declared, and Chun Doo-hwan was put in charge of the investigation into the murder. When Jeong realized just how ambitious Chun was, he planned to transfer him to Gangwon-do, but Chun struck first and arrested him, initiating the coup (within the military) of December 12, 1979. Jeong could have been executed on trumped-up charges, but may have been saved by a birthday card sent to him in prison by head of USFK General Wickham, which enraged Chun and made it clear the US was concerned about his fate. From there Chun slowly took over the country, expanding martial law and closing the national assembly and the universities on May 17, 1980, which set off the Gwangju Uprising.

Oh, and the KT has an editorial related to this topic here worth reading.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The case of the disappearing drug mule

As it turns out, there's more to be said about the story of the philipon smuggling involving a supposed native speaking teacher that Yonhap broke on May 4. To summarize, a dealer in South Africa used a South African woman as a mule to bring almost a kilo of philipon into Korea in her luggage and got caught at Incheon Airport. Two months later (ie. at the end of April) police caught the dealer she was supposed to make the delivery to - a Nigerian who had illegally taught English here in a hagwon at some point (among other jobs). Now, I was thinking that Yonhap's title "Former native speaking instructor caught smuggling philopon" was misleading in that the Nigerian wasn't actually the smuggler, but since he was part of the plot, it could be argued the title wasn't that much of stretch. I figured it was the at the very minor end of the "misleading" scale, so I didn't mention it when I blogged on it at the time. Yonhap also referred to him as a "Nigerian English instructor who came to Korea in 2006" (implying he has always been working as a teacher here) in the body of the article, while the Chosun Ilbo said he first worked as a factory worker.

Later in the evening on the day the story broke, however, YTN provided a crash course in how to mislead readers. Kudos to YTN, the television arm of state-run Yonhap, "Korea's Reuters." Compare the following to the summary above (or the Yonhap article):
Native speaking teacher arrested for smuggling large amount of Philipon

Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency arrested two people including 32 year-old Nigerian C for bringing a large amount of Philipon into Korea from South Africa and trying to distribute it.

C and another were charged for bringing to Incheon Airport, hidden in luggage, 900 grams of philipon worth 3.2 billion won given to them by a drug dealer in Johannesburg in February.

It was discovered that C came to Korea in 2006 and worked as a native speaking English instructor and clothing exporter at the same time but when the business failed he tried his hand at smuggling drugs.
The news report can be watched here, and shows the half-assed way in which the meth was hidden in her bag:


"Native speaking teacher arrested for
smuggling large amount of Philipon
"


If we remember, the person arrested at the airport for smuggling meth into Korea was a South African woman who was to deliver it to a Nigerian living in Korea who was a 'former native speaking teacher'. It's ironic that YTN has shown a photo that I imagine is the South African woman smuggler mentioned in all the other reports, considering she has been effectively erased from the story to focus on the 'native speaking teacher.' This was done by, obviously, not mentioning her and by using the formulation "C 씨 등은..." which is talking about C, the Nigerian, but also implies that the second, unmentioned person is being talked about as well, allowing YTN to make it appear as if a native speaking teacher had been caught smuggling meth into the country (as seen in the photo above). And because "C 씨" could be male or female (though its generally assumed to be male and is often noted in brackets if its a female, that's not always the case), viewers are led to believe (aided by the caption) that the photo above is of the invented Nigerian native speaking teacher smuggler.

This isn't the first time YTN has done this. In 2009, when police announced two drug arrests - one involving two Canadian teachers and another involving some 34 Thais, Yonhap published an article mentioning both arrests, but followed it up with another that focused almost entirely on the teachers. YTN took this to its logical extreme later in the day by broadcasting a report that omitted the Thai workers entirely. (And let's not forget these two classic YTN reports.) The same process has occurred here as well, wherein the South African smuggler who had gotten in the way of the story YTN apparently wanted to tell - "native speaking English teachers import drugs (and not just pot, but now meth)" - was removed in order to communicate its preferred narrative unencumbered by factual distractions.

