Friday, September 12, 2014

Kukmin Ilbo editorial on foreign teacher drug bust

Three weeks ago, a large number of native speaking teachers were busted for selling and buying marijuana. The almost 50 articles about this bust mostly had headlines focusing on the fact that a Nigerian English instructor taught kindergarten students while high, with police even releasing a video of him teaching (as posted to Youtube by NoCut News)

Concerned over the highlighting of an African teacher, Korea Observer asked the police some questions about the video and the case. His post is well worth reading.

SBS published a fairly typical article on August 20 titled "Native speaking teachers addicted to marijuana... even taught class while high."

The article reports that, according to police, the dealers brought two kilograms of marijuana from the US for two months starting in February, selling it for 100,000 won a gram to 33 people. They also said that amount was enough for 4000 people to smoke it once. The people involved were a Korean citizen English instructor, Mr. Shin, who (according to this EBN article) was living in the US but in 1995 was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for counterfeiting and deported to Korea, and a Mr. Kim, an American Engish instructor. They thought they could make money easily and used the US military postal service to secretly bring in the marijuana. Two middlemen included 24 year old Mr. Jung (presumably Korean) and a Nigerian who made 110 million won selling it.

The people they sold it to include three private university English professors, two elementary school English teachers from Suwon and Cheonan, and 22 English hagwon instructors from the capital area, with native speaking English teachers making up most of them. While there are often reports of drug arrests in which a single (or small number of) native speaking teacher in a group of Koreans or other foreigners gets all the attention, it would appear in this case that most are foreign teachers, though little information is given about them. It is said that Mr. Shin feared being caught so he mostly sold to foreigners he met in a foreigner club in Suwon.

More of the story will be told below, but the police end by saying that distribution of drugs in places of education is a serious problem and that they plan to strengthen the gathering of information about drug distribution is hagwon workplaces.

The only editorial I could find about this case was this one by the Kukmin Ilbo:
[Editorial] Native speaking teachers who teach students while high 
Thirty-two-year-old J, an English instructor at a kindergarten in Yongin, openly taught dozens of children while in a state of hallucination after smoking marijuana. In the car he took to work at the kindergarten, he had marijuana, scales for measuring marijuana, and zip lock bags used for selling it. Thirty-one-year-old W, an American English instructor, had learned techniques to prepare himself for being caught by police for smoking marijuana and shaved all of his hair, including his body hair, and after told his friends, "If you have no hair you can't be caught by a drug test." However his marijuana use was detected by a urine test and he was arrested.

Police caught a ton of native speaking teachers and instructors like this, who had bought and smoked marijuana that had come from the US. A portion of these even carried out class in a kindergarten in a state of hallucination. It's shocking that university English professors were included. It was announced on the 20th that the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency drug investigation division arrested five people, including a Mr. Shin, who was in charge of selling, on charges of contravening the drug control law, and booked without detention 32 people, including Canadian K, who purchased marijuana from those arrested.

These days, due to the trend of early English education, there are many children who take classes with native speaking English teachers from a very young age. In particular, most elementary, middle, and high school students learn English from native speakers at school or in hagwons. In this situation, instances of native speaking English teachers and instructors taking drugs and teaching classes are occurring endlessly. Parents' hearts sink every time they hear news of a foreign teacher who teaches their children being involved in drugs.

To ensure this unfortunate incident does not occur again, drug testing for foreign teachers and instructors must be strengthened. In particular, it must be exhaustively confirmed beforehand that foreign teachers employed at schools do not have criminal backgrounds involving drugs. During the hiring process and, of course, at rehiring time and while they are employed continuous management is needed. It is also worth reviewing the policies for selecting and verifying native speaking teachers not at the level of individual schools, but by the responsible education offices or the ministry of education.
I just have to say I find the story of the hair shaver caught by a urine test to be hilarious. Less hilarious is the call, once again, for "continuous management" of foreign teachers, which I take to mean drug testing throughout a teacher's contract, though I might be more willing to agree with such tests if the Kukmin Ilbo agreed to pay for them all.

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