Friday, September 28, 2012

A Bad Trend

So far I've published the following posts about the June 30, 1973 rescue of Maurice and Maralyn Bailey by the Korean fishing vessel Wolmi 306 after the British couple had been adrift at sea in a life raft for 118 days:

The rescue of the Baileys by Wolmi 306
Wolmi 306 Captain Suh's account of the rescue of the Baileys part 1

Wolmi 306 Captain Suh's account of the rescue of the Baileys part2

The Baileys arrive in Honolulu

The Baileys visit Korea

As I said in the last post, the rescue of the Baileys and their visit to Korea led to a couple of letters being published in the Korean press.

On July 26, 1973, the following letter appeared in the Korea Times a few days prior to the Baileys' visit to Korea:

There are many kind sentiments in this letter by Mrs. Huntley, who I know of mostly because she was present in Gwangju during the uprising in May 1980 (she was also a frequent contributor to the 'Thoughts of the Times' column). Another letter, however, was not so positive.

This letter appeared in the Kyunghyang Sinmun on August 10, 1973, the day after the Baileys left Korea:
Bad Trend
Kim Bo-gyeong, Seodaemun-gu, Nokbeon-dong

The piece of news that a Korean ship had rescued foreigners adrift on the Pacific Ocean hit like a sudden shower during this particularly hot summer. The captain gave his first-hand account and was proud, and the memories of the castaways were also good. They said they would come to the country of their saviours, Korea, but I was rather disappointed when I saw articles about them coming to Korea at a newspaper's invitation. The castaways, who didn't have much fuss made over them in their homeland, were thankful and said they would come to Korea on their own; did we have to invite them and give them money and free board and free tours? There was so much coming their way as to make them tired of it, and various news outlets had arguments to get exclusive media coverage.

One country's newspaper which listened to the facts of their being cast adrift undertook to confirm if they really were adrift for around 100 days. Courteous Korea has the politeness to entertain guests, but I worry that we are displaying a very submissive attitude towards foreigners.

At universities which hire young unqualified foreign instructors who are given high salaries, they are surrounded by students who pay without knowing what a waste it is, a confused group who offer to date foreigners.

Because this leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, I would like you to please consider this trend of preference, of giving unconditional hospitality to foreigners.
Well now - you didn't see that coming, did you? What an incredible segue into 'unqualified foreign instructors' - in 1973! One would imagine that there couldn't have been more than a few dozen foreign instructors in Korean universities at that time (especially outside of US military who taught English and Peace Corps volunteers, none of whom should have been teaching in universities). (Just for fun, an account of teaching at Korean universities from 1965 can be read here.) Not only are Koreans too generous to them, but what they teach is "a waste" and the (one presumes female) students who surround them are a "confused group who offer to date foreigners," something which "leaves a bitter taste in [his] mouth." Or as it was put in 1984,
"It's not just foreigners' prostitutes, now it's female university students or teenagers from good families who chase after foreigners and spend money on them, and when I see it I think it's pathetic," said Hong Gwan-pyo, who has sold souvenirs in [Itaewon] for 8 years, with a sour look on his face.
As for the "Koreans are too submissive in giving unconditional hospitality to foreigners" meme, it would resurface in 1984 during the French foreign language teacher scandal, in 1988 during the Olympics (when the Donga Ilbo asked, "Hasn't our overindulgence in humbleness brought about a self-degradation?"), and during the English Spectrum incident in 2005, just to name a few examples.

That said, it's not like I don't see Mr. Kim's point - it's just  that, at that time, Korea was still an aid recipient, and I remember coming across an article from the early or mid-1970s about the Canadian government helping to electrify villages in Gyeongsang-do. The point being, maybe it was a little early to be feeling bitter about being too hospitable to foreigners, especially when foreigners were contributing to the development of the country. On the other hand, anger at white barbarians who date Korean women, and especially towards the women who date them, has never really gone out of fashion.

Oh, and the castaways most certainly did "have much fuss made over them in their homeland" - they received a lot of money for the rights to their diary. So that's a bit overwrought on Mr. Kim's part. And returning to the topic of their rescue, on October 10, 1973, the Kyunghyang Sinmun reported that the captain and navigator of the Wolmi 306 had been arrested for smuggling around eight million won worth of contraband into Korea from Samoa. This was not the same captain, Mr. Suh, however - he had switched off with the captain Kim wanted for smuggling for that voyage.

At any rate, I was asked how I came upon the story of the Baileys; I doubt anyone suspected it was via the earliest news reference I could find to "unqualified foreign instructor."


K said...

So THAT's why you were on about the Baileys for so long! Bloody hell.

monty_internetty said...

BAM! Didn't see that one coming. Here I was enjoying a heart warming account of friendship and humanity across cultural boundaries and then this.