Friday, December 30, 2011

Internship at Canadian Embassy

If any Canadian citizens are interesting in applying for an internship at the Canadian Embassy from March to August 2012 (or know someone who would be), the details can be read here.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hagwons not following new law allow stoned foreign teachers to wreak havoc in classrooms

On December 17, NoCut News published the following report:
A stoned native speaking instructor and my child...?!
Foreign instructors should be hired after confirming a drug test but this has not been implemented

On December 2 the Eastern Seoul Prosecutor's Office 4th Investigative Division arrested and charged J (23), an Australian native speaking English instructor, with importing a new kind of drug.

On December 8, many members of a group of Korean Americans including Mr. Kim (38) were arrested for forging diplomas in order to work as language hagwon instructors in Korea and for habitually inhaling drugs.

Despite continuous crimes such as taking, distributing or importing drugs by foreign instructors like these, why can they not be prevented in the sphere of education outside of criminal investigations?

Legislation has been made to ban the entry of drugs into hagwons, but in fact it's just empty talk. In addition, it's been pointed out that the educational authorities carrying out enforcement have their hands tied and are passing the buck with their administration.

◇ Hagwons: "A health certificate including a drug test? What's that?"

On December 10th, CBS reporters called a hagwon in Daechi-dong which had posted an job announcement for foreign instructors and made inquiries regarding the documents needed for the application.

The hagwon said, "A passport, degree, and criminal record check are needed." The same was true with a language hagwon in Incheon. Hagwons mostly answered, "Just a resume and diploma is okay" or "they can be hired after submitting a resume and going through an interview."

However, according to the revised law on the Establishment and Operation of Private Teaching Institutes and Extracurricular Lessons which came into effect on October 26, a health certificate including marijuana and drug test results issued within the previous month must be submitted when hiring foreign instructors.

However, CBS has discovered that hagwons are not carrying out the entire foreign instructor hiring process through which a health certificate including drug test results must be submitted.

Even foreign instructor hiring sites openly post that only resumes and application forms are needed and there are many that have no idea about the related regulations nor have any intention of carrying them out.

◇ Educational authorities' hands are tied, "There are no enforcement personnel"

With a situation like this, enforcement by educational authorities is not being accomplished.

An official at an English hagwon in Cheongju, Chungcheongbuk-do, said, "Drug test documents received from foreign instructors are being voluntarily submitted to the relevant education office." "We've never been informed that particular documents should be submitted."

According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Techology (MEST), local education offices which carry out enforcement according to the hagwon law can impose a fine of up to 3 million won for hiring unqualified foreign instructors.

But in reality, local education offices, lacking personnel, cannot enforce this when they don't receive reports from hagwons, and expect that hagwons will voluntarily submit documents when hiring foreign instructors.

A MEST staff member said, "With one or two people, the supervision and enforcement of thousands of hagwons is the difficult part." "The (details of enforcement) are not being regularly reported at present, and if someone feels there's a problem, we can receive requests for action."

An official from a local education office in Seoul complained of the difficulties: "With so many civil complaints over things like the hagwon fee refund issue, we don't have the ability to confirm whether health certificate including drug test results have been submitted when hiring foreign instructors.

According to the "Current status of employed foreigners"report released by the foreign policy division of the immigration service, on September 30, among 600,138 foreigners working in Korea, 22,859 were conversation instructors.

However, with the trend of foreigner-related drug crimes increasing every year, there is a need for thorough measures.

According to the Korean Institute of Criminology, the number of foreigners caught for breaking the drug control law or eradication of drug trafficking law numbered 145 in 2005, 77 in 2006, 227 in 2007, 538 in 2008, 538 in 2009, and 824 in 2010, increasing every year.

Jang Eun-suk, director of the National Association of Parents for True Education said, "After the hagwon law was amended, there was no feeling at all that things have changed." "Parents are very worried about children still being exposed to drug crimes by unqualified foreign instructors who have not been fully verified."

She said, "You can't help but enforce the law by offering rewards for reporting lawbreakers, and we expect that the 'school snitch system' (학파라치 제도) would have an effect, but due to the resistance of hagwons, it won't be implemented."
Stoned teachers? Check. Worries about them being a threat to children? Check. They're made out to be unstoppable due to inability of Korean authorities to enforce the law? Check. It must be a Tuesday.

So, "Legislation has been made to ban the entry of drugs into hagwons." Because apparently the fiends bring their drugs with them to work. (Though, considering positive urine or hair tests count as 'possession,' I suppose those who toke in their spare time do technically carry it with them at all times.)

We're told that "the revised law on the Establishment and Operation of Private Teaching Institutes and Extracurricular Lessons ... came into effect on October 26." From what I could tell looking at the bill, it was promulgated on July 25; whether that means it came into effect that day I'm not sure. This article seems to indicate only one aspect of the bill came into effect on October 26, that being a system rewarding those reporting hagwons which charge too much (just one of four categories of reports which can be rewarded), but fines punishing the hagwons for such behaviour would be suspended, with full punishment starting from March 1 next year. The article says nothing about other portions of the bill being implemented in October.

As for the figures from the Korean Institute of Criminology regarding drug crimes "increasing every year" (145 in 2005, 77 in 2006, 227 in 2007, 538 in 2008, 538 in 2009, and 824 in 2010), these figures are quite different from those in the Supreme Prosecutors Office report on 2010 drug arrests, which are listed below:

No increases "every year" there. Perhaps the moral of the story is that, when looking for statistics to provide a question to the answer you already have, it's best to shop around.

More amusing is the fact that, when presented with Korean citizens deported from the US after serving time for crimes like rape and murder being able to teach children because they faked their backgrounds, NoCut News thought that the real news story was that one or more of them (along with an Aussie teacher in another case) smoked pot while in Korea. I guess there's a question for SMOE's next survey of parents:

Who would you rather have teaching your children?
A) A person from our country convicted of rape or murder
B) A native speaker who habitually inhales drugs

I'd be curious to see if the response would be similar to what NoCut News thinks it should be.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Unfilterable, never-ending defilers

Regarding the former Korean American gangsters deported to Korea who taught English using forged degrees arrested three weeks ago, the Joongang Daily offers this information:
A 38-year-old Korean-American surnamed Kim, one of three arrested for forgery, found employment in a reputable English language academy in Korea as a native foreign language instructor.

According to the police, Kim, who was adopted by a family in America as a child, was a member of an Arizona gang and shot and killed a member of a rival gang in 2000. He was charged with second-degree murder and sentenced to ten years in prison. After receiving parole after eight years, Kim was deported to Korea in October 2007.
Interestingly enough, this man was actually arrested four months before the arrests of the others were announced, as a summary of this article at the Marmot's Hole in August relates:
This guy, identified as Mr. Kim (38), was adopted at 18 months old by an American couple. He left home as a teen, however, and ended up running with a Mexican gang in Arizona. In 2000, he earned himself a 10-year sentence for 2nd degree attempted murder; he was released after seven and deported in Korea in 2007. Prosecutors believe after Kim arrived in Korea, he got a fake degree and taught English at four famous English academies in Gangnam, Goyang and Anyang.
Odd that it took them so long to arrest the others. I imagine that's his diploma in the foreground here.

As for this case, on the day the arrests were announced, the Kookmin Ilbo published this "article":
American native speaking instructors who were gangsters and committed rape and murder... why were they not filtered out?

