Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Anti-Refugee Protests: The dark side of candlelight protests

The Anti-Refugee Protests

Part 1: Xenophobia, the media, and citizens groups
Part 2: The dark side of candlelight protests

Upon looking at photos of the June 30 anti-refugee protests, I was struck by the sight of the protesters holding candles. (Few candles can be seen in photos of the July 14 protest, but there was more daylight in those photos so that's not surprising).

(From here.) 

 But it was not just the anti-refugee protesters holding candles - the pro-refugee demonstrators (below, left) also held them aloft.

(From here.)

The reason for this, I think, derives from two different conceptions of what candlelight protests stand for. One understanding of them is that they are concerned with remembering victims and/or seeking justice. The first candlelight protests, in 2002, were to remember the deaths of two girls killed in an accident involving a US military vehicle.

 In November 2003 a small candlelight vigil was held in Daehangno as a protest against the suneung (CSAT) in Daehangno after a girl in Namwon killed herself on November 5, 2003.

In December 2004, 150 people held a candlelight vigil to protest the police's failure to punish the scores of high school boys who repeatedly gang-raped two girls from Miryang.

"Cheaters are arrested, those who injure younger students, also arrested... Rape is dismissed with a caution???" (From here, where more photos can be found.)

In May 2005 a "Remembrance Event for Students Sacrificed for School Education" was held at Gwanghwamun, which criticized the education system and the pressures that cause students to kill themselves.

(From here.)

It is also popularly remembered that high school girls started the protests against American beef imports in 2008, fearing their lives would be cut short by mad cow disease. And the candlelight protests of late 2016 were described recently by Moon Jae-in as "an honorable civil revolution that inherited [the] spirit [of the 1919 March 1 movement]." With this justice-oriented pedigree involving support for the powerless, it's not surprising those demonstrating in support of refugees would be holding candles.

But there is another, less savory side to the candlelight protests that should not be forgotten, one that reaches back to the first such protests in 2002.

(From here.)

(A quick digression: If not for this Daum cafe post, down the memory hole would have gone the fact that the first candlelight vigil for the girls was held by American soldiers on June 18, 2002 - five days after the fatal accident, when the entire country was gearing up for the Korea-Italy World Cup soccer match that evening.)

What is remembered as the "first" candlelight protest related to the girls was suggested by a netizen named Angma. After watching an episode of MBC's current affairs program PD Diary about the acquittal of soldiers involved in the accident, he was so moved that he left messages on the internet urging people to "commemorate the lives of Mi-seon and Hyo-soon, who were forgotten in the joy of June" by gathering with candles near the US Embassy. These messages gained a great deal of exposure when they were covered by an Ohmynews reporter named Kim Ki-boh - who turned out to be Angma. The candlelight vigil, claiming to be a "cultural event" rather than a political protest (and thus not subject to registration with the police), became a new form of protest that moved beyond the clashes with riot police of previous protests, and so became more likely to draw in a wider variety of participants. Things soon turned ugly, however, as this photo of a December 14, 2002 candlelight protest in front of city hall shows.

At this protest they sang the song "Fucking USA" and "tore several huge U.S. flags to bits before unfurling a Korean flag to shouts of 'We will recover our national pride.'" In the meantime, a nearby restaurant posted this sign:

Worth keeping in mind is the fact that two weeks after the accident that June, North Korean naval vessels attacked a South Korean patrol boat, killing six South Koreans. Little concern was shown about their deaths at the hands of North Koreans, in stark comparison to the reaction to the traffic accident involving US soldiers, which spread widely throughout South Korean society at the time. As well, far from being merely "cultural" in nature, when a coalition of civic groups took over the candlelight protests "The Pan National Committee said it would continue its protests until Dec. 18, the day before the presidential election." Roh Moo-hyun, the progressive candidate these groups favored, was elected the next day.

In March 2004, when Roh was impeached for violating the election law regarding the upcoming National Assembly election, candlelight vigils were again held by citizens opposed to his impeachment, which was ultimately overturned by the constitutional court. Though the protests that time were free of the xenophobia that attended the 2002 protests, media coverage of the impeachment was not entirely free of racist attitudes, as this cartoon, published by the Hankyoreh reveals:

(White or Chinese bloggers stated that it was a right wing coup d'état, impeachment with no reason, that only the citizens would be hurt, and called conservatives 'idiots' while an African savage looked on in confusion.)

