Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bits and pieces

Happy leap year day!

Feel like playing soccer inside Deoksugung Palace's Seokjojeon? Apparently in the late 1960s you could (sort of):
At Seokjojeon, for example, an indoor football field was installed in a second floor corridor, according to an article in the June 4, 1968, issue of the JoongAng Ilbo.
That article, titled 'Trouble over Deoksu Palace's beauty being marred by indoor soccer field,' can be found here.
A civilian operated indoor soccer field installed on the second floor passageway connecting Deoksu Palace's Seokjojeon hall and the art gallery is compromising the elegance of the old palace.
So, it wasn't quite inside Seokjojeon, then. The article says a Mr. Jeong had been given permission since April to operate the indoor field (charging 120-180 won per hour) in order to prevent those in attendance from engaging in loose public morals in the area. (Hat tip to Hamel.)


Jon Dunbar has a good article about vintage Korean rock music here.
Nowadays, vinyl albums of bands from that era cost a pretty penny, with original vinyl from Shin Jung-hyeon rarely available for less than 100,000 won, but back in 1995 when Hasegawa Yohei first visited Korea, he claims the same records were available for as low as 500 won. [...]
I've mentioned Hasegawa before. Things have changed since 1995, however:
"Every record store owner would tell me the same thing: Japanese record collectors had long since bought up all the really good records."
On the same topic, I found this video on youtube, by Kim Chu-ja which was obviously made before the great pot crackdown of December 1975:



The song also appears in different (and better) form on the great album 'Jang Hyun and the Men,' which you might be able to find here.


One of the features I really like at ROK Drop is 'Faces in Korea,' in which GI Korea looks at foreigners who visited Korea in the past. Some good examples are Hank Aaron, Robert Kennedy, and Muhammad Ali. His recent review of the film Champion, which I looked at here years ago, also links to an interesting article about how the fight with Kim Deuk-gu changed Ray Mancini.

Also worth noting at ROK Drop are the recent changes to SOFA, and this link to an article from 2003 - fun times.

Monday, February 27, 2012

SMOE to cut 425 high school and middle school native speaking teachers this year

Or so says this Newsis article from February 24:
SMOE to cut 425 high school and middle school native speaking teachers this year.

SMOE will cut the number of high school and middle school native speaking teachers it places in schools by 425 this year. This is almost half of the 890 native speaking instructors it supported placing in schools last year.

On the 24th SMOE announced plans to cut 425 out of the 890 native speaking instructors it currently supports placing in Seoul's elementary, middle and high schools. This does not include 355 teachers supported by local districts which makes for a total of 1245 NSETs in Seoul.

The current number of 340 will remain in public schools, but middle schools and high schools will see a significant reduction from 264 to 64 and 255 to 30, respectively.

SMOE instead will reduce the number of Korean English conversation specialist instructors only by 67, from last year's level of 1330 to 1263.

This measure follows the results of a research service last year which saw more effectiveness in English education over the long term from Korean language teachers who speak English well than native speakers.

The results of a survey looking at the actual level of satisfaction with classes by [Korean] English conversation specialist instructors showed positive response of 50.2% in elementary schools, 80.4% in middle schools, and 77.8% in high schools.

SMOE's plan to gradually reduce native speakers on this basis was announced last year.

An SMOE official said, "Results have found that [Korean] English conversation specialist instructors are in general contributing to students' practical English education." "From now on, due to the reduction in native speakers in middle and high schools, it's possible to utilize human resources which can reinforce English instruction personnel."

At middle and high schools where native speakers have been cut, SMOE plans for the concentrated placement of [Korean] English conversation specialist instructors to play a role in supporting things like divided classes and leveled classes.

This and other measures are meant to alleviate dissatisfaction with the reduction of native speakers in schools: short and long term training for English teachers; student-led speaking, listening, reading and writing classes; expanding the proportion of speaking and writing assessment; by implementing demonstration classes in Middle school grade 1 and High school grade 1 where students are divided into English classes of less than 20 students, and through this reducing the number of students per class; and revitializing after school programs by using native speakers.

Meanwhile, according to results of research last year by SMOE on the level of satisfaction with native speaking teachers, the most helpful type of teacher in English class selected by students was 'a Korean teacher who teaches well and has good English conversation skills', which was chosen by 53.7%. 29.7% of students chose 'native speaking teacher,' and 16.7% chose 'a Korean teacher with poor English skills but who teaches class very well."
So, the interesting thing is that the middle school cuts match up with the original SBS report which announced the cuts in December (the high school cuts are off by 30):


Worth noting is that, since I can only assume the SMOE budget for NSETs is only for the teachers it directly supports (ie. 890 last year), the initial planned cut of 707 teachers would have been far more than 57% (79.4% in fact). This despite the fact that original cuts were to total 9.3 billion won (4.4 SMOE planned to cut + 4.9 wanted by the council), or a 27% cut in funding - a rather large discrepancy. As for this:
The current number of 340 will remain in public schools, but middle schools and high schools will see a significant reduction from 264 to 64 and 255 to 30, respectively.
Math time again. If the number last year was 890, and 425 are being cut, that leaves 465 teachers. However 340 + 64 + 30 = 434. Mind you, since the high school cuts were off by 30 teachers above compared to the original SBS report, that almost accounts for the difference. One hopes SMOE is paying more attention to this than I am.

Some more numbers: Out of the total number of foreign teachers in Seoul (presuming there aren't cuts by district offices) 33.6% are being cut. Out of the portion funded by SMOE, 47.7% are being cut. The number of high school NSETs (funded by SMOE) is being cut by 88.2%, and middle schools by 75.7%. So, with a 47.7% cut in NSETs funded by Seoul, we'd expect a similar cut in budget. As was reported when the budget was passed, it was cut from 34.6 billion won for 2011 to 29.1 billion won this year (though actually there are problems with that figure, which suggests a 5.5 billion won cut, when other sources said that it was to be 4.4 + 2.2 (6.6) billion won cut). If we use the larger figure, that's still only a 19% cut in funding. So how does a 19% budget reduction lead to 47.7% cut in the number of teachers?

A possible answer is that a few teachers will be cut from March, with the bulk being cut in September (ie. they won't be replaced). That could account for these figures. If last year's budget for NSETs was 34.6 billion won, if we divide that by 890 teachers, you get 38.9 million won, or about what SMOE has quoted as as the average NSET salary. If you multiply that figure by the 465 teachers who should be here at year's end, that adds up to 18 billion won, leaving 11 billion (61% of 18 billion won) for the 425 teachers to be cut by the end of the year, which could account for 2 months salary for a certain number quitting in March, and 8 months salary for a majority quitting in September.

When Yonhap announced the final SMOE budget, a follow up report stated that "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 until at least the first half of next year," and deleted the following paragraph which appeared in its original article:
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."
It would seem clear now that there will be no supplementary budget in the second half of the year, if the Newsis report is correct.

What I really don't understand is the references to the use of [Korean] English conversation specialist instructors as a solution to the NSET cuts - since (much like in Gyeonggi-do), these instructors are also to be cut this year (if only by 5%).


