Monday, April 15, 2013

Unqualified reporters abound... unbelievable MBC report about foreign teachers

[There's an update to this post here.]

Last night, MBC broadcast a report about unqualified foreign instructors running amok. As to why this was, was it due to a drug bust? An arrest of someone with a fake diploma? A teacher who had consensual sex with a Korean woman? Since the answer involves none of the above, it appears MBC simply decided it was time to remind the public not to trust foreign English teachers.
Unqualified instructors abound... unbelievable English native speaking instructors

"Unqualified instructors abound"

Anchor: "How much can you trust the native speaking instructors who teach your children? You may have had suspicions like these one or two times. Things have improved a great deal, but there are still doubts about their qualities and not a few circumstances in which there are native speaking instructors lacking qualifications. Reporter Seo Yu-jeong reports on the problems with the hiring process for native speaking instructors."

"A native speaking instructor was caught for secretly smuggling drugs.

"There was also a case in which [an instructor] molested children and fled overseas but was caught after several years.

"One native speaking instructor hates teaching grade four and five students. It was posted on a blog that the children smell.

"We met a recruiter of foreign and native speaking instructors. They don't have a degree, just a few sheets of copied documents.
The recruiter basically says that they can get around the rules and the need to register the instructor with the office of education by keeping quiet, and so they can elude enforcement. He also says at hagwons there's little interest in qualifications, only in how much experience someone has.

There's then what appears to be hidden camera footage of an interview with a native speaker by a hagwon owner.
"How long can you work for?"
"I would like to work for at least 6 months."
"If you work here you can work here part time, three days a week. You will not have any trouble."

Because of salary, one third [of hagwons] quietly want unqualified instructors.
Interview: "It's hard for hagwons and many are closing their doors, so they put a lot of hope into unqualified instructors."

Reporter: Kindergartens, public schools and hagwons need 30,000 native speaking instructors. However, there are only 25,000 people with qualifications like the E-2 visa. There are around 5,000 spaces for instructors being filled by the unqualified.

A native speaker is then interviewed.
"Now I have a tourist visa. Yeah, there are a lot of people who want to become teachers, some of them work illegally."

A mom is then interviewed in Mok-dong:
"That really makes me angry. As a parent, it would be good if you went right now, grabbed them by the collar, stopped them, and threw them out."

With authorities unable to take action, classes by unqualified native speaking instructors continue even now.
For MBC News, this is Seo Yu-jeong.
Oh no! Authorities can't take action! Koreans are helpless against hagwon owners who hire foreigners on tourist visas untrustworthy, unqualified foreign teachers! I love the opening:
"How much can you trust the native speaking instructors who teach your children? You may have had suspicions like these one or two times.
Christ, MBC, in this case why do think that is? It was nice of them to bring up Christopher Paul Neil (at least visually - the "case in which [an instructor] molested children and fled overseas but was caught after several years" actually refers to this case from 2010 - nice of MBC to conflate the two). I also enjoyed the reference to the teacher who "hates teaching grade four and five students" and who "posted on a blog that the children smell." While there's lots worse they might have found in that post, it might be pointed out that the word "obnoxious" does not mean "to have a nasty smell," which is how MBC translated it below:

They did get 'dicks' right though, which I suppose is a good thing - it could have been a much worse translation, I guess. Still, looking up 'obnoxious' at Naver's dictionary doesn't offer that translation. I also enjoyed the "5,000" illegal teachers running amok statistics:

It says literally that there is demand for 30,000 native speakers, but only 25,000 legally registered. It also says these statistics were provided by the "hagwon industry." Would you really trust the "hagwon industry" (whatever that means) to be knowledgeable about the public school system? My guess would be that - since there's no real attribution for those statistics - that they're, shall we say, less than accurate. Especially since there were only 23,000 people on E-2 visas in 2011 (and no one really knows how many F-visa people work as teachers. Not only that, 30,000 is the number of teachers in demand - they may not be actually filled. As well, while there may be people on tourist visas working, it's more likely that you're dealing with E-2s or foreign students doing extra work on the side than people on tourist visas (it's been at least eight years since I've met anyone working on a tourist visa). And of course, we see little condemnation of the people who hire the teachers (and the online article's addition to the title - "unbelievable/untrustworthy native speaking English instructors" - makes clear who they're placing the blame on).

You also have to enjoy that edit in the interview with the native speaker, from, "Now I have a tourist visa." to, "Yeah, there are a lot of people who want to become teachers, some of them work illegally." I highly doubt he would be referring to himself with "some of them work illegally." More likely he is here on a tourist visa looking for a job before making a visa run (hence the sudden cut).

Lasty, you have to like the angry parent who says that "it would be good if you went right now, grabbed them by the collar, stopped them, and threw them out." Grab them by the collar! Kick them! Grab them by the balls!

Though the other thing that should be mentioned is that we didn't actually hear the question that set the parent off.