As for the 2008 candlelight protests, they were not started by high school students at all, as a poster for the first candlelight protest on May 2 of that year reveals. As I looked at here, the first protest was organized by the Solidarity Struggle for the Impeachment of Lee Myung-bak, based at (which is still active). The group, formed on the day Lee was elected, had been trying to find anything that might anger the public and turn it against Lee. A poster for a protest (which drew only around 200 people) on April 26, a week before the first candlelight protest, shows the different items they were throwing at the wall to see what might stick:

The terms in red above include "disgraceful diplomacy" (for bowing to the Japanese emperor, as pictured), "obliterating the national soul," and "mad cow" (the announcement that US beef would be imported came on April 18). The rally's program was elsewhere described as "Reject the second colony." Though the April 26 rally drew only a small number of people, and farmers' rallies against US beef imports were only lightly attended, the issue exploded when PD Diary broadcast a show which shocked viewers and sowed fear of mad cow disease-tainted US beef. It soon became clear the program had mistranslated and mislabeled certain footage in order to achieve this effect. It also presented research in a misleading way to suggest Koreans were genetically more susceptible to mad cow disease, playing on a victim consciousness (of the "we've been invaded so many times" sort that Park Chung-hee encouraged during his Yushin dictatorship to inculcate support for a strong army) that finds expression in historical narratives and films.

Symbols and memes played an important role in the 2008 protests, and some of the images highlighted the threat posed by American beef, or the US in general. The day before PD Diary aired, restarted its website and dusted off a catchy image it had used at anti-US beef protests a year or two earlier (also examined here):

Similar images proliferated on the internet, such as this image of a malevolent American cow threatening the lives of Korean children:

Evil American bull: "Eat lots." (From here)
(I'm pretty certain the US stopped bombing Korean children in the 1950s.)

My favorite was likely this one of Uncle Sam cramming American beef down a boy's throat:

(Edited from an image here)

The candlelight protests that the group aiming to impeach Lee Myung-bak organized grew in size and continued for three months. For a critical take on them, Scott Burgeson's essay "Stranger in Chongno" is worth reading; he attended almost every rally during that period. He described the protests as an attempted coup e'tat and an "assault on Korean democracy by the forces of ideological totalitarianism and reactionary nationalism." Though the target of these protests was the Lee Myung-bak government, fear of outsiders - the US, once again - who would do harm to Koreans was used to rally the public to the side of those organizing the rallies.

It should be clear enough from these examples that, from the beginning, candlelight protests have promoted, at best, a "we must protect the nation" brand of nationalism, and at worst, outright xenophobia of the sort that perceived outsiders - particularly Americans in 2002 and 2008 - as wanting to harm Koreans. And so it should be no surprise that those taking part in an anti-refugee protest would be holding candles, since the partisan, political candlelight protests of 2002 and 2008 promoted the sentiments seen on the sign below.

 "I am an ROK citizen. Citizens first. Citizens want safety."

In many ways, candlelight protests, at least when the cameras are rolling (as they were not during the after-hours violence in 2008 that left hundreds injured), are an improvement over the violent confrontations of the past. But considering the way they have been used to express nationalism and fear of outsiders such as US soldiers or American beef exporters in the past, we should not be surprised that citizens who believe they are defending the nation from outsiders who would do them harm (or who would use resources that should be set aside for citizens alone) would feel comfortable adopting this form of protest in the same symbolic space (Gwanghwamun, in this case) as previous candlelight protests.

But the message on the signs above - "I am an ROK citizen. Citizens first. Citizens want safety" - points to a larger question surrounding the anti-refugee protests and past candlelight rallies - the role of the citizen in relation to the state. This question, revolving in part around possible changes to the constitution, will be the focus of the next post.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Anti-Refugee Protests: Xenophobia, the media, and citizens groups

The Anti-Refugee Protests

Part 1: Xenophobia, the media, and citizens groups
Part 2: The dark side of candlelight protests

Part 1: Xenophobia, the media, and citizens groups

This post started when I saw images of people at the June 30 anti-refugee rally holding candles, but, as is par for the course when I start doing research, it quickly expanded into something larger, so it will appear in three parts. In the first I apply to the anti-refugee movement the lessons learned from researching the Citizens Movement for the Expulsion of Illegal Foreign Language Instructors (or Anti-English Spectrum). In the second and third parts I'll explore the role of populism in the form of petitions to the president and candlelight protests.