New, expanded version! (I'd forgotten about this cartoon)

Now, had the 'native speaking teacher' been a Korean American who, say, had murdered a 75 year-old man, fled the US and lived on the lam in Korea for 10 years before being extradited to the US and sentenced to life in prison with no parole, perhaps the article might have turned out like this Weekly Donga article, which made prominent the fact that 'he didn't mean to kill him' and hinted that the racism he faced in America had twisted him (and perhaps influenced the verdict). The title? "Philadelphia fugitive's 'cruel fate'."


* Wikipedia has information on the origins of methamphetamine and Japanese-produced Philopon, including an interesting 1948 lawsuit.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In Gwangju in May 1980...

From Yonhap:


On the 18th at Geumbu Elementary School, the students of 4th grade 5th and their parents had a class together on the 31st anniversary of the 5.18 Democracy movement.

The teacher and parents told the students of the background of 5.18, how the citizens fought the martial law army, and the significance of the uprising. Students and parents wore headbands like Gwangju's citizens did at the time and made rice balls (jumeokbap).

I've looked at how the uprising is commemorated in Gwangju before here and here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"The most tragic event in Korea’s modern history"

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Park Chung-hee's coup in 1961, which I've looked at before here and here. According to this interview with Kim Jong-pil, one of the coup's architects, the coup was inspired by Nasser's. The Korea Times had an article looking at the legacy of Park's rule and the nostalgia some feel for him.
Professor Rhee Young-hoon of the Department of Economics at Seoul National University said in an interview with Yonhap that the “current political leadership that lacks the capability to resolve social divisions” caused the eruption of so-called Park Chung-hee nostalgia.

“The May 16 event was basically all about a military coup. But the coup became a milestone event that initiated the nation’s modernization,” the conservative economist said.

Liberals’ interpretation of the May 16 coup is very different.

Rep. Park Jie-won of the main opposition Democratic Party called it the most tragic event in Korea’s modern history, saying the coup paved the way for 36 years of military rule in the nation.

The DP lawmaker also played down the late President’s role in industrialization.
According to Yonhap, Park said that Chang Myon's democratic government formed after 4.19 had already established a 5 year plan, and Park borrowed the idea. And focusing on the "36 years of military rule" (though it could be argued that the period from 1963-71 was not military rule) helps to ignore the 13 year-long thugocracy run by Syngman Rhee, whose election rigging, torture and firing on students led to his overthrow. And to be sure, when I think of "the most tragic event in Korea’s modern history," I tend to think of this:



Apparently the Korean War rates below Park's coup in terms of tragic events, at least when you're the head of the Democratic Party. One imagines he's also taking potshots at Park Geun-hye, who is discussed in connection with her father here.

Just for fun, here's a Korea Herald article about Park Geun-hye's first press conference (she'd become acting first lady after her mother's death), from December 16, 1975:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Promoting a "correct understanding" of the islets beyond Ulleungdo

On May 13, Yonhap published the following story from Daegu:
"Dokdo is Korean land"...Native speaking teachers to visit Dokdo

It was announced on the 13th that from the 16th to the 18th, 55 native speaking teachers living in Gyeongsangbuk-do will have a history and culture tour of Ulleungdo and Dokdo.

The aim of the trip is to give foreign teachers a correct understanding of Dokdo's past and present, and to promote the mysterious island of Ulleungdo.

Out of 460 native speaker teachers responsible for English classes in the province's elementary, middle, and high schools, 239 applied to go, and out of these, 55 were chosen.

The foreign teachers are from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Austrailia and South Africa.

During this tour, Inha University law professor Lee Seok-u and Handong University international law school professor Lee Hui-eon will give lectures on, respectively, "The international legal debate over the San Francisco Peace Treaty" and "The importance of Dokdo and globalization."