On this topic, Ben Hancock published an article at the Korea Economic Institute's blog The Peninsula titled "Do English-Teacher Cuts in Korea Signal a Sea Change?", which he interviewed me for. I probably would have been less optimistic had I known so many middle school teachers were to be cut. Not included in the article is the following answer to a question he asked as to whether I thought the cuts had to do with negative sentiment towards foreign teachers:
I don’t think it’s really about anti-foreign English teacher sentiment. The Korean media has been criticizing foreigners working in public school system since the government starting hiring them en masse in 1996. The Hankyoreh reported a few months after the beginning of the KORETTA program (EPIK’s precursor) that one in three of the teachers were ‘unqualified,’ and similar reports questioning both the educational and moral qualifications of foreign teachers have appeared periodically since then, so that’s nothing new. As well, the massive increase between 2006 and 2010 in the number of foreign teachers placed in public schools occurred almost in tandem with an increase in negative press reports about foreign instructors in general. In fact, the number of foreign teachers working in Korean schools almost doubled during 2009 (from 4332 to 7997), a year that saw the largest number of negative media reports about foreigner instructors (around 350).
Those last two sentences are worth noting, I think, and I'm glad he asked me that question. Had anti-foreign teacher sentiment been as strong as one might think based on some media reports, they would never have been invited en masse into the public school system in the first place.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Yonhap: "It's regretful that English education is entrusted to marijuana smoking native speakers"

As I mentioned in Monday's look at the recent marijuana busts (which a commenter said took place a month ago), Yonhap - which broke the story at 9am Friday - was obviously having a slow news day. They published a translation at 10:23 and then published an editorial at 3pm. Needless to say, the editorial did not focus on the children of the rich or leaders of society, and left out any discussion of the possibility that the hagwon instructors arrested may have been on F-4 visas, though that's par for the course.
[Yonhap Commentary] It's regretful that English education is entrusted to marijuana smoking native speakers

After a period of quiet, the native speaking instructors' marijuana problem has once again come to the fore. On the 17th the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's Foreign Crime Division arrested 5 people, including native speaking instructor and hip hop singer H (34), for illegally distributing Canadian and locally grown marijuana. 31 people, including J (36), an American professor working at a university in Seoul, were booked without detention for buying it. The sellers are charged with distributing 438 grams of marijuana in well known language hagwons in the capital area as well as in the Cheonan area from July last year until recently. Among the dozen or so native speaking instructors who were caught, it's become known that one of them had already received a suspended sentence for the same crime. The problem of native speaking instructors smoking drugs like marijuana is not one which just started yesterday. That these unfit people continue to educate our children goes to show that the system for hiring native speaking instructors to work in private hagwons is in itself greatly flawed.

Korean society as well is not presently an area safe from drugs. On the 14th, the Korea Customs Service revealed that the smuggling of drugs into the country is increasing. While the drug problem is not serious compared to other countries, our country, which is classified as a drug-free nation, is being used as a drug smuggling relay base by international criminal organizations. It was revealed that the monetary value of the drugs caught being smuggled into the country was 62 billion won, a 220% increase over last year. As well, the amount caught passing through our country while being smuggled to another country increased from 3kg to 9.9kg, and the amount of new kinds of drugs like synthetic marijuana and Kratom that was caught increased as well. Though authorities are intensifying the crackdown on drugs, steps should be taken to protect youth who are relatively more vulnerable to temptation. If the youth, who are our future, are helplessly exposed to native speaking instructors who smoke and distribute drugs, it would be a great problem. With the English education fever currently raging in Korea, the number of native speaking instructors is increasing. These days children learn English from native speakers from kindergarten. One cannot rule out the possibility that native speaking instructors have spread marijuana or narcotics to youth who study in hagwons due to the belief that studying there is the only way to learn English well.

The native speaking instructors arrested at this time did not just smoke marijuana - their multi-tiered ring even smuggled marijuana from Canada and sold it on a large scale. This is almost at the level of a criminal organization. How can the recruiting methods be so lax for the instructors who educate weak children who should be protected, and who are the country's future? There are also statistics showing that during the five years from 2006 to 2010, 82 foreign instructors were arrested for smuggling drugs like marijuana and cocaine. The fundamental reason for this problem repeatedly occurring is due to issues with the foreign instructor verification system. Currently, tests which can confirm whether native speaking instructors have used drugs are carried out within two weeks of being hired, but arguments that authorities should introduce more sophisticated new drug testing techniques and carry out periodic testing are gaining ground. Authorities should also significantly strengthen punishments against native speaking instructors who smoke drugs and marijuana, as well as the hagwons which illegally hire them.
What a great title. The opening sentence, as well, made me smile: "After a period of quiet, the native speaking instructors' marijuana problem has once again come to the fore." It reminds me of the Donga Ilbo's reaction to US and Japanese news coverage of Korean boxing staff attacking a referee who 'caused' a Korean boxer to lose a match during the 1988 Olympics: "American and Japanese media gave this front page coverage as if they were waiting for this to happen." No front page coverage in this drug bust case, of course, but using "once again" makes it sounds like Yonhap was "waiting for this to happen." Of course, as stats below show, a number of foreign teachers have been caught over the years for drugs, so on the one hand Yonhap's attitude isn't so surprising. On the other hand, well, note that there is no use of 'some teachers' in this editorial - the idea that comes across, from the title on, is native speaking instructor = marijuana user. Which, considering that the number of teachers busted each year would rarely top 0.2% of all foreign teachers, would seem to be a little on the 'untrue' or 'misleading' side. Anyways, moving on:
That these unfit people continue to educate our children goes to show that the system for hiring native speaking instructors to work in private hagwons is in itself greatly flawed.
It's true that there has been and still are loopholes in the system - just not for E-2s. Last year's amendment to the hagwon law should - once it's implemented - close the loophole for F-visa holders, but will do nothing for Korean citizens who work in hagwons - as native speakers or not - who have criminal backgrounds overseas, as we saw in December.

The statistics released on February 14th from the Korean Customs Service will be covered in a separate post.
If the youth, who are our future, are helplessly exposed to native speaking instructors who smoke and distribute drugs, it would be a great problem.
The concept of Koreans being "helplessly exposed" (or more commonly, "defenselessly exposed") to manifestations of westerners' moral flaws, whether they be drugs or AIDS, has at least 25 years behind it, but I'll delve into more when responding to another editorial on this topic.
One cannot rule out the possibility that native speaking instructors have spread marijuana or narcotics to youth who study in hagwons[.]
Because when one pays 70,000 to 150,000 won for a gram of weed, the first thought that comes to mind is, "Golly, wouldn't it be fun to smoke with my students?" I mean, one also cannot rule out the possibility that a native speaking instructor, while trying to help a bus driver who had suffered a health problem of some sort (say, a heart attack) and steering the bus to safety, might lose control of said bus and run down a group of students, so perhaps it would be best to require all native speaking teachers to have bus driving licenses as well.
There are also statistics showing that during the five years from 2006 to 2010, 82 foreign instructors were arrested for smuggling drugs like marijuana and cocaine.
It was reported in October 2010 that the Korean Customs Service had submitted material to the national assembly saying that 82 foreign instructors had been arrested for smuggling drugs since 2006. They had smuggled 12 kg of drugs worth 386 million won, with 11 cases in 2006, 22 cases each in 2007 and 2008, 17 cases in 2009, and 10 cases in 2010. As the only cocaine bust involving a foreign instructor I knew of took place in late 2005, I wondered if the inclusion of cocaine was correct in the paragraph above. As it turns out, it is - there was a bust in January 2008, as well as a large one for various drugs in November 2009 which involved cocaine.
Currently, tests which can confirm whether native speaking instructors have used drugs are carried out within two weeks of being hired, but arguments that authorities should introduce more sophisticated new drug testing techniques and carry out periodic testing are gaining ground.
More sophisticated new drug testing techniques were already introduced a year ago. Here's what it looks like now:

Testing for [top left] syphilis, [in the square] methamphetamine (ecstasy), marijuana, cannabis, morphine, opium, amphetamine (philippon), cocaine, narcotics, 'Anti-HIV (STD),' TBPE (RU) (Philippon). Did they get everything?