As the number of native speaking teachers significantly increases, the improper confirmation of such things as their criminal backgrounds is becoming a social problem. The native speaking teacher crime rate increased from 0% in 2008 to 1.6% last year, so there is an urgent need for thorough management and supervision. [...]

[It then retells the story of the Korean Americans who served time in the US for gang related murder, rape and drug crimes before being deported to Korea where they faked their backgrounds to work as instructors in hagwons.]

The government strengthened regulations for native speaking instructors, but they have not been very effective. In July the government amended the "Act related to hagwon establishment and operation and private tutoring" (the hagwon act) making it mandatory to submit a
criminal record check, health certificate (including drug screening), and a diploma when hiring native speaking instructors. However the government's measure is only effective for native speaking instructors who are registered with city offices of education. Unregistered instructors, who work for small hagwons which have not registered their instructors with the office of education, are in an enforcement 'blind spot' and can operate freely.

Hagwon owners who do not report to the office of education when hiring a native speaker are fined a mere 500,000 won to 1.5 million won, and in fact hagwons which hire unqualified instructors will bear this fine. [...]

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education revealed that it has difficulty enforcing laws regarding native speaking instructors. An SMOE official said, "Seoul's 11 educational support offices have only 70 to 80 people in their enforcement squads, but in Gangnam alone there are more than 3000 hagwons. "Due to things like lack of manpower and difficulty working with the Ministry of Justice, it's actually impossible to enforce the laws."

Police notified the relevant office of education regarding hagwon owner Ms. Lee, who hired unqualified English instructors without verification or notification, and seven others, and conducted further investigation into Gangnam and Seoul area hagwons which hire instructors illegally.

To answer the question in title as to why American native speaking instructors were not filtered out, the answer is because the weren't American, they were Korean, and no one asks Korean teachers for overseas criminal record checks. Also, the lack of due diligence on the part of the hagwon owners played a part in their diplomas not being found out.

As for this - "As the number of native speaking teachers significantly increases..." - I fail to see a significant increase occurring (presently) in the number of E-2 visa holders (stats can be found here):

2000 - 6,414
2002 - 10,864
2004 - 11,344
2005 - 12,439
2006 - 15,001
2007 - 17,721
2008 - 19,771
2009 - 22,642
2010 - 23,314
2011.11 - 22,895

The cuts to the GEPIK program (and future cuts to SMOE) will see these numbers fall even further (they've been fluctuating over the last year already), as the massive expansion (of around 2000 per year) since 2005 was due mostly to public school hiring.

As for this - "the native speaking teacher crime rate increased from 0% in 2008 to 1.6% last year" - I will go out on a limb and guess that these figures were pulled from some remote recess of the reporter's rectum. Either that or the reporter managed to track down statistics not yet published in the media or by Anti English Spectrum.

We're also told that there is an "urgent need for thorough management and supervision" of native speaking teachers, something that appears to be a required phrase for such articles. They are, however correct that better management is needed, but not of E-2s. All of the wanted murderers (or attempted murderers) and former gangsters/criminals caught teaching English here since 2006 (various Korean American former gangsters deported from the US caught teaching illegally in 2006, wanted murderers David Nam (caught in 2008) and Ronald Rhee (caught in 2010), another gangster deported for attempted murder arrested with Rhee, and the former gangsters arrested this month) have been Korean citizens, while wanted murderer Sang-woo Ye (caught in 2010) was presumably on an F-4 and the Korean American gangster turned hagwon owner wanted for attempted murder caught this summer used identity theft to pose as a Korean citizen. (There may even be one more wanted murderer hiding out here.)

The article then brings up the revisions to the hagwon law passed in the summer and asserts that the law won't have any effect on those teachers not registered with city offices of education. Such "unregistered instructors, [who] are in an enforcement 'blind spot' and can operate freely," seem to exist only in the columns of the Kookmin Ilbo, as we saw here (the only other article that describes the threat of "unregistered native speaking instructors" (who, by the way, commit "never ending" "drugs and molestation... in hagwons")).

And, of course, the article mentions the other never-ending problem with USFK members foreign teachers, that due to SOFA institutional hurdles, "it's actually impossible to enforce the laws." This, of course, is a great problem, one which was, in fact, predicted by Choe Ik-hyeon when he opposed King Gojong's plans to negotiate what would be known as the Ganghwa Treaty with the Japanese in early 1876 (as translated in this book). Choe wrote that "Although they call themselves Japanese, they are really Western bandits," and he feared that Korea would be "defiled" and "reduced to the level of wild animals" by their presence, which would be allowed by the treaty and would permit them to "build dwellings and reside within our borders." Due to the agreement, he said, the Korean government would have "no grounds to stop them," and so they would be able to "plunder our property and violate women at will, and no one will be able to restrain them.[...] There will be countless cases of this nature."

"Countless." "Endless." "Never-ending." As we can see, Choe's Confucian-inspired feeling of moral supremacy over the barbarians tinged with fears of Korea being defenseless before them as they committed never-ending outrages against women and property (was there really a distinction then?) still holds sway over some people (especially in the news media) 135 years later.

Clearly, this xenophobia coloured by moral superiority felt by the upper/educated class predates modern nationalism, but the degree to which the the former influences the latter (or how they inform each other) is not something that has been much explored, as far as I know.

I couldn't help but think about this when I read this Donga Ilbo editorial (as translated by the Korea Herald on September 24, 1988) published during the 88 Olympics:
One of the reasons we decided to host the event despite its staggering burden was to show the world the true picture of Korea. We wanted to show our friends from abroad our moral and ethical supremacy that far transcends our political and economic potentials.
Articles from the Korea Times and the Korea Herald (which were aimed at foreign tourists!) during the Olympics make quite clear this feeling of 'ethical supremacy.' This is revealed by even a quick glance at the titles of articles about, for example, foreign athletes' 'drug use' (steroids) detected by superior Korean technology, or those that highlighted every after-hours mishap involving American athletes or complained about 'biased' coverage by NBC. This page of photos of foreign spectators in the Donga Ilbo certainly doesn't put them in a very good light either (girl in hot pants with legs spread, foreign men with their shirts off). Taking that into consideration with the fact that the government (and later civil society groups) wanted to test all foreign visitors to Korea for AIDS, and, well, you start to see patterns. Not for nothing did the Joongang Ilbo editorialize thusly in 1984:
The true educational effect of foreign language learning is that when learning to speak and write a foreign country’s language, to some degree one learns its culture and ‘spirit’ as well. Attaching importance to conversation, [learners] can’t distinguish a teacher’s or instructor’s standard of refinement and mistake them for nothing but a 'tape recorder.' Ultimately there’s a worry that when learning conversation students will imitate that country’s vulgar culture, vulgar living language, and vulgar values. [...] Also, for this reason it could come to pass that our citizens' image of their level of culture will fall and will offset the effectiveness of gaining foreign language learning.[Emphasis added]
Interestingly enough, in describing how learning a "foreign country’s language" causes one to learn "its culture and ‘spirit’ as well," this also echoes Choe Ik-hyeon's 1876 memorial, in which he also warned that "books of their wicked religion...will be mixed in with other trading goods and...will be all over the country before long." Some, including King Gojong, thought "Eastern ways/ethics" could be used together with (and temper) "Western learning" (dongdo seogi), but fears of unwanted, decadent western "culture and 'spirit'" piggybacking on western technology have been a perennial worry, and was explicitly referred to by Park Chung-hee when he cracked down on marijuana and rock and folk music (and youth culture in general) in 1975-76 and called for "selective adoption" of foreign culture. Needless to say, such fears of foreigners bringing unwanted culture with them are alive and well today, (with even one reporter (out to "correct biased views on Korea") writing an article for ABC news titled "Drug Toting Teachers Defiling South Korea"), as are assertions that westerners in Korea can't be controlled and commit endless crimes (the former turning up today in the first article described here).