Kim Jong-hak, head of the Gyeongsangbuk-do Dokdo Protection said, "We offered the chance to visit Dokdo to foreign teachers to expand the promotion of Dokdo beyond Korea to foreigners and foreign countries."
Hopefully they don't have to submit essays after they've finished, as was described here. While I doubt I would go, knowing how the teachers are to be used as propaganda tools (see previous link), I can imagine others would endure the (thrilling, I'm sure) lectures to get a free trip to Ulleungdo. As I've mentioned before, I went there in 2002:




(Yes, those are thousands of squid drying.)









It's probably the most beautiful place I've been to in Korea, and is well worth visiting.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sharp-shooting middle school girls

From the Korea Times, January 21, 1976:



One wonders if the middle and high school girls get such training there now (especially given recent events). Then again, one wonders if there are any children that age left on the island, considering how depopulated Korea's countryside is becoming (with children especially being in short supply). At any rate, the image above reminded me of these images:



Those photos are taken from the 1989 documentary 'The Parade' (Defilada) by Polish filmmaker Andrzej Fidyk, which covered the celebrations in North Korea marking the 40th anniversary of its founding (I have a copy somewhere, but its a mutant with overdubbed Japanese narration and 30 extra minutes added to it that I downloaded years ago). I'd thought it was the first time an outsider had been allowed to film in the DPRK, but Scott Burgeson pointed me in the direction of Johannes Schönherr's work digging up the history of an Italian / North Korean co-production filmed in North Korea in 1988 called Ten Zan. As it turns out, the entire film can be watched on youtube:

Thursday, May 12, 2011

BBC skirts topic

Via my friend Ryan, it seems the BBC has picked up yesterday's Korea Times story about the kerfuffle caused by short skirts worn by students, a problem to be solved in Gangwon-do by spending about 820 million won to change the desks by placing boards across their fronts. Ten years ago all the leg I remember seeing was seen under practically knee-length shorts in the summer, and knee-length skirts on schoolgirls. Things have changed a lot, with the relaxing of rules for students in the past five years being, I think, a pretty direct cause for these changes among students (with the prevalence of short skirts being something that has occurred over only the last two years (and over the last year, I think, in my neighbourhood).

There has also apparently been an increase in middle school students wearing makeup, which James attributes to teen girl groups and their appearances in makeup advertising. I imagine that's correct, though it likely wouldn't have been possible under the 'appearance management regime' that existed in most middle and high schools until recently. As the stories of a Korean friend who teaches at a private boys' high school remind me, though, not every school has done away with those regulations. His school has a roving band equipped with hair clippers which walks into classes and checks the boys appearances, providing immediate haircuts for offenders, Yusin style. In fact, here's a piece from Stars and Stripes from June 12, 1974 about a similar crackdown:

Of course, back then short skirts used to be measured on the street as well...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Guess that location

Can anyone guess what building's roof these men are exercising on?


There are at least two buildings which are still standing today in the background. The image is a panorama made from stills from the 1940 propaganda film 'Patriots Day in Chosen,' which can be found on this dvd.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Conscientious objection in Korea

Ben Wagner and I wrote an article about conscientious objection in Korea for this month's Groove Magazine, which can be read here. I previously wrote on this topic six years ago here. While I was researching the topic, I came across a documentary (here) about Kang Cheol-min, a private in the ROK military who in 2003 held a sit-in during his first leave to protest the ROK sending troops to Iraq, for which he served a year and a half in prison. I was interested in the documentary partly because some Korean friends brought me along to the sit-in and I met him at the time, and wasn't that surprised to find myself in the background of one scene. At any rate, here are a few related articles from the Korea Times over the years:

2007.09.18
Alternative Military Services Planned

2007.09.21
[Times Editorial] Alternative Service

2008.07.04
Alternative Service for Conscientious Objectors Reconsidered

2008.12.24
68% Oppose Alternative for Conscientious Objectors

2009.01.08
Conscientious Objectors Top 5,000

2010.05.06
Conscientious military service objectors will appeal to UN

2011.03.14
Military sees surplus of conscripts after shortening service duration

2011.03.21
Korea to keep alternative military service until 2015 (for those with health problems, not COs)

2011.04.17
UN calls for fair treatment of conscientious objectors

2011.04.20
'I'd rather go to jail than serve in military'