As for the idea that arguments for introducing more sophisticated new drug testing techniques and carrying out periodic testing "are gaining ground," two articles from Yonhap saying this doesn't make it so, but then it's not uncommon in the Korean media for things which look descriptive to actually be prescriptive.

This was not the only editorial on this topic - I'll try to post the other one soon.

The Korea Customs Service report on drug smuggling in 2011

I hadn't realized the Korea Customs Service had released its 2011 drug smuggling stats until I read this editorial; the report can be found here (.hwp file).

Here are two translated graphs provided in the report:



According to the report, in 2011 there were 174 seizures totaling 29.3 kg and worth 62 billion won. By weight or cases, it’s a 110% increase over 2010, while the monetary value is a 220% increase over 2010.

Smuggling from China and Africa generally involved international crime organizations smuggling methamphetamine, while seizures from the US and Canada usually involved marijuana or synthetic marijuana for personal use smuggled by people like US soldiers or foreign English teachers.

It listed three smuggling trends for 2011.

First, meth saw a 185% increase from 6.4 kg to 18.3 kg. African criminal organizations were responsible for 4 cases involving 7.7 kg, up from one case involving 2 kg in 2010. 2011 saw 3 kg and 1 kg of meth come from Canada and Taiwan, respectively. There were also much larger shipments in 2011. In 2010 there were 2 seizures larger than 1 kg totaling 3 kg – in 2011, there were 9 such seizures totaling 16.1 kg.

A second trend was Korea being used as a relay station for smuggling drugs. There were 5 cases of this in 2011 totaling 9.9 kg, a 230% increase over 2010, which saw 2 cases totaling 3 kg.

The third trend is the continuing increase in the smuggling of new kinds of drugs like synthetic marijuana (41 cases, 3.1 kg) and Kratom (3 cases, 1.5kg), which increased by 406% and 78% respectively.

Also I should add that, much like recent reports of sentences for foreign teachers, US soldiers tried for drug offenses in July and November last year and January this year also received fines or suspended sentences.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Filipinos: Nannies, maybe; native speakers, no.

The Korea Times reports that
To boost the nation’s falling birthrates and encourage more women to participate in economic activities, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance is considering bringing Filipino women into the country to employ them as babysitters.[...]

In 2011, only 53.7 percent of women here aged between 30 and 39 were found to be employed, substantially lower than 89.8 percent for men in the same age bracket. Currently, about 200,000 middle-aged Koreans and ethnic Koreans from mainland China with H-2 visas are estimated to work as babysitters. Families raising one child pay Korean babysitters up to 2 million won per month and Chinese childminders nearly 1.5 million won, putting a heavy financial burden on working mothers.[...]

Despite this, the labor ministry expressed concerns, claiming that it will not likely help raise the country’s birthrate nor encourage more women to find jobs.

“There are plenty of people who are already working as babysitters or willing to become one,” said Yoon Young-soon, director of the ministry’s foreign workforce policy division. “Tens of thousands of ethnic Korean women from China are caring for babies of working families. On top of that, a growing number of middle-aged Korean women are looking to become babysitters amid the tightening labor market conditions.”[...]

“The measure will only backfire as it would take away jobs from Koreans and ethnic Chinese babysitters. It could also aggravate the already-dire illegal alien problem” the director said. “If the government wants to raise birthrates and help Korean women keep working, it should make more efforts to build more decent and affordable childcare facilities and make workplaces more friendly for working mothers.”
Anyone care to fill me in on this 'already-dire illegal alien problem'? If that's how the labor ministry feels, it's hard to imagine the ministry of justice being very enthusiastic, but they're taking a 'we'll get back to you later' attitude at the moment. Also, I imagine that "ethnic Chinese babysitters" above is a typo, and likely is meant to say "Chinese ethnic Koreans".

At any rate, some moms are showing interest in the idea:
“I pay my Korean babysitter 1.5 million won a month for looking after my 4-year-old daughter, accounting for about half of my monthly salary. If she lived with us, I would have to pay more,” said Kim Hye-na, a 33-year-old working mother in Seoul. “If Filipino women come here and work as babysitters, it would certainly bring down the childcare costs. They could also help my daughter learn English. The plan seems to be a good idea.”
The teaching English part might work fine, as long as they don't bill themselves as 'native speakers,' as one video English program has. As a Gyeongin Ilbo article titled "Native speakers are 'Filipinos?'" relates in its subtitles, "There are almost no American or English teachers involved in 'Suwon foreign language video learning,'" and there is a "Backlash from parents who signed up for 'native speaker class'"

As the article explains, there is controversy over the fact that 'Suwon native speaker video English learning' (NISE), which was established to relieve private English education costs, is mostly taught by Filipinos.

Started in 2008 in Nowon-gu for students from elementary grade 3 to middle school grade 3, 1.7 billion won was spent on the program which is operated by YBM.

Last September Suwon made a deal with Nowon-gu and from October students were gathered for an identical system in Suwon. It costs 68,000 won for two months and four students wearing headsets share conversations with an English instructor via the internet.

However, when parents who believed the 'native speaker' label signed up for it, they found out most of the instructors are Filipino, which led to complaints because Filipinos are not viewed as being native speakers and are not included in the 7 countries usually included under that label.

An investigation found that, of 120 instructors at Nowon-gu's video call centers in Makati and Cebu, 95% are Filipino and 5% are from the US or UK.

YBM defended this, saying, "In truth, seeing the progress of this education, Filipinos teach students even better than instructors from the US or Canada, and they are a better match for our sentiments/emotions."

Or to put it another way, they "understand Asian values very well."

A Suwon official says that there's not much to be done now, what with classes involving some 500 students in progress, but issues that have arisen can be dealt with in the future.

While there really shouldn't be a problem using Filipinos for video classes, you'd think YBM would have figured out that billing them as native speakers would lead parents here to feel cheated.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The hunt for Mr. Swirl

Via this site, as well as Youtube, is this documentary on Interpol's quest to identify the pedophile known as Mr. Swirl. When he was found in October 2007 to be Christopher Paul Neil, a foreign teacher in Korea, it led to both his arrest and to changes to E-2 visa regulations:

Monday, February 20, 2012

A closer look at Friday's hagwon instructor pot bust

On February 17, the Korea Herald reported the following:
Police said Friday they have arrested and detained five people, including a Korean man with Canadian nationality, suspected of dealing marijuana in two separate drug rings.

Police also booked 31 others, including a 36-year-old college professor from the U.S., for investigation without physical detention for allegedly purchasing the drug from the arrested suspects, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said.

The Canadian national, a underground hip-hop singer working as a native teacher of English, identified only by the initial of his name H, allegedly sold marijuana to fellow English teachers from the U.S. and Canada as well as to an employee of a local industrial conglomerate, the police said.

The suspects are believed to have distributed about 438 grams of Canadian and locally-grown hemp in well-known private English education institutions in Seoul and nearby and southern cities since July last year, according to the police.[...]

Alleging widespread marijuana smoking among foreign teachers, the police said the country needs a more thorough system to identify illegal hemp use among native English-speaking teachers here.

“We plan to further broaden our investigation as there are assumed to be more hemp-circulation rings involving native teachers (of English),” a police official said.
This was in fact simply a reprinted Yonhap article, which was a translation of this Korean language Yonhap article, published at 9am that morning, and the first to break the story. They're quite similar, except for the last two paragraphs:
Police argued that the current tests carried out on native speaking instructors within two weeks of being hired, which make it possible to confirm whether they have used drugs, should be replaced with systematic supplementary measures such as new testing methods or periodic testing carried out after being hired.

