Thursday, February 09, 2012

"Koreans have a weakness for Foreigners"

Below is a Donga Ilbo article from June 21, 1984. Its subject, Mr. Hadkyn, is mentioned in two articles (here and here) that make up part of the reaction to the 'French foreign language teacher scandal of 1984' (I've reorganized the links at the top of that post, and will later add this to the 'preludes' section).
"Koreans have a weakness for Foreigners"

American lived and ate well for free for one year

[In front of] detectives from Seoul Jongno Police Station an American was sitting awkwardly with wide eyes.

He was managing to follow the questions detectives asked in a mix of English and Korean, and he was obediently answering in a mix of English and Korean.

A handsome man with a slim figure, his name is John Hadkym. He's 37 this year and his crime is embezzlement using lost property, document forgery, and accompanying charges.

Mr. Hadkym picked up off a street in Itaewon 5 credit cards including a 'Diner's Card' lost by Mrs. "Jemiredi," the wife of a US military officer, in the middle of last month [May], and until June 8 used them 15 times to purchase jewels worth 4,140,000 won from jewelers such as in the first Lotte [store].

He continued his criminal acts of posing as someone else until the 7th when an employee at the Korea branch of 'Diner's [club]' received a theft notice from the main office and contacted the police, who caught him.

Mr. Hadkym, who dropped out of university in his hometown of San Francisco and had nothing better to do, eventually ended up in Korea last May for the purpose of 'tourism.'

Last July he changed his tourist visa to a work visa and worked an office job for two months at Korean branch of 'Central Texas' University on the grounds of the US 8th Army and then stopped working for a living entirely in Korea.

For one year he had no job and lived and ate for free.

However, instead of looking shabbily dressed, he looked impressive and robust.

His secret was simple. "Koreans are unconditionally kind to and spend money on Americans."

Female workers in night spots for the Amercan military in places like Seoul or Dongducheon would give him a place to stay and even female university students wouldn't skimp on buying him drinks or food. "I gave the jewels I bought with the credit cards to girls who I owed, but none would take them so I sent them to my parents in America," Hadkyn said.

Hadkyn added, "I know that there are hundreds of foreigners in Korea like me." "Koreans are particularly kind to foreigners, especially white people." As to why there are so many people who are this kind and generous to foreigners for no reason, Hadkym had no answer.
I like how the writer indirectly asks that important question at the end. Another Donga Ilbo article which was published exactly two months later, during the backlash to the Le Monde report about French foreign language teachers in Seoul, would not be so indirect (and added another quote from him):
As a joke, he said, "If you go to the United States, even beggars speak English well,” but if the power of foreign language extends this far, it would be difficult to stop people from reflecting bitterly on this [worship of foreign languages] as a great sickness. It’s difficult to tell whether the foreign language boom is a bad thing in itself, or whether [the choice of] a marriage [partner], as a personal matter, can be judged as right or wrong, or whether being [overly] kind to foreigners is something to be criticized. Before any of this can be considered, however, one must stand up and have some self respect.
These same themes (worship of English as a sickness, being overly kind to foreigners, the need for self respect) would come up again 21 years later during the response to the English Spectrum incident.

1 comment:

ben said...

Hi Matt - I'm a reporter and contributing blogger to "The Peninsula," run by the Korea Economic Institute in Washington. I was hoping we could correspond via email so that I could get your views about the impact of the SMOE and other regional offices cutting their native English teacher rolls, since you've written about this at length. I'm also planning to write something on this and would like your input.

If you're interested, please drop me a line:
bghancock [at] gmail [dot] com