Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Web messages draw Koreans’ wrath

The 2005 English Spectrum Incident

Part 1: English Spectrum and 'Ask The Playboy'
Part 2: The Kimchiland where it’s easy to sleep with women and make money
Part 3: English Spectrum shuts down as Anti-English Spectrum is created
Part 4: How to hunt foreign women
Part 5: Did the foreigners who denigrated Korean women throw a secret party?
Part 6: The 'Ask The Playboy' sexy costume party
Part 7: Stir over ‘lewd party’ involving foreigners and Korean women
Part 8: The 2003 post that tarred foreign English teachers as child molesters
Part 9: Netizens shocked by foreign instructor site introducing how to harass Korean children
Part 10: Movement to expel foreign teachers who denigrated Korean women
Part 11: "Middle school girls will do anything"
Part 12: Netizens propose 'Yankee counter strike force'
Part 13: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 1
Part 14: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 2
Part 15: Web messages draw Koreans’ wrath

On January 16, 2005, the Joongang Daily (the English language version) published this account of the English Spectrum Incident which has a few quotations from the Anti-English Spectrum site. I'd never seen this article until a few months ago, and since it's one of the few English language articles about the incident, and since most other online English language papers have seen their older articles disappear, I thought I'd post it.
Web messages draw Koreans’ wrath

A column on an English-language Web site has created a firestorm.

Englishspectrum.com, a Web site on which foreign English teachers can search for jobs and exchange information, has had a problem since last week because of a column titled “Ask the Playboy.”

In the column, a man calling himself “the playboy” related his dating experiences in Korea and gave advice to those who asked how to “get” a Korean woman.

Using raw and vulgar expressions related to such topics as “how to sleep with Korean women,” the column angered a group of Koreans who saw the articles as insulting and degrading to Korean women and to Korea as a nation.

In a message on the site’s bulletin board, someone referred to Korea as “Kimchi Land,” and said the country has nothing to offer except “easy women” and money.

Soon the messages were passing through cyberspace, offending many Koreans.

Since the major users of the Web site were native-speaking English teachers in Korea, the Korean public had not been exposed to the contents of the column to this extent in the past.

Eventually, the matter was taken up by the major domestic media, both on and offline, and the Web site was temporarily closed down.

A party involving foreigners and Koreans held in a bar in the Hongdae area also recently became a target of the public’s anger as demonstrating the “immoral” activities of foreigners in Korea.

Photos taken at the party were disseminated on the Internet, exposing the identities of some of the people who attended. The bar’s Web site was inactivated as well.

One notable aspect of the public reaction to these incidents was that Korean women who date Western men were severely criticized, especially by Korean men.

“Korean men should all beware of Korean women who’ve been abroad, or who speak English well,” was one such comment.

In the “Anti-English Spectrum Cafe,” created after the “Playboy” incident, many comments carried extremely negative views about relationships between Korean women and Western men.

“I cannot believe what I saw in the pictures from the party,” one person wrote on the cafe’s message board. “I hate the girls more than the Westerners who were with them. They give a bad name to Korean women.”

The bar’s owner, however, said, “If a Korean woman dances with a Western man, does that make her a prostitute? Ignorance of cultural differences and irrational patriotism are hurting innocent people.”

“The party didn't harm anybody. It was just another party involving alcohol and fun,” said another Internet user whose ID was repubofkorea. “In Korea, there are far worse parties where Korean men do dirtier things. Just because there were Korean women and Western men, the public is making racist judgments.”

Some English teachers said they were puzzled by the escalating issue.

“Koreans should not judge the entire group of native-speaking English teachers in Korea based on the messages written on a Web site,” said one English teacher, who did not identify himself.

“The messages on the board (in the ‘Ask the Playboy’ column) weren’t meant to be taken seriously,” he said, adding that scenes from the party that Koreans called “nasty” and “immoral” were considered acceptable in North America.

To add fuel to the fire, however, another shocking online message written on a Web site for English teachers in Korea, bearing the title “How to Molest Your Students,” was brought to the public’s attention, creating even more anger.

An English teacher who identified himself as “Jamie” expressed strong concern about the situation.

“The message was disgusting. Many other English teachers expressed their anger to the person who wrote it,” he said. “I hope the message doesn't worsen Koreans' sentiment about us. The messages of a few ‘bad’ people should not be the standard by which to judge the whole group.”
Overall it's more balanced that many of the articles out there, though that's not so surprising considering its audience. Still, some of the lines are chuckleworthy, such as "Soon the messages were passing through cyberspace, offending many Koreans." Just 'passing through' - not deliberately spread - and then "[e]ventually [...] taken up by the major domestic media, both on and offline". No need to mention which element of the "major domestic media" took it up first, I suppose, or that the Joongang Ilbo, which published the first article about the incident (subtitled "The Kimchiland where it’s easy to sleep with women and make money"), likely helped lead to a lot of those "messages [...] passing through cyberspace, offending many Koreans." (No need either to mention that the Joongang Ilbo not only began the French teacher scandal of 1984 and published the most articles about it, but was the paper which most clearly articulated to the government how to deal with foreign teachers.)

It's also nice to see the description of the "Anti-English Spectrum Cafe," and their "extremely negative views about relationships between Korean women and Western men," as that may be the only Korean source to ever describe them that way in English. This comment makes for interesting reading:
"I hate the girls more than the Westerners who were with them. They give a bad name to Korean women."
Or at least, it's interesting when compared to a sentence near the beginning of the mission statement that ran on the front page of their site from 2006 to 2009 (at least):
One day, our anger overflowed, as we felt unendurable humiliation through reading of the debasement of Korean women by the arrogant, infamous English Spectrum.
As this article put it in its final sentence, "It is quite a contrast."

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