A police official said, "We ascertained the routes of distribution by questioning the suspects and hagwon officials we contacted." "We believe there are more groups distributing marijuana which involve native speaking instructors and plan to expand the investigation."
The final sentence is standard for articles about drug investigations, but suggesting carrying out periodic testing is most certainly not.

NoCut News published an article with more information and a slightly catchier title:
Again, native speaking instructor drug crime... including a hip hop singer and university professor.

[...]

Those arrested include 13 hagwon instructors, 10 company workers, an (American) university professor and a university student, 5 unemployed people, and 5 people working as consultants or used car dealers.

H is charged with selling 438 grams of marijuana for 70,000-150,000 per gram netting 72 million won.

The 5 who were arrested taught English mostly to kindergarten students and elementary, middle, or high school students at well known hagwons in places like Seoul, Seongnam, Cheonan, and Asan and got into the 'pot business' to make money for living and entertainment expenses.

The police investigation found that there is a step when hiring native speaking instructors in which the hagwon must receive a medical report' including drug test results, but this is often ignored.

Police explained that the [current tests are] normally only effective in detecting drug use within the past 1-2 weeks, making it difficult to catch [users], and that native speaking instructors who have used drugs can easily find new jobs.
70,000-150,000 per gram? If you're wanting to ask, "Who would pay those prices?" we'll get to that in a minute or two. NoCut News seems to be, by stating that current tests are "normally only effective in detecting drug use within the past 1-2 weeks," also pushing for periodic drug tests. I'm not sure I'd take seriously the opinion of a paper in regard to drug policy when it posts photos like this to illustrate a marijuana bust:


An MBC report included this shot of the press conference given at Mapo police station on the morning of the 17th:


It's hard to read, but it breaks down those arrested by nationality, with 9 Canadians, 8 Americans, and 20 Koreans. It also makes clear that 32 were booked without detention, not 31. Newsis also included some shots of the conference:

(From here)


(From here.)

It certainly looks like the police were busy.

The Chosun Ilbo's article, published on the 18th, states that the hip hop singer's last name is Ham, and he performed in Hongdae clubs. It states that 483 grams were sold, 'enough to be smoked a thousand times.' I was thinking that figure might be a typo, but MBC's report on the night of the 17th also quoted 483 grams, but announced instead that it was enough for 480 people.

The MBC report also brought up something not mentioned previously - that the 'office workers' who were arrested were, in fact, the children of well known, affluent leaders of society:
"In the case of some children of the rich who had experience studying overseas, they easily had access to and experience with drugs in a foreign country and when they returned to Korea they bought drugs from foreigners or gyopo."

Among those caught for smoking marijuana was the grandson of the founder of a jaebeol group, a vice president of a social commerce company, the nephew of the president of a savings bank, the chairman of a jaebol subsidiary, and the son of a well known professor at a prestigious university.

However, police today announced the results of the investigation, but the children of these leaders of society were simply identified as 'office workers,' raising suspicions of lobbying to cover it up.
So, if you were wondering who would be willing to pay 70,000-150,000 per gram, I think this answers the question. The MBC report also mentions that one instructor already received a suspended sentence before for distributing marijuana. This Munhwa Ilbo article also states this -and adds some other rather interesting information:
The police investigation results found that the thirteen native speaking instructors, including H, were Canadian and American citizens of Korean ethnicity who taught English to elementary, middle and high school students in well known hagwons, while secretly trafficking in marijuana as part of a group. In particular, it was found that H had in the past received a suspended sentence in court for the same crime, but as he hadn't received any sanctions, he worked as a native speaking instructor and committed the same crime again.
In other words, H is too stupid to live [if the previous bust was in Korea]. If the allegations are true and he jumped back into dealing again after having been caught once and given a break, somehow I doubt he'll be getting a suspended sentence this time.

Suspended sentences or other lenient punishments like fines are actually not that uncommon. It only seems to be in recent years that the sentences of foreign teachers have been reported, and the ones I've come across include an American teacher in Jeju who was fined for importing marijuana seeds in July 2010, another American teacher in Jeju who got a suspended sentence for mailing herself a cake made of marijuana (in August 2010), an American teacher in Busan who got a suspended sentence for mailing himself JWH-018 in September 2010, and three Korean Canadians arrested for Ketamine (or meth) who received suspended sentences in September 2011. Also, as it turns out, the teacher arrested in November for smuggling hash (a 'new kind of drug'!) from Canada ended up getting a suspended sentence as well (2 and a half year sentence suspended for three years, along with a 1,450,000 won fine) at the end of December. [I should add that US soldiers tried for drug offenses in July and November last year and January this year also received fines or suspended sentences.]

Now to the other important part of that Munhwa Ilbo article - the fact that "the thirteen native speaking instructors, including H, were Canadian and American citizens of Korean ethnicity." When NoCut News reported this - "when hiring native speaking instructors in which the hagwon must receive a 'medical report' including drug test results, but this is often ignored" - I figured that either they were quite ignorant of E-2 visa rules, in which it's impossible to ignore this step (not surprising for a journalist/editor that thinks marijuana is a white powder), or that the teachers in question were on F visas. If the teachers are 'Canadian and American citizens of Korean ethnicity,' then it's much more likely that they are F-4 visa holders, and in that case E-2 visa drug testing rules would not apply to them.

However, the newly amended hagwon law, which, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, requires drug testing to get a hagwon job, would apply to them. It's possible that teachers currently employed would not have been tested yet, though according to the bill, they should have been by now:
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.
If it has been necessary to submit these documents, then this is likely what the police refer to when they say 'this is often ignored.' Which brings us to the suggestion that, perhaps before instituting new, stronger, 'periodic testing' of foreign instructors, the police might want to see to it that the laws currently in place are actually enforced before making new ones?

I should also mention that, if you were thinking that the sons and daughters of the rich getting caught smoking pot would be a big news story, think again. There have been over 25 reports on this drug bust focusing on foreign instructors being arrested, but only two - the MBC report which broke the story and a Money Today report the next day which focused exclusively on the story - have mentioned the 'children of the rich' angle. But then, who would you target? The children of the people who run the country, or comparatively powerless foreigners? It's not a difficult question to answer.

Yonhap was obviously having a slow news day when they broke this story. Within 90 minutes of the Korean language article going up, a translation was published, and several hours after that they put out an editorial titled "It's regretful that English education is entrusted to marijuana [smoking] native speakers." I'll post that tomorrow.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

High school students facing 'first grade stress'

At the top of Naver earlier today was a Hankyoreh report stating that, after a first grade high school committed suicide on Tuesday, it was confirmed that another first grade high school student killed himself and one other attempted suicide in Gangnam at the end of last year. Teachers and students agree that the level of stress for first year students is just as bad as that of third year students.

Police confirmed that in December a 17 year old student jumped from an apartment building near his house in Gangnam (just like in the most recent case). He'd transferred from a school north of the river and ahead of his final exams got drunk one night and jumped. He couldn't adjust to the much stricter atmosphere in Ganngam schools, his marks went down, and he was penalized many times. Students were shocked by his suicide, the vice principle said, and as the school has more students than other schools who don't adjust well, a counsellor was brought in after the incident to concentrate on first graders.

Even more shocking was the story from last November of another 17 year-old first grader who jumped out the window of a fourth floor classroom at school suddenly while class was in progress. Luckily, she only suffered a broken leg, and is living a normal school live now. She apparently told an official that students live well and study well in Gangnam's 8th district, and she was so stressed from studying for an/the university entrance exam that she jumped. [One wonders how traumatized her classmates were.]

Students tell teachers that the stress begins when they receive marks that are lower than their middle school scores, with one student saying he just wanted to die when he saw his first test results.