Choe, it should be mentioned, died of self-imposed hunger in a Japanese prison after leading an uprising against the Japanese in 1906 at the age of 76, so you certainly can't say he didn't follow through on his beliefs. One wonders if there is a statue of him somewhere.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Strange that Seoul will have more snow for Christmas than my hometown in Ontario. On a related note, "I still believe in Christmas trees" by the Telstar Ponies just popped into my head, and here it is on youtube.

Something else I just remembered is Takako Minekawa's cover of NRBQ's 'Christmas Wish.'

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Spot the difference

Pyongyang, 2011:

Pyeongchang, 2007:

I can't help seeing the kids in the top photo and wondering if they were simply tired of standing in the cold (it's five degrees colder there than Seoul today). I'm also reminded of this story:
'Well, some years ago we were told that he was coming down to our town and that he would visit a local school. There was great excitement. The security people wouldn't exactly say when he was coming, but they told the school to go ahead and make all the preparations to greet him properly. So they did just that: they arranged a ceremony, and as one of the ways of welcoming him, they made a huge portrait of him, broken up into hundreds of pieces on the back of coloured cards. When the children held the cards up one way, they made a pretty pattern. When they turned the cards over, there was the president's face.

'The day arrived, and we were told when he would be arriving. The children were ready, everyone very nervous. Then one of the children asked permission to go to the bathroom. His teacher said that would be fine, but hurry. Well, you can guess what happened; while the boy was in the bathroom, the president arrived, and the security people wouldn't let the boy back onto the field. So the celebration went on, the children did their dances with the cards and turned this way and that, and then all together, turned them over.

'The president's face was there all right - except that it was missing a left eyebrow. The official people went crazy! The president himself didn't say anything, of course, but after the party was gone, the education department had the master in and fired him on the spot. The headmaster was in trouble. I even heard they visited the parents of the child and warned them of the consequences. And then an instruction went out. If ever there was a demonstration of loyalty like that again, the children had to be told that if they wanted to pee, they peed where they stood.
This story (reminiscent of this ad) does not take place in North Korea. It's told by a former teacher in Simon Winchester's Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles, and takes place in the early 1980s in Jeolla-do; the president in question is Chun Doo-hwan. Winchester himself admits it may not be true, though other Koreans he meets elsewhere in Korea admit they've heard it.

Of course, Chun wasn't the only president who was pixelized on cards:

(Busan, 1976; from Through our eyes: Peace Corps in Korea 1966-1981)
I wonder when card displays of this sort began in Korea.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Floors 4 and 14

[Update: Another student at the same school committed suicide just as this case was being investigated.]

One of last night and today's news topics has gained a great deal of attention in part, I imagine, to the photos below (taken from a cctv camera video which can be seen here).

Apparently she hit the buttons for floor 4 and floor 14, staying in the elevator at the fourth floor and proceeding to the fourteenth. As you might guess, she didn't use the elevator to get down. This story came to light because someone posted a few days ago on a bulletin board about his younger cousin, a 17 year old high school student in Daejeon, who was found dead on December 3 on the roof of the apartment entrance, her shoes and bag left on the 14th floor. The cousin wrote that she couldn't bear being ostracized by her peers, and charges that her teacher who showed no interest in her plight is responsible, something that the school has denied to inquiring newspapers, and will likely do so as police investigate (as described here and here).

Teachers in Korea - homeroom teachers especially - are expected in their own way to be counselors as well, and the attention, or lack thereof, given by teachers to students like the girl in this case would likely have more impact here than in Canada.

I got to watch one of my students go through becoming a 'wangtta' earlier this year. I knew her homeroom teachers from this year and last year, and while they could point to the problem - a classmate of hers who was directing the rest of the class to ignore her - there wasn't much they could do other than talk with her (a lot). While things eventually improved, the experience changed her a great deal from the way she was a year earlier (though I imagine puberty contributed to that).

The same things happen back home - the day the girl in Daejeon died, an anti-bullying rally was held in Montreal after the suicide of a 15 year old girl due to bullying, and the recent suicide of a boy who was targeted as an openly gay student in Ottawa led the Ontario government to introduce new anti-bullying legislation. Though solutions have been offered, it's one thing to try to stop physical bullying, but how does one stop ostracism? It's not like you can force people to associate with someone, which makes the Korean brand of this particularly difficult to deal with.

The 2011 Amendments to the Hagwon Law

I've probably mentioned this several times, but I've never gotten around to posting about it specifically. On June 29, the National Assembly passed a bill amending the hagwon act which applies to foreign English teachers. The bill itself can be found here (in Korean). It was promulgated on July 25, 2011.

Act on the Establishment and Operation of Private Teaching Institutes and Extracurricular Lessons (in Korean here)
Some revised bills (alternative)
Bill # 12398
Date proposed: 2011.6.28
Submitted by: Chairperson of the Education, Science and Technology Committee

In the introduction we are told that the bill is essentially a compilation of various bills submitted over the past three years (Rep. Choi Young-hee, 2009.06.09; Rep. Kim Bu-gyeom, 2008.12.01; Rep. Gwon Yeong-gil, 2008.12.03; Rep. Lee Sang-min, 2008.12.24; Rep. Park Jong-hui, 2009.03.24; Rep. Lee Gun-hyeon, 2009.06.10; Rep. An Sang-su, 2009.09.02; Rep. Jeong Du-eon, 2009.11.10; Rep. Jo Jeon-hyeok, 2009.11.25; Rep. Kim Chun-jin, 2010.04.10).

Some of these names are familiar. Choi Young-hee proposed revisions to the school and kindergarten laws as well, but has finally found success with her planned revision to the hagwon law. Lee Gun-hyeon was responsible for releasing 'serious' foreign instructor crime stats (which showed their crime rate to be one fifth of the Korean crime rate) and Jo Jeon-hyeok was responsible for "forcing" foreign instructors to learn about Korea (as per KBS, via Brian). Choi Young-hee and Jo Jeon-hyeok's marks on this bill can be seen in the provisions regarding foreign instructors, which are just one focus out of several in this collection of bills. Here are the parts of the revised bill referring to foreign instructors:
The following will be established for Article 13 paragraph 3

In the case of foreign instructors (non-citizens of the Republic of Korea who, in accordance with paragraph 1, are responsible for instruction in a hagwon. Hereafter the same), training will be conducted more than once after entering the country to improve their skills as those responsible for social education and aid them in adapting to Korean culture.