As for the title of the report -

"Unqualified teachers abound" (with the online article adding "unbelievable/untrustworthy native speaking English instructors") - the use of 핀친다 (abound, run amok, are taking over) in headlines regarding foreign teachers isn't exactly new:

영어학원 무자격 외국인강사 판친다
"Unqualified English hagwon foreign instructors abound" (Donga Ilbo 1996.10.15)

무자격 외국인 강사 판친다
"Unqualified foreign instructors abound" (Munhwa lbo 2002.11.23)

외국인 불법과외 판친다
"Illegal tutoring by foreigners abounds" (Chungcheong Today 2003.02.03)

원어민 강사 불법.짝퉁 판친다
"Illegal, fake native speaking instructors abound" (Hanguk Gyeongje 2004.11.11)

무자격 외국인 강사 판친다!
"Unqualified foreign instructors abound!" (YTN 2005.04.11) (This story was so important YTN ran it a half dozen times)

무자격 외국인 강사 판친다
"Unqualified foreign instructors abound" (2006.09.11 - dead link)

'무자격ㆍ불량' 원어민 강사 판친다
"'Unqualified, poor' native speaking instructors abound" (Yonhap 2006.10.23)

자질 시비 원어민 교사 판친다
"Native Speaking teachers of Questionable Quality Abound" (Yonhap 2009.06.11) Translated here, and commented on here.

I guess MBC felt four years was long enough to go without a '핀친다' report. It has been a slow year for negative news reports about foreign teachers, but obviously MBC decided that though foreign teachers have apparently been behaving, this was no reason not to report the 'truth' as they see it.

Oh, and there's a petition against MBC here. If they wanted MBC to pay any attention to it, perhaps writing it in Korean might help? Not that I think they would pay any attention, but still, much like the 'protests' against the infamous MBC hit piece last year, carrying this out in English isn't going to be helpful.


American In Korea said...


matt said...

No worries, feel free to link...

Anonymous said...

"It's hard for hagwons and many are closing their doors, so they put a lot of hope into unqualified instructors."

Oh the poor darling hagwon-owners who have only the interests of their students at heart, and who have never, ever fucked over a NET when it comes to pay or hours or overtime or health-care or pensions.

Anonymous said...

I personally feel that Korea needs to significantly reduce the number of foreign English teachers, and bring in more qualified instructors with degrees and certifications to teach English as a foreign language. Most of the people I come across are simply on a working holiday with an emphasis on holiday. This opportunity appeals to a lot of folks who are not socially mature, and have difficulties being gainfully employed in their home countries. As much as I don't like Korea's media bias towards foreigners. Both English teachers and the US military don't exactly employ the best and brightest. And the above story shows they don't even care if you have a degree or not.

Mostly male English teachers cause problems, and their not winning hearts & minds in a country where elementary teachers are predominantly female. There is also a caste system in Korea. It's a closed minded place, and frustration comes from both groups because essentially foreign English teachers have little status in Korean society, and English teachers are upset that they are not treated equally. At the end of day, Korea is Korea, and these teachers came here at their own free will.

Jbot said...

1. teachers who are ESL experienced
2. teachers with teaching credentials
3. teachers who are inexpensive

You cannot have all three, Korea.

K said...

Greg Meyers, I have to question your statement that 'most of the people [you] come across are simply on a working holiday with an emphasis on holiday.' I don't live in Korea anymore, and haven't for some time, but I think that the numbers of people working on tourist visas started to drop in 2007 when criminal record checks and HIV checks were added to the requirements for E-2 visas. There were, apparently, ways to purchase visas in Korea before the 2002 World Cup but that was eliminated. I'm not saying you're wrong, but I find it surprising that 'most' of the people you meet are working illegally. Where do they live? Do they rent houses with leases? Do they have bank accounts? Driver's licences? Cars? Motorbikes? All of these things are much easier to get with a visa of some kind, and it's hard to believe that you live in a social sphere of foreign ESL teachers in Korea where nobody has these things.I agree with your point about the causes of frustration stemming from the low-status of foreign teachers, but characterizations such as yours only make that problem worse.

Chewie6577 said...

Thanks for sharing this. I reblogged it and added a couple of comments.

Unknown said...

n8shac said...

Aren't there slander/reputation laws in South Korea?

How much liability are they assuming by making these claims? Is this to say that nobody could make a class-action suit against them?

Anonymous said...

If so then put me on the list, what about you? The problem is foreigners don't have a reputation to defame in Korea, didn't you know that? And they certainly don't have a "name to kick" either since foreign names ain't allowed on family registries when married to a Korean.

David said...

South korean Media is not only racist but nazi! the south korean media is the one who is behind xenophobia and discrimination against foreigners, the kind koreans and the open-minded ones are now shrinking not because they are evil but because of the indoctrination and the brainwashing of the is evil media. the south korean justice system has his chunky part of nazism as well. south korean police have orders to never facilitate the process of a foreign victim who tries to file a complaint against a south korean citizen (fully blooded) I myself and people I know were more than once arrested after being physically harassed. you call the police they are arive and see you still being kicked and punched and yet you are the one who get arrested. they take to the station and force you to forgive the offenders, if you don't, they write a lovely report about you to the public prosecutor, who as well can't wait to order you to pay one million won. my brother challenged the prosector's oppinion and went to court with witnesses (there were cctv cameras but the police refused to take a look at them) but the lovely judge went ahead to ask about my brothers ethnicity and her questions were: "is your mom and dad korean?" my brother said no. the judge looked at the prosecutor with a smile and was like so you don't have korean blood with a smile. moment later she ordered my brother to pay 1,000,000KRW. I mean korea is the modern nazi germany.

matt said...

On an unrelated note, the recorded letters of Francis E. Dec can be downloaded here (or quickly listen to one here).