Changes in Itaewon over the years

To continue on from this post about a portrayal of Itaewon in 1984, I'll direct you to Kim Eun-Shil's 2004 Korea Journal article "Itaewon as an Alien Space within the Nation-State and a Place in the Globalization Era."
Itaewon was called the "Las Vegas of Seoul," which meant that it had turned into a recreation center and a place of cultural consumption for American soldiers. Until recently, the Korean mass media viewed Itaewon as a place of excretory culture, where American soldiers engaged in hedonism, prostitution, illegal drugs, and criminal activities. But in the globalization process, transnational phenomena have become everyday affairs and the cultural particularity of Itaewon is fading. [...]

Located near the Yongsan base, Itaewon started out as a military camptown for soldiers stationed in Yongsan. In the 1960s, foreign diplomatic establishments were set up in Itaewon-dong and Hannam-dong, and in 1963, a group of American army apartments were built as a collective foreign residential area in the firing ranges. Itaewon became a comfort zone for American soldiers. Indeed, Itaewon is still widely regarded as Seoul's American military district to the present day. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Itaewon had been developed into a densely crowded commercial area with a large number of recreational businesses, earning it the name "shopping paradise by day, prostitution paradise by night."[...]

To many Koreans, Itaewon was the place of the American Dream throughout the 1970s and into the mid-1980s. It was the general assumption that the U.S. was a wealthy country, and Korean women were under the impression that American men were kind to women and children and liberal compared to Korean men. Therefore, many Korean women regarded marriage with Americans to be an upgrade of life.
Much of this is in accord with the 1984 Kyunghyang Sinmun article. Things began to change with the Olympics on there horizon. Here is a September 28, 1988 Korea Times article pitching Itaewon to tourists during the Olympics:



It mostly focuses on shopping, but the post Olympics era brought on changes for Itaewon, including problems with providing cheap, authentic (made-in-Korea) clothes, which led to knock-offs which were eventually cracked down on by authorities. There were other changes as well:
Ms. Yi says that after the 1988 Olympics and into the 1990s, there was a change in the consciousness of the women working as waitresses in Itaewon. In the 1990s, female college students working part time in Itaewon preferred to travel to the U.S. rather than marry an American. There began a pattern of student employees working for 6 to 12 months in Korea and then leaving for the U.S. to study English. With the liberalization of travel overseas and the rapid growth of the Korean economy, as well as a general change in social consciousness, the dreams of marrying Americans lost a great deal of their appeal. [...]

Many interviewees said that during the Olympics, Itaewon was packed with tourists, but that afterwards, the mass media looked down on Itaewon as a place of crime and squalor. They were angry that the government first behaved as if it were satisfied with earning dollars, but that once Itaewon became famous, the government treated the neighborhood as if it were corrupt.[...]

All foreigners and tourists visiting Itaewon are represented as male; female foreigners and tourists do not acquire self-representation in Itaewon. Most of the discourses that exist on Itaewon masculinize the foreigners in Itaewon and feminize Itaewon as a place that provides women and pleasure.

The identity of Korean women in Itaewon encounters a clash in the presence of Korean men. The owners of recreational businesses in Itaewon have asserted that Itaewon's clubs should be made into foreigner-only establishments. According to them, Korean men cannot bear feeling like they are being served worse than the foreign male customers by Korean women or watching Korean women leave their table to greet foreigners. They say that it is not hard to see drunken Koreans creating a scene and screaming that it is anti-nationalist for Korean women to provide better service to foreign men in Korea. Such behavior shows the patriarchal and male-centered idea that Korean women belong to the nation-state or are a property of Korean men. The tension around the territory of Itaewon is manifested as a struggle over who owns Korean women, rather than the direct confrontation between the American army and Korean men. Mr. Sin and Ms. Yi, both owners of recreational businesses, say that when Korean men come to a bar or club in Itaewon, the night usually ends in a brawl. This indicates an underlying competition over territory in the frontier zone, with women as the medium.
Of course, the research for this article is likely more than ten years old, and even by 2004, things were changing, as this lengthy Joongang Daily article from 2004, about how more Koreans were starting to go to Itaewon, points out:
John Yoo, a 37-year-old Korean having dinner with his wife at Le Saint-Ex, says that the perception of Itaewon has changed. In the past, he says, there were two kinds of girls who came to Itaewon: those who “serviced” GIs and those who wanted to meet and marry a GI to move to the United States.

“But now, if I see a Korean girl in Itaewon, I think maybe she has friends who are foreigners or maybe she’s married to a foreigner,” he says.

His wife, who is a few years younger, disagrees. She loves coming to Itaewon during the day to shop, she admits, but “a Korean girl at night in Itaewon still looks bad.”[...]

B.C. Chong, who has had a tailor shop in Itaewon since 1972, holds administrative positions with the Korea and Itaewon Special Tourism Zone Associations. He recalls that in the 1960s and 1970s, Itaewon was a seedier place, full of bars with strip shows and open prostitution. With the rapes, fights and violence that occurred there between GIs and Koreans during that time, Itaewon got a reputation as a dangerous place.

At that time, Mr. Chong says, “any Korean girl walking or hanging around with a GI, we treat her like a prostitute. Why do you meet a GI? For what?” he asks. “For money. Selling your body, that’s all.” But now, he says, it’s very different. No one thinks that way anymore about Korean women who come to Itaewon because the neighborhood has changed, he says.
A friend who had been away from Korea for three years told me he was surprised by the number of Koreans he saw in Itaewon late at night. Perhaps part of the reason for the increase over the last year has been this song and video, though I imagine it both captured a bit of the already-existing move in that direction, and propelled it further.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Itaewon in 1984: An unfamiliar foreign zone within Seoul

On July 23, 1984, the Kyunghyang Sinmun published this lengthy report about Itaewon:
10,000 illegal sojourners or immigration cheaters... the days and nights of Itaewon

Seoul is a paradise for foreign gypsies.
A 'livelihood' from teaching conversation to housewives and university coeds
20 international marriages a month
70% divorce on the way to their home country
"There are lots of young women who follow them and spend their money on them"
Enter on a tourist visa and continue to stay...there are also crimes like theft and fraud

Seoul’s foreigner village, Itaewon, frequented by races from 59 countries, where a flourishing international shopping area coexists with the vanity of women in their 20s who go astray. (The photo is not related to the article.) Taken the afternoon of July 21 in Itaewon.
If you turn left from Banpo Negeori, where the statue of General Coulter used to stand, you could suddenly find yourself believing that you were in the downtown of some western city in America. On both sides of the street stand shop after shop, all with English signs, where a white women in shorts speaking English bargains with a Korean clerk in a clothing store. As well, a large black man passes by walking arm in arm with a slim figured Korean woman who looks like a university student.

Seoul Yongsan-gu Itaewon.

To be exact, the streets between Yongsan-gu Itaewon1Dong 127 beonji and 136 beonji make up a 'foreign country zone in Seoul' and an 'Ethnic exhibition within Korea,' where foreigners living in Korea gather.

It is a place where street vendors who shout, "Good Price (Cheap)," a shopping area more advanced than Myeong-dong, and clubs and bars for foreigners' "nighlife" coexist.

Tourist and shopping area

Itaewon began to prosper as the foreign village of today in 1971, when the US 8th Army 121st Evacuation Hospital moved to the 8th army barracks. After that, around 10,000 civilians, DOD civilians, and hospital employees moved to the area and were followed by merchants, and the shopping area began to develop. In the mid 1970s luxurious houses reserved for foreigners and also high class houses were built at the foot of Namsan above Itaewon-ro (street).