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Children's Day links

As it's Children's Day, I thought I'd point out this KBS article (hopefully that cache still works) about its founder Bang Jeong-hwan, who also coined the term eorini (어린이). As this Arirang article notes,
"A long time ago, children were called "ahae." Moreover, the derogatory suffix "nom" was often added, giving "ahaenom." Today, the term for children is more respectful than that of years ago."
Calling children 'nom' - how sweet. Also of interest is this older article by Robert Neff which also quotes from a 1951 Time Magazine article about Children's Day during wartime. I couldn't help remembering this photo I came across in the Life Magazine archives from the Korean war, of a medic treating an injured girl:


It's part of a series (1, 2, 3, 4).

Something more upbeat would be this video of kids playing dodgeball and GIs teaching kids to play baseball in 1948 (IE only).

It seems newspapers often use Children's Day as an opportunity to report things like "Korean children are the unhappiest in the OECD".

And related to children, AP has an article about what teachers in the US have been doing to explain to students who were toddlers when 9-11 occurred why people were cheering a man's death in the streets.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"Former native speaking teacher" busted for "smuggling" philipon

[Update: YTN's follow up is here.]

Yonhap issued the first report (out of about ten so far) today:
Former native speaking instructor caught smuggling philopon

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency drug investigation unit revealed on May 4 that D, a 27 year-old South African woman, and C, a 32 year-old who formerly worked in Korea as an English teacher, were arrested for smuggling large amounts of philipon into the country (in violation of the Drug Control Law).

According to police, on the 28th of last year [that's what it says; it was actually February 28] D left Johannesburg, South Africa with 945.1 grams of philipon hidden in an empty space in the outer cover of her luggage and entered Korea at Incheon Airport after passing through Quatar, where it was to be delivered to C, who has been charged for trying to distribute it in Korea.

The investigation found that last December D met drug dealer P in Johannesburg, who offered to give her 10,000 rand (1,700,000 won) if she delivered philipon to Korea. She received 400 US dollars and a plane ticket to Korea in order to commit the crime.

It's been revealed that C, a Nigerian English instructor who came to Korea in 2006, tried his hand at a wholesale business selling popular, fast-selling clothing from South Africa, but turned to taking part in drug smuggling when the business failed.

After receiving intelligence, police arrested D after she entered the country at Incheon Airport. C, who had been on the run for two months, was caught last month.

Police are considering measures such as putting P, who was behind the crime, on an Interpol wanted list, and are looking into the precise details of contacts C made with international drug organizations while in Korea.

A police official revealed that, "This is the first time that a native speaking instructor has tried to smuggle a large amount of philipon, rather than marijuana." "Attempts by foreigners taking the initiative in smuggling drugs are increasing, and sources of supply for philopon are diversifying.
The Simin Ilbo adds that,
The philipon D brought was worth 3.2 billion, enough to dose 32,000 people at the same time.
At the same time? Considering that philipon is the drug of choice for Koreans, does this suggest that plans were afoot to attempt to set a Guinness record in a new category?

The Chosun Ilbo has this to say about the Nigerian English teacher:
Nigerian English instructor C came to Korea in 2006 and worked in a factory in the capital area, and it was found that in 2009 he worked at a branch of a well known language hagwon for 8 months as a native speaking instructor. It was revealed that until recently C did private tutoring for 2-3 elementary and middle school students and had a wholesale business selling popular, fast-selling clothing.
So he could have been described as a 'former factory worker' or 'former wholesaler,' as opposed to 'former native speaking teacher.' Mind you, usually when a headline mentions "Former...", it's followed by a job in a position of power, or an entertainer, or an athlete (though teachers sometimes make the headlines too, such as this former teacher who tried to set on fire the elementary school which didn't renew his contract).

