Friday, January 10, 2014

Parents can't help but be shocked when it turns out drug criminals are teaching their kids

As I mentioned previously, the arrest of foreign English teachers in Daegu for smuggling, taking and selling drugs like Spice and DMT led local papers to write editorials calling for stricter management of the teachers. On January 8, the Yeongnam Ilbo published the following editorial:
[Editorial] The selection process for foreign instructors should be strict

It is shocking that a good many native speaking instructors who teach students in Daegu area schools and hagwons turned out to be drug criminals. The day before yesterday the Violent Crime Bureau of the Daegu Prosecutor's Office arrested six foreign instructors including British native speaking teacher A and American English hagwon instructor B for smuggling, taking and distributing new kinds of drugs. As well, nine others were booked without detention for the same crime, including USFK civilian C and Canadian university instructor D.

Among those arrested for these drug crimes were 14 foreigners, eight of whom were middle school teachers or hagwon instructors. They are charged with smuggling synthetic marijuana such as Spice from China or the Netherlands and taking it themselves or selling it to foreigners in the Daegu area.

One can only guess at how shocked parents must have been to hear the news that foreign teachers who teach their children were involved in drug crimes. In particular, a native speaking teacher working at a middle school in Daegu tested negative for drugs when taking a drug test for contract renewal last August. During the process of hiring native speaking teachers, drug offenders are to be filtered out, but this is not working.

As we well know, these days the craze for early foreign language education is raging and there are many children who are taught by native speaking instructors from a very young age. In particular, in the case of elementary and middle school students, there are almost none who don't have one or two classes with native speaking teachers in schools or hagwons.

In schools it's the same, but most parents who send their children to hagwons have no idea about the native speaking instructor's experience or by what process he was hired, and can only believe the hagwon's promotional material when entrusting the hagwon with their children's care. Even though it is just a few [teachers who are drug criminals], parents can't help but be shocked when a foreign instructor who teachers their children is found to be a criminal involved with drugs.

Currently there are 485 native speaking instructors working in the elementary, middle and high schools in the Daegu area. There are also 489 hagwons which have hired [629] foreign instructors. Experts have diagnosed that there are many cases of foreign instructors getting their hands on drugs due to loneliness and stress, but ongoing verification is absolutely necessary. The verification process is most important during the hiring process, but during the rehiring period there must also be continuous management of those currently working.
The fact that the foreign teacher working in the middle school passed his drug test at renewal time would help push the case for random testing, but neither this editorial or another by the Gyeongbuk Ilbo (where the number of foreign hagwon instructors in Daegu, 629, comes from) mentions it. The Gyeongbuk Ilbo editorial, published the same day, is titled "The shocking involvement of Daegu native speaking teachers in drug crimes," and after mentioning the arrests, opens with:
Parents are anxious after hearing that foreigners stoned on drugs were in classrooms teaching their children. It is urgent that drug testing for foreign teachers (instructors) who teach young children be strengthened, and of course that there be strict drug control measures for foreigners staying for long periods in Korea. Last December the government put forward the "2014 drug management integrated plan," but many are of the opinion that it is not substantial enough. This plan essentially strengthens the normal monitoring of narcotics for medical use and international cooperation, as well as strengthening education to promote the prevention of the abuse of narcotics and hallucinogens. Actual, concrete measures to crack down on drug users, for example, are missing.
Yes, rather than attempting to prevent drug abuse, it would be better to toss users in jail. After describing the arrests and listing the number of foreign teachers and instructors in Daegu, it reads, "The strengthening of the management of native speaking teachers and hagwon instructors across the country is urgent." It continues:
Recently there has been an increase in new kinds of drugs such as synthetic marijuana. As well, there has been drug incident after drug incident due to things like the increase in smuggling via new routes such as international mail, and the great increase in illegal use of medicinal drugs such as propofol. Yesterday as well, the Violent Crimes Unit of the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office announced that it had arrested a Korean American drug dealer linked to an overseas ring. He was arrested for smuggling and selling 5 billion won worth of methamphetamine, enough to get 51,440 people high at the same time. Drug related incidents like these have been increasing recently. In particular, since drug crimes by foreign English instructors living in Korea and US soldiers have been increasing, a continuous crackdown is needed.
 Have drug crimes by US soldiers and foreign teachers been increasing? It's rather hard to tell from the statistics the editorial doesn't provide. What's funny is that when drug crimes by foreigners increase, there are always articles about the increase. The year it decreased (2011; more on that here)? Not so much. Because there's only one story to tell, and decreasing crimes by foreigners is not that story. This story is so true, one doesn't need niggling things like statistics to prove it.