The Itaewon area is divided into four zones: the foreign zone shopping area surrounding Itaewon-ro, the so-called "Texas Street" area above the fire station, named for its adult entertainment district and camptown (기지촌) with prostitutes (위안부) for foreigners, Bo'gwang-dong, where the houses of Korean working class people (서민) and the Crown Hotel are found, and the area with luxurious foreign houses above Itaewon-ro.

Itaewon's shopping area exudes a foreign atmosphere. Kim's Variety Shop, U.S. Kim Tailor, Portrait and Gift Shop, etc.

Along the 1.5 km long stretch from Banpo intersection to Hannam-dong are around a thousand stores with English signs crowded together. The Itaewon shopping area has become an attraction for famous people who always come to the area when visiting Korea.

Last year when President Reagan visited Korea he sent an attendant to U.S. Kim Tailor to have two suits made, and Secretary of State Shultz personally visited the area to shop three times. Tax authorities estimate that sales in the area total more than 50 million dollars a year (40 billion won).

The number of foreign residents that could be identified in the area by the authorities at the end of June were 7,110 people from 59 different countries.

7000 legal residents

There are 210 households in the the Namsan Oe-in Apartments, 50 in the Namsan Oe-in Jutaek, 50 in the Itaewon-dong Oe-in Jutaek, 50 in the UN Villa, and 118 in the Hilltop Apartments, as well as those checked into the New Yongsan, Hamilton or Crown Hotels or paying cheap monthly rent in Itaewon-dong or Bogwang-dong. By nationality, 60% were American, 20% were Japanese, and 10% were Chinese, with other nationalities making up the other 10%.

Japanese and Chinese, however, do not usually set foot in the Itaewon shopping area. Residents say this is because of a "White complex" towards white people.

However, of the 7,110 people, legal sojourners holding resident visas such as resident foreigners, company employees, and USFK family members from 29 countries have been identified.

Separate from these are also an estimated 10,000 foreigners who have overstayed their tourist visa period or are living as illegal immigrants. Foreigners who are long term sojourners on tourist visas game the system by going to Japan for a day or two when their 60 day visa stay is up and returning, extending their stay for another 60 days. There are also many illegal sojourners whose visas expire and who live unconditionally [in Korea].

Foreigners like these who are not formal residents are called 'vagabonds/itinerants [뜨내기]' or 'gypsies' in Itaewon.

Why do they linger around the Itaewon area and not leave Korea? "There is no other place like Korea where foreigners are treated so well," answered a foreign vagabond.

Vagabonds make a living finding jobs as English translators or earn living expenses by working as English conversation instructors or teaching private lessons.

In 1977 Thomas (29) finished his service in the US Eight Army and returned home to Illinois where, he said, "There was no work and nothing going on, so I returned to Korea to live."

"Having English and some Korean, there is no difficulty making a living." He can make a million won a month teaching private English conversation classes to housewives. Also, in his area, he hinted that, "I also have friends who date and teach English to Korean girlfriends who have lots of money, and they get adequate pocket money." "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 the area for 8 years, with a sour look on his face.

There are many cases where, because American soldiers or vagabond foreigners have been approached out of curiosity or a vague longing by young women, they have enjoyed themselves without spending a cent. Miss Gang (24), a prostitute who serves foreigners, complained that, "Because of these kids who spend their own money and chase after them, the money we receive for sex is only 10-20 dollars, the same as it would have been 10 years ago."

These foreigner vagabonds also easily/often turn into criminals.

There are even teenage girls

From January to June this year, the Seoul Yongsan Police station dealt with 322 crimes by foreigners. Among them, 80% or 238 involved traffic accidents or assaults, while the other 20% involved theft or fraud.

The police station or local police box deal with one or two incidents of assault by foreigners in Itaewon's Texas alley every day. The cause of most assaults are trifling incidents like when disputes arise over treading on another's foot while dancing, and the inability to understand each other turns into a fist fight.

As well, among foreign vagabond criminals there are shameless crimes like taking money from women in their 20s on the pretext of international marriage. There are sometimes violent incidents by uneducated blacks such as the rape of women as well.

The night in Itaewon increasingly exudes an exotic atmosphere and changes into an entertainment area. Within a 500 m radius of the fire station are night streets where prostitutes for foreigners engage in pleasure activities like in the camp towns of Suwon or Pyeongtaek. So-called business girls, 'enjoyment tribes' of women and teenage girls, soldiers who have emerged [from their bases] and foreign vagabonds engage in revelry there.

It's 9pm on the 21st in a club on the so-called Texas Street. In a club which has a sign which clearly says 'foreigners only,' about 30 [Korean] women in their 20s shake their bodies to the constant disco music.

Women who pay no heed to the [sign] restricting entry for Koreans enter and are not stopped at all - only Korean men are stopped. Because it's early evening, there are almost no foreigners on the stage, and only Korean women dance excitedly while foreigners just watch.

At the club, Ms Yun (21, D University 3rd year), who was drinking beer with a friend, said, "When you come to Itaewon, it feels like the sense of freedom you'd get going to a foreign country." Ms Park, who greets the weekend in the Suwon camp town and is visiting Itaewon, said, "Americans are good because they're kind to girls." "My wish is to meet a nice person and have an international marriage and go to America."

However marriage to a foreigner like Ms. Park dreams of does not only have a happy ending.

International marriage agency South America Moving Corporation [?남미이주공사] spokesperson Han Hyung-sik (46) said "On average I carry out marriage procedures for about 20 international couples a month, but more than 70% return to divorce. Wearing a bitter expression, he also said, "When you see the unbearable sight of girls who come from university who fall only for the the appearance of white people who seem to be imbued with 'ladies first' kindness and then marry badly, even one's sense of national pride is ruined."

Through Itaewon's 'dollar box' shopping area's prosperity and after dark merry making, as well as the mix of different emotions like vague longing or disillusionment one feels towards foreigners, [it's reputation] as an unfamiliar foreign zone within Seoul solidifies.
So, Itaewon is an "ethnic exhibition," foreigners commit crime and live in Korea illegally, girls following foreign vagabonds around is "pathetic," marriage with them for their appearance leaves "one's sense of national pride [...] ruined," and, of course, "uneducated blacks" rape women. Good to know. Note also that one can make a million won from teaching English, and "date and teach English to Korean girlfriends." With that (and this article as well), the the foundation has been laid for the reaction to the Le Monde article which led to 'French foreign language teacher scandal of 1984.'

Monday, February 13, 2012

2011 foreign crime statistics

The Korea Times published an article titled "Police to crack down on foreign criminals" (you mean they weren't before?). Worried about terrorist attacks by foreigners at an upcoming Nuclear Security Summit,
Police also plan to deploy more officers to areas highly populated with foreign nationals at night and on weekends to deter possible criminal activities.

"Foreign gang members tend to be most active after sunset or on weekends when fewer officers are on duty," the official said.
Ignoring the Discovery Channel-esque quality of that last sentence, wouldn't that be when most criminals are active? Or do Korean gangsters act in broad daylight because of their 'special relationships' with the police?

The Times didn't publish all of the statistics from this story found in the Korean language press. Using the Hanguk Ilbo's article, let's break down the stats: In 2010, 22,543 people out of 1,261,415 foreigners in total were arrested - a crime rate of 1.787%. In 2011, 26,915 people out of 1,395,077 foreigners in total were arrested - a crime rate of 1.929%. As the article notes, the number of foreigners arrested went from 22,543 to 26,915 - an increase of 19.3%. The foreign population at that time grew from 1,261,415 to 1,395,077 - an increase of 10.6%. And, for the more pertinent figure, the crime rate among foreigners went from 1.787% to 1.929% - an increase of 7.94%.