The following will be established for Article 13-2
Article 13-2 (the hiring of foreign instructors) The person who established or manages the hagwon must, when hiring a foreign instructor to be responsible for foreign language instruction, submit the each of the following documents and have them confirmed before hiring the instructor:

1. A criminal background check
2. A health certificate (issued within the previous month and including the results of a drug and marijuana test)
3. An educational background certificate
4. Anything else prescribed by presidential decree
[As well, Article 23, which deals with penalties, will have paragraph 3-1 added to it, which stipulates that 3 million won will be the penalty if Article 13-2 is not followed.]

Supplementary Provisions

Article 5 (Interim Measures for foreign instructors carrying out foreign language instruction) According to the revised regulations in article 13-2, those currently working as foreign instructors must submit the documents listed in article 13-2 within one month of this law coming into effect.

Article 6 (Application of training for foreign instructors) After article 13(3)'s revised regulations within this law come into effect, they will apply to those foreign instructors who enter the country for the first time.
While it's good that this ostensibly closes the F-visa loophole, it doesn't solve the problem of Korean citizens who have lived abroad who have committed crimes there (and have either been deported to Korea or have fled to Korea to escape justice).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Detecting native speaking instructors with forged diplomas

The Chosun Ilbo published this 'article' on December 18, which is rather similar to these 'foreign teachers, being non-Korean, could commit crimes at any time' ads passing as articles from this summer:
[Why] "Detecting native speaking instructors with forged diplomas" a boom for inquiry service providers

Significant increase after Shin Jeong-a incident
On the 8th police caught Korean Americans who had been imprisoned for violent crimes like murder and rape
in, and deported from, the United States, and who had forged degrees from well known universities to work as English instructors in Korea. As there is a continuous inflow of foreign workers into Korea, cases of forged degrees are also occurring again and again. Because of this, requests to educational inquiry service providers to confirm the authenticity of degrees are increasing.
The article then rehashes the story of Shin Jeong-a and says these businesses have seen increases in business by 20% each year since her story came to light (suggesting this growth has little to do with the "continuous inflow of foreign workers into Korea"), but fails to make any other specific mentions of foreign teachers or of foreigners. Unsurprisingly, the article is an advertisement for this company, and though it reports on the arrest of the Korean Americans (who one assumes are Korean citizens, having been deported here), we're presented with this photo:

"Native speaking teacher file photo. The photo above is not related to this article."

Nice ass-covering caption.

It's interesting how looking up "원어민 위조" rather than "원어민" turned up a lot more news stories about the recent arrests (as in, 20 more), with Yonhap publishing several photos of the police displaying the former gangsters' forged diplomas:

The Chosun Ilbo article begs the question, however: Are forged degrees still really a problem with foreign teachers (as in non-Korean citizens) like they were with numerous high profile arrests a few years ago (when KBS claimed that 20% of native speaking teachers had forged diplomas)?

In a September 19, 2011 Hankook Ilbo article (which crashed Firefox for me), it was reported that National Assembly Education, Science and Technology Committee member Kim Se-yeon (GNP) reported that 146 people had been arrested for faking their academic backgrounds between 2008 and 2010, with 76 caught in 2008, 32 in 2009, and 38 in 2010. Of those, 40 worked for hagwons, but while the use of faked diplomas from US universities is mentioned, there's no mention of foreign teachers, except at the end, where Kim is quoted as saying,
Because of the social controversy over the problem of foreign instructors lacking qualifications, a similar verification procedure for faked diplomas should be regularly and systematically carried out.
We might remember Rep. Kim Se-yeon as one of those who mistakenly declared that over half of NSETs break their contracts. One imagines that, especially with her invocation of foreign teachers, that if there were a sizable number of foreign teachers involved, they would have been mentioned. So I decided to take a look.

In 2008 I was able to find three cases connecting native speaking teachers and forgery. In the first, in May 2008, three people from Ghana and a Korean-Australian (the latter's role isn't explained) were arrested for faking documents (including alien registration cards), and a hagwon owner who hired them was also booked.

In another case in November 2008, an American 'delivery boy' who worked in Korea for 12 years with a forged diploma was arrested, but though NoCut News reported (via its headline) that "a bunch of native speaking instructors had been caught for faked backgrounds," 5 other teachers were actually busted for teaching privates (made clearer in this article).

Another case from December was reported by SBS, who opened their report by saying, "These days, if one establishes an English hagwon, whats crucial is securing a native speaking instructor. In particular, finding a native speaking teacher with a proper teaching qualifications is almost impossible." [It leaves out the part about this being impossible because hagwons generally don't look for them.] The case is better explained here, where we're told that a Nigerian who worked in a hagwon as a native speaking instructor was arrested as part of a group that used a computer program to copy credit cards and made 28 fake cards, stealing 138 million won. (It doesn't mention forged diplomas, though).

So for 2008, that makes 4-5 foreign teachers (or one or two people from one of the 7 English speaking countries allowed to teach English) with fake diplomas. There were none reported in 2009, and the Ronald Rhee case was the only one in 2010 (he was a dual citizen, and the other person arrested who used a fake degree was a Korean citizen) and the only case of a 'native speaking teacher' being busted for a forged degree that I could find this year was a Chinese woman working in an elementary school.

While the association of 'native speaking teacher' with 'forged degree' may have had some substance five or six years ago, it doesn't seem to be the case now, though that doesn't stop it from being brought up in advertisements passing as news articles as one of the 'social problems' caused by foreign teachers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Foreigners make up 3% of Korea's population

The Joongang Daily reported on the weekend that foreigners now make up 3% of Korea's population, and with over 1.4 million foreigners as of October, the foreign population has increased 13% since the end of last year. The last big news of this sort was when the number of foreigners surpassed 1 million (or 2%) in 2007.
Although international migrations to Korea decreased in 2009 for the first time since Seoul began monitoring them in 2000 mainly because of the worldwide economic slump, the trend reversed last year in line with the country’s economic recovery, the ministry said.

Migrant workers comprised the largest group of all foreign nationals, accounting for 42.5 percent, the data showed. Around 9 percent of them were illegal workers, the ministry found. By nationality, Chinese ranked first with 53.1 percent, followed by Vietnamese with 11 percent, Filipinos with 5 percent and Indonesians with 4.77 percent, according to the data.

Immigrants married to Koreans formed the second-largest group of foreign residents here, taking up 10.1 percent of the total international population in the country. Chinese ranked first, totaling 45.4 percent of all spouses, followed by Vietnamese with 25.35 percent and Japanese with 7.64 percent, according to the data. Foreign wives accounted for nearly 90 percent of the total marriage immigrants, it showed.

The third-largest group of foreign nationals here were students who came to Korea to study. Among the total 93,232 international students, 20 percent were studying the Korean language, according to the statistics. Chinese, again, turned out to be the largest group among international students here with 72.9 percent, followed by Mongolians with 5.25 percent, Vietnamese with 3.47 percent, Japanese with 2.61 percent and Americans with 1.32 percent, the data showed.
Detailed immigration statistics can be found here, (on each page, click the zip file to get excel files). There has been a large increase in the number of foreigners this year; here are the year-end stats since 2000, which I posted here last year:

2000 - 491,324
2001 - 566,835
2002 - 629,006
2003 - 678,687
2004 - 750,873
2005 - 747,476
2006 - 910,149
2007 - 1,066,273
2008 - 1,158,866
2009 - 1,168,477
2010 - 1,261,415

Here are the statistics by month this year:

1,236,385 January
1,260,841 February
1,308,743 March
1,354,414 April
1,353,967 May
1,392,167 June
1,411,013 July
1,410,259 August
1,418,149 September
1,403,355 October

Between February and July, the population increased by 150,000, which is a pretty large increase. Here's a breakdown by nation (including totals, and broken down by gender) for some countries from October of this year:

Here are the top 15 countries (or groups) by population:

Korean Chinese
Sri Lanka

Unsurprisingly, they're mostly Asian countries, with the US and Canada added in (with the US in third place).