King Baeksu said...

Daegu is not exactly a cultural mecca. What else are expats to do besides pound s(Hite) outside the local CU?

Anyway, one thing that struck me was how slack testing was here in Kyongbuk. Last Fall I was simply handed a paper cup and allowed to go into the bathroom alone to pee in it. I could have easily switched my urine sample with someone else's if I'd had something to hide.

Slack nurses, slack hiring standards, an overall slack pedagogical environment and, of course, far too many slack "journalists." Garbage in, garbage out! Is there really any reason for anyone to be "shocked" by any of this?

bdh said...

@KB - a friend of mine used to say (often say) that he was amazed at how koreans "strive(d) for mediocrity"...

King Baeksu said...

One thing they excel at: Dicking around with their dumbphones.

Mann said...

@King Baeksu:

I worked at a clinic that did a lot of pre-employment drug testing before I came to Korea. It is pretty standard to send the person into the bathroom alone.

You could easily switch your urine sample with someone else's. But the doctors would know that it was switched. If you bring in someone else's sample, then it will not be body-temperature. The first thing the hospital does when they get a urine sample is check the temperature. If it is room temperature, they mark that on their sheet, you have to come in and do a re-test, and they might put someone in the room with you this time. Or they could decide to cut off a little bit of your hair and test that instead.

To fake the test, you'd have to bring in a heater. And some people were caught with heaters while I worked there. But it is far from "easy" to switch urine samples unless the other person is in the bathroom with you and peeing at the same time. That is generally not allowed.

King Baeksu said...

"That is generally not allowed."

Could have easily been accomplished when I did it last year. I was sent down the hall and around the corner while the nurse stayed in her own small lab and tended to other matters. I was alone for several minutes completely unobserved. When I say slack, I really mean slack!

Anyway, I am drug-free myself but I personally see merit in arguments that marijuana usage could actually improve the classroom experience for a certain type of native ESL teacher here. Life in Korea can indeed be stressful for many an expat, and moderate usage of the herb could help promote a more relaxed orientation towards one's daily reality; the only other legal alternative is drink, and honestly I've seen far too much alcoholism here among expats to think that that's any better (at a recent early lunch among colleagues, someone was even drinking beer at 11:30am, which strikes me as a rather quick start). I also think marijuana can allow one to step outside of one's own cultural values and perspective in the proper conditions, which is also useful when teaching students from a radically different culture like that of Korea's. I don't mean to suggest that getting high in the classroom is a good idea, but outside during one's own free time and in a positive setting? Not at all the "social evil" that local authorities seem to think it is.

Perhaps they simply fear the unknown? Perhaps they could use some themselves? Certainly we must show great compassion for those who go through an entire lifetime without praying at the alter of ganja at least once, right?

Mann said...

Ah. That is different. At the clinic back home, the nurse would stand outside the bathroom that is used only for drug testing. You can't even flush the toilet inside the bathroom, just to make sure someone doesn't try to get rid of some sort of evidence of cheating (I can't think of what that might be right now, though). The only door to get into that bathroom is in the room that the physical takes place in.

King Baeksu said...

"I can't think of what that might be right now, though"

See "Gattaca" (1997) for a user's guide on how to game the system.