On June 30, a protest was held at Gwanghwamun in Seoul to call for the abolition of the Refugee Act and no-visa entry in response to the arrival in Jeju of over 500 Yemenis seeking refugee status. This issue has been developing for a few months now, but came to public attention over the last month or so. The Yemeni refugees in Jeju were able to apply for refugee status there due to its visa-free arrival policy for tourists and the recent opening of direct flights there from Malaysia, where many Yemenis have fled to. For more background, the best article is "Yemeni Refugees Languish on South Korea’s Holiday Island" by Darryl Coote, who has been in direct contact with the refugees in Jeju.

I wrote about Korea's stinginess in accepting refugees back in 2005, and though things have improved since then, it was a pretty low bar to begin with. As the Korea Times put it, "Korea is known as one of the most rigid countries when it comes to granting legal refugee status to foreigners. Among 32,733 applicants between 1994 and 2017, only 792 were successful." One prominent change since I wrote about this topic in 2005 was the passage of the Refugee Act, which was passed in 2012 and enacted in 2013. A detailed examination of the act can be found here. Statistics seem to vary but by the end of 2012 between 4,000 and 5,000 people had applied for refugee status. Since the passage of the Act, according to the graphic and statistics here, under 2,000 applied in 2013, over 3,000 in 2014, over 5,500 in 2015, and 7,495 in 2016. As this Korea Times article notes, of 9,942 applicants in 2017, only 121 applicants gained refugee status, or "1.21 percent, lower than 1.29 percent in 2016 and 1.83 percent in 2015." So, while the number of applicants has quickly grown, the percentage of those being accepted has dropped. However, as the Times article puts it,
There are group of people called "humanitarian status holders," who are in between those who got the refugee status and those who are forced to return home. According to the data obtained by Rep. Hong, the number of humanitarian status holders tends to grow ― 318 in 2017, 246 in 2016, 194 in 2015, 539 in 2014, six in 2013. For the last 10 years, 1,425 people have gained the status.
Syrian refugees are generally given this status as fleeing war has not been seen as a reason to award refugee status. As well, "[a]ctivists believe the government tries not to endorse them as refugees, since the status involves living expenses and health insurance. They can also invite their families to Korea, which can snowball the number of refugees." Over the last few years, the civil war in Yemen has led to a spike in the number of Yemeni refugee applicants. As the Korea Herald put it, "Of the 40 Yemeni nationals that have sought asylum in Korea from 2016 to 2017, 14 have been granted refugee status and given protection under the refugee law. Eighteen were granted 'humanitarian stay permits.'"

Those who criticize the Refugee Act do so for various reasons, including for allowing what appears to them as overly favorable treatment of foreigners and for making it easier for refugees to apply for asylum, leading to a large increase in their number since the law was passed. Despite the fact that very few refugees are accepted, the arrival of the Yemeni refugees on Jeju has caused fear of these refugees to overtake a vocal group of Koreans. This has taken the form of "gendered Islamophobia" influenced by conservative Christian churches (though not all churches agree with this), which decries rewarding "fake refugees," and has led to a Blue House citizens’ petition calling for the revocation of refugee application permits for the refugees. The petition, begun on June 13, gained 714,875 signatures over one month. Some who criticize accepting refugees oppose allowing them to stay and work in the country and giving them aid (like access to medical treatment or education) while they await a decision on their petition.

The culmination of this was the first protest on June 30, which was attended by 1,000 people. There's a good article on how this relates to Korean xenophobia by Se-Woong Koo at Korea Expose. In it, he cites several examples of discriminatory treatment of non Koreans, including the 2009 case of Bonojit Hussain, a foreign professor who had racist insults hurled at him by a Korean man for being with a Korean woman, who was also attacked. Though he asserted at the time that "It wouldn't have happened to me if I were a white man,'' insulting Korean women for being with Western men has a long pedigree, as incidents from the 1940s1980s, or 1990s reveal. One such incident in 1992 left the offending foreigner, a GI, dead. A similar fate befell an English teacher who was stabbed to death - in the high school he worked at - in 1998 by a man who "didn't want Americans here teaching Korean children" and who thought "foreigners should not be allowed to hold jobs here while many Koreans are unemployed."

That these kinds of incidents involving GIs and foreign English teachers were not included among the examples of racial discrimination in the Korea Expose article is not all that surprising. As a group, they have been perceived to be white American males who are more privileged than other foreigners (though women now make up 55% of E-2 visa holders), and, beyond incidents generated by bitterness at interracial coupling, negative feeling toward them is often closely related to what could be termed a post-colonial reaction to American hegemony in its manifestations as a military presence in Korea on the one hand and as the need for mastery of English to advance in Korean society on the other. Thus these groups have been considered undeserving of much sympathy or attention when examining discrimination in Korea, which is one of the reasons why negative news reports about GIs and English teachers continued unchecked for years (in the 1990s and early 2000s for GIs, and for a decade after the 2005 English Spectrum Incident for English teachers).