The article lists Itaewon, Daerim-dong in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Garibong-dong in Guro-gu, and Wongok-dong in Ansan as as 'the four main areas where foreigners are concentrated.' It says that in 2010 2,730 people were arrested in those areas, and in 2011 3,432 people were arrested - an increase of 25.7%. It should be noted that those arrested there in 2010 made up 12.1% of the total number of foreigners arrested that year, while in 2011 they made up 12.75%, so there hasn't been a huge increase in the share of crime that people living there commit (only an increase of 5.3%). It also said that out of a total of 3,704 people arrested for violent crimes, 830, or 22.4%, of those arrested lived in the 'four main areas.' As well, 50 out of 84 wanted foreign criminals are assumed to be living in those areas. The Times didn't bother to mention the four areas, describing them only as 'Itaewon and other districts.' The Times did finish on a fair enough note, however:
The number of crimes committed by non-Koreans here has soared over the years in line with the growing number of foreign residents, which has reached close to 1.4 million as of 2011, accounting for about 2.7 percent of the country's population.
I haven't seen any statistics for the Korean crime rate last year, but in previous years the foreign crime rate has been about half that of the Korean crime rate.

As for Itaewon, I'll be delving into a bit more of its history, and Korean perceptions of it, tomorrow.

Chungcheongnam-do to require teaching certificates for all NSETs

On February 8, Daejeon City Journal published the following article:
More than half of Chungcheongnam-do native speaking teachers do not have teaching certificates.

Chungcheongnam-do office of education pushing for 100% of native speaking teachers to have teaching certificates.

It's been revealed that over 50% of native speaking assistant teachers placed in Chungcheongnam-do area elementary, middle and high schools do not meet the provincial office of education's enhanced employment standard of having teaching certificates.

Accordingly, the Chungcheongnam-do office of education plans to have all native speaking assistant teachers placed in the province have teaching certificates by the end of the year.

▲ File photo

According to the Chungcheongnam-do office of education on the 8th, there are 586 native speaking assistant teachers from the 7 countries which use English working in Chungcheongnam-do.

The Chungcheongnam-do office of education strengthened the 'native speaking assistant teacher employment standard' to prevent harm to students caused by inappropriate words and behavior and controversy over qualifications of some native speaking assistant teachers.

According to the strengthened standards, native speaking assistant teachers must possess more than one certificate out of a choice of a teaching certificate obtained in their home country and certificates which recognize English instruction ability like TESOL, TEFEL, or CELTA.

However, at the moment, out of 586 native speakers in the Chungcheongnam-do area, 206 have these certificates, leaving half who do not.

The office of education explained that around 80 undergraduates with scholarships have been supported and placed by the government as native speakers, and that, including the number of native speaking teachers supported by local governments, there are university students who do not yet have teaching certificates. [These would be part of the TALK program.]

An office of education official said, "Out of the total number of native speaking instructors, there are 291 affiliated with the office of education. More than 200 of these have teaching certificates, and by the end of the year 100% of teachers placed will have teaching certificates." "We are asking that city and county governments cooperate in supporting native speaking instructors with teaching certificates."
Typically, it's a misleading title, as the last paragraph reveals. The office of education official makes clear the 'end of the year' deadline is only for teachers directly affiliated with the office, and not (necessarily) for those hired by local governments. As it turns out, the figure of 206 is also not really correct either (or it won't be in two weeks). A Jungdo Ilbo article says 206 have certificates now, but with 51 new hires and 22 people who recently obtained certificates who didn't have them last year, the number will increase to 279. Hence in two weeks 279 out of 291 of the teachers the office is directly focusing on will have certificates. Not quite the 'less than half' (for those under the direct control of the education office) the headline touts. As well, the Jungdo Ilbo adds that the teachers currently in the province are 325 Americans, 115 South Africans, 63 Canadians, 44 British, 18 Australians, 13 New Zealanders, and 8 from Ireland. However, it makes no mention of 'more than one' certificate being needed. I'd tend to imagine, though, if 22 people "recently obtained certificates who didn't have them last year" (and did this by not leaving the country), a TESOL certificate is probably enough.

Yonhap, which broke the story earlier that day, reported that "Currently there are 279 people with a teaching certificate obtained in their home country and a certificate which recognizes English instruction ability like TESOL, 'TEFEL,' or CELTA." So it seems to suggest that both are needed, and uses the figure of 279, making it clearer that Daejeon City Journal went out of its way to choose the lowest figure. As for a paragraph in the latter paper, Yonhap reports that it was a quotation:
A provincial office of education official said, "We strengthened the 'native speaking assistant teacher employment standard' to prevent harm to students caused by inappropriate words and behavior and controversy over qualifications of some native speaking English teachers who have come here."
The Yonhap article also ends on a rather interesting note:
Meanwhile, the results of a survey looking at satisfaction with native speaking assistant teachers by the provincial office of education which last December queried 1,960 elementary, middle and high school students and 588 parents showed that parents and students both had a 90% satisfaction rate. It revealed that 93% of students and 92% of parents hope that native speakers will continue to be placed in schools.
It should be noted that in 2006 Chungcheongnam-do had the highest placement rate for native speakers in schools (54%, at the time), so the province has been pursuing this for some time. In 2010 it had the lowest (ie. best) ratio for foreign teachers to students (see below as well).

On a related note, on February 3, the Segye Ilbo reported that the Ministry of Education and the Korea Education Development Institute recently released statistics which said that out of 754 schools in the Jeollabuk-do, there are only 26 native speaking teachers, making for a placement rate of 3.4%. This is less than not only the national average (26.6%), but far less than the placement rate for small and medium cities (49.3%) and even less than for remote areas like islands (10.2%).

What's amusing is that the article ends with a comment by an official from the provincial office of education saying that he doesn't understand what the MoE based their statistics on, since there are currently 278 NSETs teaching classes with Korean teachers in the province (an increase from 214 in 2010, as the stats below (originally posted here) reveal):


Just for fun, the left half of the chart is the number of students divided by the number of NSETs (3rd column). The right half of the chart is the total number of schools and number of schools where NSETs work (3rd column) and the percentage. What's interesting is that you can get an idea of how many schools the teachers work at. In Seoul and Gyeonggi-do there more NSETs than schools, whereas in Jeollabuk-do, there 214 teachers working in 503 schools. Still, Jeollabuk-do (in 2010) had a lower ratio of students to NSETs than Seoul or Gyeonggi, simply because of the large number of students in the latter areas. Now that Jeollabuk-do has more teachers and SMOE and GEPIK are cutting teachers, students in Jeollabuk-do theoretically have more access to NSETs in public schools than those in capital area, which makes the mistake by the MoE even more humorous.

As for the MoE losing track of over 200 NSETs, it's not the first time the government (or a politician, rather) has lost foreign teachers.

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.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The May 2011 ordinance to "'Expel' drug addicted, molesting foreign instructors" from Gyeonggi-do

On May 3, the Gyeongin Ilbo published an article titled "'Expel' drug addicted, molesting foreign instructors" which was about an ordinance being considered by the Gyeonggi Provincial Assembly, which was not directed at foreign instructors alone (but they had newspapers to sell, right?). I described it in this post at the time:
A look at the bill itself, which can be found here, makes things clearer. The goal of the bill is to change the criteria for taking administrative measures against hagwons, in this case, for failure to carry out criminal record checks for sex crimes and drug offenses. Thus the bill will revise the existing law for hagwons in places where it restricts the fundamental rights of students. In regard to this, it lists the following aims:
To establish standards for administrative penalties according to the enforcement of a system to restrict employment of those who have committed sex crimes against children or youth, according to article 44 of the 'Child and youth sexual protection law.'