Beyond that quibble, why is there no mention of the fact that this guy, being Nigerian and thus not eligible to teach English on an E2 visa, was teaching illegally? Where are the police statements about the need to better filter out drug smuggling teachers and calls for hagwons to be more responsible? (Perhaps future editorials will deal with this). And beyond hagwons, it clearly says he was teaching privately, which is, simply put, illegal. But then, I guess that could suggest he wasn't a real native speaking teacher, obscuring the "native speaking teachers are drug addicts and drug smugglers" narrative Yonhap (and apparently the Chosun Ilbo, and the half dozen other media outlets) are trying to construct. Which smacks of being a little desperate on their parts, seeing as there are enough cases out there of real foreign teachers committing such crimes. On the other hand, reports of such crimes have been a little slow lately (the Incheon bust last week was the first one reported in over 8 months), and, considering English teachers are usually not the meth-taking types, who knows when another chance will come to connect smuggling a kilo of philipon to native speaking teachers, to get to print things like this:
A police official revealed that, "This is the first time that a native speaking instructor has tried to smuggle a large amount of philipon, rather than marijuana."
Classic.

We have a winner!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Foreign teacher reported arrested for drunk driving

On April 29 Newsis published the following article:
Incheon university instructor charged for driving while drunk

An American native-speaking instructor working at a university in Incheon was charged for driving his Carens while drunk.

According to police on the 29th, a 46 year-old American [working at] a university in Incheon drank at least a bottle of makgeolli at a restaurant and at 12:30 in the afternoon on April 12 drove away in his car. Police were sent out after receiving a report from a resident and arrested him.

The results of a breathalyzer test found that his blood alcohol level was 0.184%, a figure which calls for the revocation of his license.

The man stated to police that "That day I heard the news that my cousin in the U.S. had died and, feeling depressed, I drank and then drove."
I was curious about what other stories were published in April describing arrests for drunk driving, and the following were turned up:

A story about a bus driver driving 40 elementary school students on a school trip who was drunk.

A police officer arrested for causing an accident while drunk 14 years ago did so again.

A man in Jeju who was caught driving drunk without a license in a stolen vehicle.

Another police officer arrested for drunk driving.

A drunk driver who injured 5 people at a stoplight in Busan.

A drunk driver who smashed through a guardrail on a ramp on Jayu-ro in Goyang and fell quite a ways.

Also, it was reported that penalties for drunk driving (and blocking fire trucks) will be strengthened.

So it seems - from a glance at such reports at Naver over a month - that driving drunk while being a police officer, injuring people while driving drunk, or doing spectacularly stupid things while driving drunk (like driving 40 children around or committing other crimes like theft) will get reported in the media. One wonders if driving drunk while being a teacher - of any nationality - is also enough to make the news.

The only teachers or instructors reported to have been arrested for drunk driving this year, at least according to Naver, was the foreign instructor above and a Korean elementary school teacher in Cheongju, who, in a particularly "absurd" case from January, was so drunk he tried to drive the wrong car home and punched the owner of that car when the owner tried to stop him.

If you're thinking that, perhaps, Korean teachers don't get caught for drinking and driving very often, this article suggests otherwise. The statistics it provides shows that, from January 2003 to August 2005, 1059 out of 1733 crimes by Korean school teachers involved losing their license for such things as drunk driving. If today's rates are similar, that works out to an average of over 300 cases a year, or 25 per month, but four months into 2011 there's only been one news report about such an arrest.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A new cartoon!

Update: Why not put them all together?

No one is safe. No one.

Original post:
Remember the story of the trophy thieves in Itaewon from last December? As it turns out, there was more than one article written about it - I just stumbled onto another published by the Kyunghyang Sinmun at the time, which also includes the cartoon below:


The look in his eyes reminds me of this cartoon, from the Donga Ilbo two years ago:


Mind you, it's not the first time such a cartoon has appeared in the Kyunghyang Shinmun:


I think the Donga Ilbo cartoon is still the clear winner.