These tendencies in regard to English teachers manifested themselves in instances like JTBC describing consensual sex between white men and Korean women as "sex crimes" or NoCut News, the online news site of the Christian Broadcasting System, publishing a 9-part series titled "The Reality and Twisted Values of Some White Men." Such reporting was also exported to the US when Joohee Cho, whose mission was to "correct biased views on Korea by the foreign press...and make it my duty to accurately and objectively report issues and affairs in Korea," wrote the following article for ABC News:

(It has since been removed.)

That they reported on foreign teachers' drug or sex crimes was no surprise, but there are various cases that illustrate and confirm a bias against them in the media. It could be noted, for example, that the murder of the foreign teacher in his school in 1998 was not reported by the Korean media. A clearer example of bias is to be found by comparing media coverage of an American English teacher who was extradited for an alleged sex crime against a child back home at the same time a Korean elementary school principal was sentenced to prison for molesting 9 students. The American's case was reported five times more than the Korean principal's, and half of the 70 reports on the foreign teacher appeared on television news - compared to none for the Korean principal. Likewise, images like this Munhwa Ilbo cartoon, of the aforementioned extradited teacher, were certainly not used to illustrate the Korean principal:

'Their true, foul, beastly nature'

Above is a US soldier menacing a South Korean woman in a 1990 North Korean comic book titled "Sick and Rotten World." Like night and day, aren't they? Should the Koreas ever reunify, north and south should at least be able to bond over the shared xenophobic tendencies of their media.

What was always interesting was how these negative media depictions of English teachers were so little related to their actual, often preferential treatment by Koreans. To be clear, this negative perception of foreign teachers never crystallized offline in the form of a demonstration, but remained limited to the internet, media, and government policies. I have long felt (and said so here) that if the Korean media absolutely must engage in such fear-mongering and xenophobia, targeting relatively privileged (and often transient) foreign teachers and US soldiers is a better option than targeting less-privileged, far more poorly-treated migrant workers. One problem with highlighting certain groups' criminality is that the lack of coverage of other groups' crimes (one such touchstone was the murder in 2008 of 13 year-old Gang Su-hyeon by a Filipino staying in the country illegally) can lead to perceptions of media bias. Far more important, however, is that allowing biased treatment in the media of one unsympathetic group to continue unchecked inevitably allows the practice to become accepted and permits its spread to other groups.

At the height of negative news reports about foreign English teachers in 2009 and 2010, there were over 300 negative articles published each year. In comparison, there have been only 10 negative articles in the first half of this year, and that includes articles about a foreign elementary school teacher fired for indecent assault. Though Yonhap published a story about that case (which often serves as a template for stories by other news outlets), I could find only five reports about it. This means that, when it comes to media treatment of foreign English teachers, things have obviously changed. While it is possible the media has stopped trafficking in such xenophobia, the more likely explanation is that attention has been turned to other targets.

Part and parcel of the height of media negativity against foreign teachers were the actions of Anti-English Spectrum, also known as 'The Citizen's Movement to Expel Illegal Foreign Language Teachers' or 'Citizens for Upright English Education,' who were spurred to action by rude comments of a sexual nature made about Korean women online by foreign teachers and photos of a sexy costume party featuring foreign teachers and Korean women. Their target was generally "unqualified" foreign teachers, about whom they elicited tips from members, fed these to the media, and then used the resulting reports as evidence of a problem in petitions to the government demanding that it be solved with new regulations. It was they who created the AIDS - foreign teacher link in the media and who, after being invited to an Immigration policy meeting, convinced the government to institute HIV tests for foreign teachers.

By the time Lee Eun-ung, the leader of Anti-English Spectrum, stopped posting at the group's Naver cafe in 2012, his work seemed to be almost complete. The visa-rules he had pushed were in place, the constitutional court had rejected a case related to HIV testing of teachers, and the HIV testing, though officially dropped for all other visas, continued for English teachers. As well, the public school cuts he had called for had begun in Gyeonggi-do, and from there spread to other cities and provinces. When the group ceased to exist after he left, it became clear he had accomplished all of this almost entirely on his own. The fact that he was able to almost single-handedly influence government policy should be disturbing, but luckily, the fact that no one took media or government actions against foreign English teachers seriously means Lee is relatively unknown; others are not likely to learn from his canny manipulation of the media (almost every major paper quoted him) and behind-the-scenes maneuvering among politicians and Ministry of Justice officials. The case of Anti-English Spectrum and the years of negative coverage of English teachers in the media provide lenses through which to view the recent anti-refugee websites and protests.