As there have been cases of foreign instructors arrested for things such as taking and trafficking drugs, in order to prevent the teaching activities of those addicted to narcotics or other drugs, penalty clauses will be established and criteria of administrative measures will be prepared.
Another aim is to set penalties for hagwon owners or instructors who do not complete training courses.
On May 9, 2011, a Newsis article took a further look at the bill:
Dispute by standing committee over passage of bill to 'Expel' drug addicted native speaking instructors .

A bill to take administrative measures against hagwons that hire foreign or Korean instructors who take or smuggle drugs was passed by the pertinent standing committee on the 9th.

The bill is the first to be proposed in the country, but there is dispute as to the lawfulness of the bill, as there is no basis for the administrative measures found in the higher law.

On that morning at the opening of the 259th provisional session of the provincial assembly's board of education, 53 people including Rep. Choi Chang-ui (Gyeonggi) and Lee Sang-hun (Bucheon) passed a vote on the original draft of the jointly proposed "Partly revised bill on the Ordinance for the establishment and management of hagwons and private lessons in Gyeonggi-do."

The provincial assembly and provincial office of education both agreed that the bill's ordering of stage by stage administrative measures for hagwons which do not carry out criminal record checks for sex crimes or who hire sex criminals was possible based on the "Child and youth sexual protection law" promulgated in April last year.

But the problem is that in order to [be able to] take administrative measures against hagwons which hire drug addicts, the higher law, the 'Law for the establishment and management of hagwons and private lessons' must authorize it, but the law does not stipulate such things.

Article 22 of the Local Autonomy Act stipulates that ordinances can be enacted within the scope of the law, and that legal authorization(/mandate of law) is necessary when limiting residents' rights by imposing obligations or determining penalties.

The provincial education office revealed in its opinion sent to the provincial assembly that "The preparation of administrative measure regulations in the form of an ordinance to thoroughly block those addicted to narcotics and psychotropic drugs when hiring hagwon instructors is pressing, but enforcement of the ordinance would realistically be difficult."

The results of an advising lawyer's assessment, concluding that the enforcement of such an ordinance would be impossible, was also sent to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) together with a request for (the MEST's) decision regarding this matter.

Amid all this, the provincial assembly's education committee passed the original bill, emphasizing that 'the rights of a student to receive education from an instructor upright in mind and body' must be respected over 'the rights of a hagwon instructor to find work.'

Rep. Choi Chang-ui said, "Having instructors addicted to drugs in charge of the education of children is a serious situation. It is not that the ordinance runs contrary to the higher law, it is only weak in its argument." "We should not allow drug addicts to be hired by hagwons and should give a positive interpretation of the right of students to receive education in an upright environment."

An education ministry official said, "Not only the provincial education office but also at the level of the education ministry the legality of the ordinance is being considered through an advising lawyer." "A plan regarding a request for reconsideration of the Gyeonggi Provincial Assembly's decision will be determined on the basis of the results of consultation with an advising lawyer."

The ordinance will be finally settled at the 4th regular session on the 14th.
This might sound a lot like, 'Well, it's not really legal, but we'll pass it anyway.' On May 15, the Simin Ilbo reported further on the bills:
Drug addicted native speaking teachers are being expelled in Gyeonggi-do
A revised ordinance in the Provincial Assembly is the first in the country; hagwons who hire [drug addicts] face administrative measures

For the first time anywhere in Korea, the Gyeonggi-do Provincial Assembly passed an amendment ordinance actually allowing the expulsion of Korean or foreign instructors for taking or smuggling drugs.

On the 15th the provincial assembly announced that 17 items, including an ordinance allowing administrative penalties to be taken against hagwons which hire Korean or foreign instructors who take or smuggle drugs, had been passed and [the session] closed on the 13th.

[...]

Though there was controversy over the legality of this ordinance's administrative penalties as it had no basis in the higher law, the bill was passed unanimously in the provincial assembly.

This is because Article 22 of the Local Autonomy Law does not allow for individual ordinances to limit residents' fundamental rights without the authorization of a higher law.

Therefore, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the education office were expected to ask for a reconsideration, but as these organizations are sympathetic to the intent of the ordinance, they will not raise any issues.

An official at the Ministry of Education said, “As there were no regulations in regard to the great social problem of instructors addicted to drugs, we were in the process of revising the existing ‘hagwon law.’ However, the Gyeonggi-do Provincial Assembly went ahead before us and established an ordinance. Since it was a matter of only about one month difference in terms of procedural issues, we could not completely deny the ordinance and therefore decided to deliberate with the Provincial Education Office and not request a reconsideration.
So, it wasn't legal to pass it at the time, but it would be okay in a month or two when amendments to the Hagwon law were passed in the National Assembly (on June 29). I found it interesting that the Gyeongin Ilbo reported later in July that
The 8th Gyeonggi-do provincial assembly has, since June [2010], handled 126 items, and among those 72 or 57% were tabled by assembly members. During that time the executive branch (provincial office and provincial office of education) submitted 54 (43%) ordinances , which is 18 items less than those submitted by assembly members, and those tabled by the executive branch have passed first.
What ordinance did the paper give as its first example?
Among these was an ordinance to expel native speaking teachers addicted to drugs[.]
That the ordinance was passed without the authority of a higher law (temporarily) is understandable, of course, since it's meant to combat the "great social problem of instructors addicted to drugs." Or as Rep. Choi Chang-ui put it, "Having instructors addicted to drugs in charge of the education of children is a serious situation. [...] We should not allow drug addicts to be hired by hagwons."

On the one hand, this could be said to show how seriously Koreans take drug crimes, even those involving marijuana (which is the drug most foreign teachers are busted for and which is often tolerated in North America). Still, it's interesting that he mentions "instructors addicted to drugs," because, though that connection has occasionally been made before (such as in this case) that's not generally how foreign teachers have been described. As 'drug takers' and 'drug smugglers,' yes (for example the Newsis report from a year ago which stated that "The main culprits in drug smuggling are native teachers" though they made up 14% of those arrested in 2010). But references to them as 'addicts' - by even politicians who included such language in legislation - became more common over the first half of 2011.

In February last year, the deaths (one a suicide) of two foreign teachers while drunk were used by the media (see here, here and here) as a chance to bring up "criminal acts and various scandals by native speaking teachers" and say that it's difficult to "determine drug or alcohol addiction" among such teachers, pointing to a need for better screening. As well, new E-2 drug testing regulations introduced that month called for testing only at special hospitals in order to, as one article put it, "distinguish whether a foreign English teacher is a drug addict or alcoholic." With the ordinance above, such language has made it into law, as it punishes "[h]iring someone addicted to narcotics, marijuana, or psychotropic drugs" and attempts "to prevent the teaching activities of those addicted to narcotics or other drugs" because "there have been cases of foreign instructors arrested for things such as taking and trafficking drugs[.]"

Some articles about the ordinance do not reference foreign instructors by name, such as a Gyeongin Ilbo article one from May 16 titled in part "Provincial Assembly settles "Drug instructor expulsion," which states that

On the 13th the fourth plenary session of the 259th provisional session of the Gyeonggi Provincial Assembly dealt with 17 ordinance bills including one to expel drug instructors.
However, though "drug instructor" does not mention foreigners, it's likely to be equated with foreign instructors. Of the first 150 results of a search for 강사 마약 on Naver, more than two thirds were for foreign instructors, with that figure reaching 90% if you included the 25-30 articles about this case involving entertainers and Korean American English hagwon instructors being arrested for drugs in May 2010. You've got to love the cartoon in the linked article:


It might be worth noting that the same assembly which passed this bill would, two months later, refuse to pass a supplementary budget to pay GEPIK foreign teachers which threatened hundreds of jobs.