Kim Jong-il dead

[Update: Some interesting photos and videos from Pyongyang]

I was just told by my co-workers that Kim Jong-il is dead.

The BBC is reporting that North Korean state-run television "said he had died on Saturday of physical and mental over-work."

I imagine the next few months should be interesting...

[Update: Using a proxy to try to get through to KCNA isn't working - not surprising that it would be down. And I would imagine AP had this lengthy article prepared beforehand...]

SMOE budget passed

[Update - paragraph added at bottom]

Yonhap reported yesterday that on the 17th, the Seoul city council's special budget committee passed SMOE's budget of 7,094,953,700,000 won (32.9 billion won more than SMOE asked for).

According to SMOE a good deal of the debate over the budget was in regard to senior teachers and the budget for placement of native speaking teachers, which saw cuts by the education committee and was then partly restored by the special budget committee.
The education committee of the city council also cut 4.9 billion won from the budget for placement of native speaking teachers in elementary and middle schools, though [in the end] in the budget committee, the office of education's submitted budget of 31.4 billion won was cut only by 2.2 billion won down to 29.1 billion won.

According to this, next year native speaking teachers will disappear from high schools, as per SMOE's original plan, but are expected to remain at current levels in elementary and middle schools.
[A revised version of this article instead says "but are expected to remain at current levels in elementary and middle schools until at least the first half of next year," and deletes the following paragraph:]
An SMOE official said, "Allowances were made for middle school native speaking teachers whose contract periods end next August and the budget was expanded again." "During the second half of the year a supplementary budget for placing native speaking teachers in middle schools should be further reviewed."
Interesting that the above paragraph was cut. Perhaps that means there will be no supplementary budget for NSETs next summer.

As well, next year the free lunch program will be expanded to students in the first year of middle school and the Seoul City Council education committee decided SMOE would shoulder 50% of the total cost of 55.3 billion won (27.65 billion won), with the remaining 50% to be covered by Seoul City Government (30%) and each gu (city district).

The budget should be completely settled today.

Some of the figures there are interesting. It says SMOE's planned budget of 31.4 billion won was cut only by 2.2 billion won down to 29.1 billion won. However, the original SBS report said that the budget was set to be 30.2 million won - a 1.2 billion won discrepancy. As well, SBS reported that last year's budget of 34.6 million won for NSETs was to be cut by 9.3 billion won (4.4 SMOE planned to cut + 4.9 wanted by the council), or by 27% - and yet it reported that 57% of NSETs would be cut.

Someone needs to brush up on their math. What makes the 57% figure even more ridiculous is the fact that SMOE does not fund all of the foreign teachers. I recently saw a list of the teachers in my district whose contracts were being renewed, and out of twenty, 12 were funded by SMOE, 4 by Seoul city government, and 4 by the local district office. While that's a small sample, it does at least make clear that SMOE doesn't fund all of the teachers. As for current NSET numbers, I've been told that there are currently 579 elementary school teachers, 372 middle school teachers, and 291 high school teachers, or 1242 teachers all together.

Something else I haven't seen mentioned is that last week there was a panel on English education in the Seoul school system, which is described here.

The writer of that blog, a Korean elementary school English teacher who has worked with native speaking teachers, also wrote a long opinion piece for Ohmynews (called "It's easy to be a native speaking teacher!) which calls the cuts 'welcome' and, while saying that some teachers were okay and some just came for the money (and the best only stayed for a year), concludes by asking which is more important for 'our future' - giving money to native speakers or food to children?

Friday, December 16, 2011

The SMOE English education survey

I just came across the survey about English education commissioned by SMOE that was looked at here a few weeks ago and is being used to justify NSET cuts. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but at 13 pages, there's certainly going to be more to consider than the initial reports on it, or SMOE's one sentence summary of it ("parents prefer Korean teachers with good English skills").

It can be found (in Korean) here (or downloaded directly (pdf) here) I should note that it downloaded for me as a 'file' and prompted me to choose a program to open it with, which may just be a result of running the buggy newer firefox).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

SBS reports on the SMOE budget cuts and the fear of foreign teachers in hagwons

On December 8, after it was reported foreign teachers in Seoul public schools would be reduced, and Korean Americans who were working in hagwons as English teachers were caught with fake diplomas and were found to have been deported from the US for violent crimes, SBS broadcast a report:
'No questions asked hiring' of native speaking instructors... the uncomfortable inside story

Parents are greatly concerned after watching last night's 8pm news report about the dismissal of many native speaking teachers from Seoul's elementary, middle and high schools. It's not just the private education costs but also the difficulty of entrusting children to hagwon native speaking instructors.

In August police were searching a native speaking instructor's house and found not only numerous faked US university degrees, but also a plastic bag with marijuana seeds.

The house's owner was 38 year old Mr. Kim, a former US gang member, who was sentenced to and served ten years for murder before being deported to Korea in 2007.

Five months later he was working at a language hagwon as a native speaking instructor. He'd easily found a fake diploma using the internet.

Kim also gave a fake diploma to and found a job as an instructor for another Korean American who had committed a violent crime and was deported. [...]

At the end of June, there were 1300 registered hagwons in Seoul.

With such an abundance of hagwons, native speaking instructors are truly impossible to find.

Hagwons are not in a position to distinguish whether they are foreigners or gyopo, or whether they have qualifications or not.

Instructors disclose that it's common for backgrounds to be faked. [...]

Parents cannot hide their anxiety.

Shim Young-mi, Seoul Daechi-dong: It's scary. To some degree children learn from the teacher's way of speaking, behavior and character. This is a problem.

Native speaking teachers in the public school system will be sharply reduced.

Students will be driven into the private education market where teaching frauds abound.
Interesting. SBS seems to be inadvertently speaking out against cutting foreign teachers in public schools. The inference is that schools can weed out the fakes, while hagwons can't. Or as it says above, "Hagwons are not in a position to distinguish whether they are foreigners or gyopo"; something that I don't think is true at all - they just don't bother trying. Of course, there's no surprise there, since, once again, when Korean Americans (or the odd Canadian) are wanted for murder and found to be teaching in Korea, the media also find themselves "not in a position to distinguish whether they are foreigners or gyopo" - they're all "native speakers." This time is no different, since, if the Korean American criminals in question were deported to Korea, they must have all been Korean citizens, and there has never been a need for Korean citizens to provide foreign criminal record checks to work in hagwons (though perhaps this might start to be required after a few dozen more such cases). As for native speaking teachers being "impossible to find," that's not true at all, but it sounds good if you're making a case against hagwons and for public schools, I suppose. Of course, in the end, since SBS isn't making clear that it's because they were Korean citizens that they were able to get away with not having their criminal records found out, it still paints "native speaking teachers" as potential murderers and criminals.

Just for fun, the 'no questions asked hiring' in the title above echoes an August 18, 2006 Segye Ilbo article, which was titled "As long as they just speak English... The 'no questions asked hiring' of foreign instructors" (and which contained this cartoon).