Something worth examining is the rise and fall in the number of negative media reports about foreign teachers. Though this graph only goes up to 2014 (remember that I could only find ten such articles in the first half of this year - a massive drop), a general rise and the beginning of a fall can be seen.

You'll notice that this generally corresponds to the rise and fall in the number of E-2 visa holders. The growth between 2006 and 2011 was mostly due to an abrupt increase in the number of public school teachers, which can be seen below. The two highest years, 2009 and 2010, were also the years with the most negative news articles.

A similar pattern can be seen in the recent, steep rise in the number of refugee applications:

Since the applications take time, it is likely that the most recent two years or so worth of applicants are in the country, making for a population of perhaps 15,000 (though I stress this is just a guess). There are currently 25,000 people here on the G-1 visa, which is for people given permission to stay by the Minister of Justice, but it encompasses many categories of people other than refugee applicants (such as foreigners injured in industrial accidents or caught in the sex trade). The main point to take away from this comparison is that, just as an increase in the number of foreign teachers in the late 2000s was matched by negative feeling expressed toward them in the media, the rapidly increasing influx of refugees since the enactment of the Refugee Act five years ago has also seen a rising level of concern aimed at them (though for different reasons).

Returning to Anti-English Spectrum, it was clear from their rhetoric and the statements of its leader that this group did not really want any foreign teachers in Korea, but their use of the term "unqualified" - which was always vaguely defined - allowed them to feign that they were only concerned about an unsavory subset of the targeted group, and not the group in its entirety. This is clearly to be seen in the rhetoric of the anti-refugee group on June 30.

Rally to demand the abolition of the Refugee Act and no-visa [entry]

Fake refugees Get Out

Abolition of the Refugee Act – Abolition of no-visa [entry]
Denounce one-sided press reports – Demand impartial reports
Shorten international treaty refugee screening time
Put the safety and protection of fellow citizens first
Protect real refugees – Expel fake refugees

Citizens in solidarity for measures against illegal refugee applicant foreigners
While the name of the group organizing the rally features the term "illegal," the key term to pay attention to is "fake." Like "unqualified," it will likely not be clearly defined. The suggestion here is that they are not opposed to all refugees, just the "fake" ones, as the phrases at the bottom - "Protect real refugees – Expel fake refugees" - suggest, but the call for "Abolition of the Refugee Act" strongly suggests this has only been included to soften the group's image. One source of this term, however, may be the government:
The ministry and civic activists [supporting refugees] have fundamental different approaches to the refugee issue. As seen in ministry officials' media interviews and their presentations in conferences, they use the term "real refugee," implying many refugee applicants flocking to South Korea are "fake refugees."
While the petition was first posted on June 14, it was on June 21 that a blog was founded with the aim of promoting the June 30 protest (I'll look at it in more detail later). That it was a blog rather than a cafe (an online forum that allows posts by multiple users) suggests this started small, and has not had much time to grow. I noticed some parallels between it and Anti-English Spectrum's Naver cafe when it started.

Days before the protest, the blogger predicted that others would try to portray them as being full of religious hate and warned that "We will not allow the press to disparage the pure intentions of the participants who took part for the safety of the people and the peace of the country." The day after the rally, the blogger stated, in a post titled "Rally to demand the abolition of Refugee Act and visa-free entry - We are not a right wing group!", that the group is not related to far right-wingers like Ju Ok-sun or groups like Ilbe, not connected to Christian groups, and have never received support from any organization. Donations towards the banners and the stage for their June 30 rally were provided by "ordinary citizens" (a list of the donations is provided here). This is reminiscent of the founder of Anti-English Spectrum (AES) writing a post to members of the site a week or so after its founding by people with "good intentions" about how he felt "regretful about the way the broadcasts have come out" which "wounded" the hearts of the group's "wholesome members" and promised to promote "proper awareness of this cafe." The report in question - a KBS news story - incensed AES members because it portrayed the group as problematic due to the way its members harassed Korean women who appeared in photos with foreign teachers. Not for nothing did the most recent anti-refugee rally hoist signs reading "Denounce biased press reports - demand impartial reports."