As for the SMOE budget cuts for elementary and middle school foreign teachers, they are supposed to decided on today, according to this Joongang Daily article (which is much clearer than any other I've read):
"According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, the 4.4 billion won ($3.9 million) usually allocated to hiring foreign English teachers at city high schools was removed from next year’s budget proposal. [...]

The Seoul Metropolitan Council is also hoping to cut 4.9 billion won from the budget for foreign English teachers at elementary and middle schools in the city, however the council is currently going through a week-long deliberation period on the matter. The final decision will be made on Dec. 15 during the council’s general meeting."
Worth adding is that high school teachers may not necessarily be let go - those who are accepted for a new contract can move to a middle or elementary school.

AREX Gongdeok Station open

I was heading home from downtown Tuesday night and decided to go down to Seoul Station and take the airport express home, even though the transfer from line 1 to AREX takes more than five minutes and probably takes just as much time to get home (though you're more likely to get a seat). I'm glad I did, because I was surprised when the train stopped at Gongdeok Station; the station - with its transfer to lines 5 and 6 - wasn't supposed to open until the end of this year. As it turns out it was opened on November 30th:

(from here)

Judging from Daum's map, compared to the other transfers (at Digital Media City and Hongdae), the transfer looks to be quite a bit shorter.

Always nice to see the city getting easier to navigate. Mind you, not everyone is happy; this article takes the transfer to task for having very poor handicapped access.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Article on SMOE foreign teachers teaching alone

Asia Gyeongje published this even-handed article about native speaking teachers teaching classes alone on December 2:
Native speaking English teacher 'Teaching Alone'... "Regulations ignored, classes barely function"

It has come to light that at some schools the "Native speaker English conversation" system implemented by the government at a cost of millions of dollars to foster students' practical English communication ability is not being operated according to its intended purpose and improvements are urgently needed.

Education authorities say that for classes to proceed smoothly, guidelines are set so that during the native speaking teacher's class, a Korean teacher must always be present with them, but in actual classes, regulations are violated and it's common for native speaking teachers who speak almost no Korean to teach classes alone.

This newspaper was able to easily confirm these non-functioning classes at an elementary school in Seoul's Jungnang-gu.

An English conversation class for about 30 grade 6 students was in progress. At the front of the class, native speaking teacher A (a 29 year old American male) was constantly saying in English "Look here please" and "Be quiet and pay attention to the class," but not many students were listening. Only a few students sitting in the front row watching A teacher with curiosity showed any interest in English conversation.

Most of the other students were talking, sleeping, walking around or chatting with the person sitting beside them. After A teacher pointed out a student who was talking, he said in poor Korean "Be quiet," but the student had a confused look on his face before snickering at A's funny pronunciation, and his attitude didn't change at all.

After the class in which A teacher basically read the material alone, the students poured out of the classroom without a word. Not a single Korean teacher had come by the time class ended. A is assigned 3-4 English conversation classes a day, all of which go on like this with him alone.

A teacher complained, "When I speak Korean awkwardly, the students laugh. The students do not follow English well. With the way things are, the atmosphere in class is terrible. It clearly says in my contract that I'm to teach with a Korean teacher, and when I teach alone I feel like a fool."

A teacher also said, "At my school there is one more native speaking teacher, and that teacher is in the same circumstances as I am." A, who has worked at the school since last year, said, "I have complained to school officials a number of times, but in most cases they only came to class a short while before leaving me on my own again."

Students also feel pessimistic. Kim, a 6th grade student in the class, said, "The native speaking teacher's class is a disaster. In the beginning I looked forward to the native speaking teacher's class, but now I don't expect anything. I don't understand it and it's not fun." "Usually half the class is sleeping or doing something else while half participates in class. Sleeping or making nose is pretty much what the teacher gets."

Yu, a grade 5 student, also said that "English conversation class is not much fun," "Sometimes I feel sorry for the teacher." Both the teacher and students have been thrown into an inefficient and awkward situation.

The experience of A teacher and the students is a clear violation of regulations. According to education authorities [interviewed] on the 2nd, in order to help students' understanding and increase the effectiveness of the class, a Korean assistant teacher should co-teach during a native speaking teacher's English conversation class in elementary, middle and high schools. This is stipulated in each education office's regulations and is the premise of employment contracts between native speaking teachers and education offices. Schools which violate these regulations should from now on be penalized when receiving funds.

However, a great many native speaking teachers have no choice but to teach alone because the Korean teachers think that the native speaking teacher's class is 'not their problem' and consider it a time to rest or take care of unfinished work related to their own classes, A teacher explained.

A teacher said that "Because Korean teachers are busy preparing their own classes or have many administrative tasks, they feel that helping with the native speaker's class is burdensome." "So they don't participate sincerely in the native speaker's English conversation class and it becomes break time or a time to take care of other things."

This problem is common at other schools as well, it turns out. On the basis of tips to this paper, at other schools besides A's elementary school, including B high school in Yongsan-gu, C high school in Gwangjin-gu, and D middle school in Seochu-gu, most native speaking teachers' classes proceed without help from Korean teachers.

One should be careful of blowing this up into a problem that affects all elementary, middle and high schools on the basis of these confirmed examples, but we can presume that already at many schools the officials there would explain that this situation is not surprising. An official at B high school said, "Having the native speaking teacher teaching alone is not just an issue at our school." "I would guess that it's an issue throughout Seoul's elementary, middle and high schools."

Regarding this second hand information, Won-gwang University English education professor Yun Seok-hwa explained that, "If we look at the big picture, native speaking English education is very important." After stressing the necessity of native speaking teachers' English conversation classes like A teacher's, he said, "Educational authorities must make a thorough management system and follow the regulations without fail, and on this basis must protect the native speaking teacher system from harm."

In regard to this, a Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education official said, "By sending documents or manuals and carrying out on-site instruction, the authorities constantly train [schools] that native speaking teachers should absolutely not teach alone." "Most schools which receive support [from SMOE] run the system sincerely, but in some schools there are minor defects."

The official also said, "Realistically, it's true that complete management and supervision is difficult, but effort will be made to prepare effective measures so the system is more stable." According to Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, 309,459,660,000 won was invested this year in the employment and management of native speaking teachers.
While this is even-handed, extensively interviewing the foreign teacher and placing blame to some degree on the schools and the Korean teachers, I have no doubt it could be selectively quoted from by others to make a case for dumping the system (which is already being done to this article by SMOE in justifying its budget cuts. The support shown in the article for the NSET system is interesting, considering the events of the last week.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The SMOE native speaking teacher budget cuts

[Note: There are updates here and here.]

From the reports that were broadcast Wednesday evening and yesterday morning, it seemed that Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) was about to drastically cut the number of foreign teachers in its schools. SBS broke the story Wednesday night in an exclusive (follow the link to see the broadcast), saying that "700 teachers will leave schools from next year."

Native speaking teachers disappearing

As they put it, the SMOE budget was being discussed by the Seoul Metropolitan Council, and in the budget for native speaking teachers personnel expenses for next year, 4.4 billion won was being cut for high school NSETs, along with 4.9 billion won from the budget for elementary and middle school NSETs.

"Native speaking teacher personnel expenses"
2011 - 34.6 million won, 2012 30.2 million won, 4.4 million won cut.

Elementary and middle school NSET budget: 4.9 million won cut

According to these budget cuts, from next year when contracts finished it would not be possible to renew contracts, and 255 high school, 252 elementary school and 200 middle school teachers would be let go. In total, of 1,245 NSETs, 57% would leave their schools.

It interviewed Kim Jong-uk of the Seoul Metropolitan Council: "In truth, we've discussed the problem of reassigning English native speaking teachers for some time, and in August 2012 and February 2013 native speakers will be gone from middle and high schools."

The council also cut 500 million won from the budget for online English education that has attempted to be set up in elementary and middle schools.

An SMOE official was also interviewed: "As our teachers' [English] capability increases, we plan to gradually decrease native speakers. So, 'starting in 2012 the number will be gradually reduced."

The story was continued at this link:
The reason for reducing native speaking teachers is that compared to the large amount of money spent for their salary, house, and food [food?] they don't have very much of an effect. But many are concerned that without a realistic alternative this will encourage private education.

The city of Seoul and SMOE's budget for hiring native speaking teachers was 50.7 billion won this year.

(Total budget for English education in Seoul public schools: 98.8 billion won)

More than half of the English education budget is set aside for native speaking teacher personnel costs.

SMOE evaluated the qualifications of native speaking teachers and found that more than one third were near the lowest level.

Kim Myeong-su, Seoul Metropolitan Council operations chairman: "A teacher from our country who can speak both our language and English increases the effectiveness for those taking part in English education."

A survey of students and parents found that a Korean teacher who is fluent in English is preferred over a native speaking teacher.

"Which teacher would you prefer the most?" (Students 53.7%, parents 62.2%)
"A Korean teacher who is capable with English conversation and teaches well."

To prepare native level English proficiency, the Seoul Metropolitan Council and educational authorities maintain that the rest of personnel expenses should be used to hire more cheap Korean teachers.
It went on to talk about difficulties in finding native speaking level teachers, and the fears that these cuts will lead to a focus on private education.

There are a lot of conflicting figures there - the 2011 NSET budget is 34.6 billion won in the first slide but in the later slide comparing it to the budget for all English education it's suddenly 50.7 billion won. And if the budget is 50.7 billion won and around 10 billion won is being cut (ie. one fifth), why does that lead to 57% of teachers being cut? One starts to wonder if SBS, in such a rush to broadcast its exclusive, got a little sloppy. (I could make a comment like "They've done it before," but since much of that broadcast was deliberate, concentrated negativity, it wasn't actually the result of error).

Regarding this - "SMOE evaluated the qualifications of native speaking teachers and found that more than one third were near the lowest level" - the SMOE report (from May) which this refers to said that one third of native speaking teachers were at the lowest level referred to pay scales based on qualifications, which would have already been known when SMOE (or EPIK) hired them.

As for this - "A survey of students and parents found that a Korean teacher who is fluent in English is preferred over a native speaking teacher" - it refers to the survey results released less than two weeks ago, which said that
when asked about what category of English teacher was most desirable, the most common choice among parents (62.2%) was "a Korean teacher with excellent English conversation ability who is good at teaching."
However, the report above left out the response to this item:
62.4% of parents answered that there should be native speaking English assistant teachers, and responded negatively to the suggestion that English assistant teachers be reduced.
For some reason this isn't being brought up.

The Chosun Ilbo summarized the SBS report (translated here), as did YTN (summarized here). The Hankyoreh (translated here) expanded on the SBS report and explained more:
In the 2012 Seoul City’s Education Office Fund Decision meeting on the 7th, the Seoul [Metropolitan Council] Education [committee] cut about 4.9 billion won, which was the city’s next year cost for 452 native English teachers. Before the meeting, the Education Office turned in a budget of 31.4 billion won, which already cut 4.4 billion won, largely including the pay for all high school native English teachers.
I'd heard of the high school cuts only recently, but they've obviously been in the pipeline for at least a month. I just read SMOE's March 2012 Contract Renewal Guide from late October, which has this item:
7. High School NSETs
1) If you are currently a High School Teacher and pass your evaluations, you will transfer to a Middle or an Elementary school.
2) All High Schools teachers will transfer besides the following schools: 국제고, 과학고, 영어중점학교. [International high school, science high school, English-focused school]
So what the Hankyoreh describes above makes sense, that the high school cuts were planned, but that more cuts have been added by the council, though it adds that these extra cuts will only happen "if this budget passes." It seems, though, that SMOE isn't so concerned about these cuts. The Hani article also has some choice quotes and claims:
Hyung Tae Kim, member of Seoul City’s Board of Education, said, “Native English teachers are the representation of high cost low effect policy, and students’ satisfaction rate dropped.”
You'd think a "high cost low effect policy" in regard to English education would be right home here. But I digress. Nothing is said to substantiate the assertion that NSETs have a 'low effect' or that "students’ satisfaction rate dropped."

The article goes on to quote the aforementioned survey, highlighting the desire for Korean teachers and ignoring the desire of most respondents not to decrease the number of foreign teachers. It adds:
The Education Office said, “Native English teachers scored low in communicating with the students as well as participating in class. An average yearly cost of a native English teacher is 40 million won, and we will use that money to develop skilled Korean English teachers and an online English education program.”
Just after midnight, however, Maeil Gyeongje (translated here) reported that "Laying off native English teachers not decided yet." The money shot:
Seoul’s Education Office said that nothing has been decided in relation to some media’s broadcast that Seoul City’s native English teachers will be laid off next year.
The Education Office said that even though the Board cuts the budget, it can still continue to hire native English teachers through supplementary funding.
At 3am the Chosun Ilbo's second report on this offered a rather different outlook (the report is translated at their English site):
Most native English-speaking teachers in about 300 high schools in Seoul could lose their jobs next year. In its budget for 2012, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education cut about W4 billion (US$1=W1,126) for 225 native speakers teaching at high schools.

If the budget is approved by the city council, most of the high schools in Seoul except for 30 English "immersion" and international schools, can no longer afford a native speaker.

Currently 1,245 native speakers teach English conversation at primary and secondary schools in Seoul, 895 of them subsidized by the city office of education and the rest by the city government or district offices.

"A native speaker earns on average W42 million a year, and we concluded that they are not effective enough to justify the cost," a spokesman for the city office of education said. "A survey conducted for us showed that Korean teachers with outstanding English and teaching skills are more effective in the long term."

The office also plans to reduce the number of native speakers teaching at elementary and middle schools from 2013.

Students from low-income families will likely bear the brunt of the policy. "Students from well-to-do families may find lessons from native English-speakers dull because they've been attending private tutoring institutes since they were young," an education official said. "But those from poor families should be given the opportunity to learn English with native speakers at school." He added it is "too early to reduce the number of native speakers as long as Korean teachers aren't good enough to replace them."
What's interesting here is that suddenly the massive cuts to the elementary and middle school budgets have disappeared, and we're left with the high school cuts which have been in the pipeline for some time. Again, according to the SMOE document, it's already been known that the cuts were coming for high school teachers and the plan is to transfer those who are offered renewal contracts to elementary or middle schools.

So, did SBS simply mess up? Did SMOE or the council mess up? Was this an attempt to gauge reaction to something which was only proposed? To be sure, Wednesday night 452 middle and elementary school NSET jobs were on the chopping block, and in the morning, they (pretty much) were not even being talked about.

About the Chosun Ilbo's article, I'd say 42 million per NSET per year seems a tad high, especially having met NSETs who were recently hired by EPIK who are working for 1.9 (or was it 1.8?). Teachers like those (especially considering 33% of SMOE NSETs are at the 'lowest' pay level, and few are at the higher levels), would skew the average yearly salary downward.

And I'm quite certain that "A survey conducted for us showed that Korean teachers with outstanding English and teaching skills are more effective in the long term" refers to the aforementioned survey from two weeks ago. And again, the results in that survey which favoured keeping NSETs are being ignored.

E Today then reported the story Thursday morning repeating SBS's claims, and SBS itself kept repeating their story. This report in the Korea Herald, however, also states that there will be none of the Elementary and middle school cuts SBS trumpeted:
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said it plans to cut about 40 billion won ($3.5 million) in personnel expenses for 225 foreign teachers at high schools in the 2012 budget, which has been reviewed in the council’s budget committee since Thursday.

If it passes the plenary session of the city council next week, the number of foreign high school teachers will start decreasing from next year in about 300 high schools in Seoul. Only a few will be left at some high schools designated to focus on English study by the government and Seoul Global High School, a special high school focusing on international studies in the end, according to officials. [...]

There will be no change in the number of foreign teachers at elementary and middle schools for now. [...]

According to another official who wished not to be named, SMOE will reduce the number of foreign teachers at all public schools gradually as its English education policy shifts from “quantity” education to “quality” education.

“Foreign teachers’ effect on English education is higher in elementary schools than in middle and high schools and we plan to use them at where it needs them the most,” said the official. [...]

“Besides, the English proficiency of Korean teachers is much better than when we start to expand foreign teachers at public schools in 2005,” the official added.
It also adds that teachers will be able to finish their contracts and won't just be laid off. I might have some idea why SMOE would feel that should be mentioned (though, to be fair, they're likely reassuring teachers in this regard due to the lay-off fiasco that threatened GEPIK teachers's jobs as a result of the budget cuts in Gyeonggi-do announced this summer).

The Korea Times report on this notes that "Of the 266 teachers at high schools, the education office pays for 255 teachers, with the remaining 11 funded by district offices." With the budget cuts, "225 teachers out of 266 teachers [in high schools] will not have their contracts renewed upon expiration." It also reports that
“We have yet to decide on the budget allocation for foreign English teachers at elementary and middle schools,” the SMOE official said. “The adjusted number is near to final for high schools.”[...]

“The district offices may increase or decrease their budget for foreign English teachers on their own discretion,” the official from the SMOE said.
It also gives some responses:
“For the past seven years, I co-taught with four foreign English teachers at my school but the quality of teaching students receive is up to luck. Some will be taught by qualified teachers where as those less fortunate will be taught by teachers who aren’t so well versed in teaching,” said a Korean teacher at an elementary school in Seoul.

“Besides, it costs too much to employ foreign English teachers. They receive housing and other expenses from the education office along with their monthly pay. I wish the office would invest more for Korean English teachers with that money.”[...]
Not everyone agreed:
“Kids who can afford private English lessons will be okay, but those who are less privileged will be victimized by this decision. They are stripped of the opportunity to receive education from foreign teachers. Regardless of the quality of teachers, I think foreigners play a positive role in reducing the cultural gap with students,” said a parent in his 40s.
A Donga Ilbo column Thursday evening at least gave us a new cartoon:

"Native speaker" teacher

Mr. Kim was curious about the English class at his child's elementary school. He called the office and asked to talk to the native speaker. He heard the vice-principle's voice through the receiver: "Where did that foreign guy [외국 놈] go? Is there a student who speaks English to tell him he has a phone call?" This parent got the impression that the native speaking instructor was neglected in the school. Also a problem is that before the native speaking teacher's classes started, the teacher did not receive special training needed for adapting to Korean schools. For one native speaking teacher, the budget needed for salary, lodging, and household items totals 42 million won per year. As taxes are used, citizens must weigh costs compared to effectiveness.

Students generally like the native speaking teacher's classes. SMOE requested that SNU professor Lee Byeong-min analyze public English education policy, and he found that student satisfaction with and interest in their class with the native speaker was generally high, especially with elementary school students. However the number of students who chose the answer "It gives me confidence to speak with foreigners" in regard to the native speaker's class was low. It is difficult to improve conversation skills through a native speaker class which is only once a week. High school students in particular would rather have a Korean teacher who can help them raise their marks than a native speaker.

SMOE submitted a budget bill to the Seoul Metropolitan Council cutting about 4 billion won, or the personnel expenses for 225 native speaking high school teachers, from the budget for next year. If the bill passes, high schools will not be able to keep their native speaking teachers, except for 30 high schools such as foreign high schools or schools designated as English focused. It seems inevitable that low income students with no experience of English hagwons will suffer. Supplementary measures such as graded classes to improve English skills [streaming students?], strengthening the capabilities of Korean English teachers, and strengthening self study must be prepared.

In Seoul and the cities of Gyeonggi-do where many students learn English in hagwons, there is less need for native speaking teachers, but in rural areas native speakers make a significant contribution by increasing students' access to English. A problem is instructor supply and demand. Young native speaking teachers who have just graduated from university avoid working in rural areas. Policies tailored to the situations in particular areas are needed more than uniform native speaking teacher policies.
It's nice to see an even-handed column; again, it mentions only the high school cuts.

Newsis published an article early this morning claiming to be based on what SMOE 'did' on the 9th (ie. today, meaning they got a comment from SMOE before 6am), which declares that there will be cuts to the elementary and middle schools as well as the high school teachers, but the article just seems to rehash SBS's report from Wednesday night. It does say that if teachers finish their contracts next August and want to renew, SMOE will have only 9-11 months of salary and it will not be able to renew them.

So where does this leave things?

The high school cuts are already a done deal. The question is whether budget cuts to elementary and middle school NSETs will be passed. SBS was unclear on the source of such cuts, but the Hankyoreh reported that the 4.9 billion won cut to elementary and middle school NSETs was a decsion of the Seoul Metropolitan Council (while the original 4.4 billion won cut to high school NSETs had already been decided on by SMOE when they submitted their proposed budget). Whether these cuts were a figment of SBS's imagination (though a Seoul Metropolitan Council member does say on camera that "in August 2012 and February 2013 native speakers will be gone from middle and high schools"), or whether they are indeed proposed and the council is waiting to see the public's reaction remains to be seen. To be sure, the budget hasn't been officially passed yet, and the official budget won't be announced until this weekend or early next week, or so I've been told.

And as always, it's nice to see the media and elected officials selectively interpreting statistics (in regard to the survey that was done) in order to back up their assertions that NSETs have a 'low effect' or that the "students’ satisfaction rate dropped." And no where in this is the mention of the free lunch program - but then I suppose the progressive city council might turn a bit red if one were to suggest that low-income children's only access to native speakers was being taken away in order to give free lunches to the middle and upper classes. It's not exactly the kind of wealth redistribution I would expect from leftists, to say the least.

One thing is for certain - it would seem the GEPIK cuts were not an aberration, and NSETs are likely on their way out of public schools (though who knows what effect the campaigns for the national assembly and presidential elections next year will have).