In October 2007, more than two-and-a-half years after AES was founded, its leader, Lee Eun-ung,  was invited to take part in an Immigration policy meeting where it was decided to implement the drug and HIV tests the group had been requesting for over a year. Over the next three years almost every media outlet interviewed Lee, and bills were introduced by National Assembly representatives Lee had visited that reflected his requests. This experience makes clearer the time needed by emerging interest groups to make connections in the media and government, and this is reflected in the fact that those invited to recent debates about the refugee issue held on the premises of the National Assembly were more established groups focused on the "problem" of foreigners in general, rather than just refugees.

As Christian Today reported, on July 11 the "People's Debate for the Revision of the Refugee Act," attended by 500 people, was held in the Assembly Hall of the National Assembly Representative’s Office, hosted by National Assembly Rep. Kim Jin-tae, and overseen by the Love for Our Culture Citizen Solidarity and the Freedom and Human Rights Research Institute. A live stream can be watched here. Love for Our Culture Citizen Solidarity [우리문화사랑국민연대] is an anti-multiculturalism group whose Daum cafe features a banner photo of refugees in a boat, a section for posts titled "foreign criminals/illegal sojourners," and a slideshow of photos including the aforementioned murdered middle school student, Gang Su-hyeon, and photos of riots in Europe. The Freedom and Human Rights Research Institute [자유와인권연구소] is a Christian group which criticized Park Won-sun for allowing the Pride Festival to take place in Seoul Plaza and whose seminar on hate speech at Sejong Cultural Center last year was summarized by the Kookmin Ilbo as follows: "As it is an important public topic about about the future of the country, it's not hate, it's criticism."

(From here.)

At the debate Rep. Kim Jin-tae referred to the refugee crisis in Europe and criticized human rights groups and media there that distorted opposition to careless acceptance of refugees and framed it as discrimination, and promised to work for the settlement of the correct refugee policy. Reps. Shim Jae-cheol and Yu Gi-jun also sought to examine the problems of current refugee policy and to provide desirable refugee policy directions and realistic alternatives. Kim Seung-kyu, a former minister of justice, said that since refugee applicants are given work permits like recognized refugees, they abuse the laxity of the Refugee Act which "can cause a serious crisis in the public order and security of the nation." It's nice to see that former members of the government can be counted on to ease fears and reduce tensions.

Ryu Byeong-gyun of Love for Our Culture Citizen Solidarity criticized the Refugee Act as "the worst law that attracts fake refugees on a large scale who want to use the Refugee Act as an expedient to enter and stay in the country." He stated that over 30,000 people applying for refugee status have extended their stays by filing administrative suits when rejected or have stayed on illegally and suggested that the government could use the Immigration Act to expel the Yemeni refugees from Jeju.

Ryu also thought that rather than withdraw from international refugee conventions, Korea should help deal with the problems in countries where refugees originate by sending peacekeepers to these countries or letting private companies and organizations go and help refugees achieve economic and social stability and self-sufficiency. He also thought the Refugee Act should be changed to only allow refugee applications from Korean embassies abroad and that the definition of 'refugee' should be widened to allow stateless Koreans abroad to be accepted as refugees.

Lawyer Go Yeong-il, of the Freedom and Human Rights Research Institute, criticized the "poisonous clauses" of the Refugee Act and suggested numerous revisions. He advised that refugees hoping to resettle or refugees' spouses or minor children who are not in the Refugee Convention should not be allowed to enter Korea, that the clauses allowing humanitarian sojourners not in the Refugee Convention to work be deleted, and that the regulations guaranteeing living expenses, housing facilities, medical treatment and education for refugee applicants be deleted. You have to admire the creativity of Christians like these. Why read a heavy book like the Bible when you could use it as a bludgeon?

The day after this debate, another one took place in the same building, as the poster here advertises. The "Debate on improvements to problems with the refugee system" took place at 4 pm on July 12 at the National Assembly Representatives' Office Building Seminar Room 1. It was hosted by Rep. Lee Eon-ju and the National Assembly Representative research group 'Harmonius Society.' The debaters included Kim Heun-su, Seoul Nambu Administrator (connected with Immigration Office); Lee Man-seok, a representative of 4HIM (not a fan of Muslims); Ryu Byeong-gyun of Love for Our Culture Citizens Solidarity (again); and Gu Byeong-mo, Ministry of Justice Deputy Director for Refugees.

(From here.)

Two things are worth noting: One is the inclusion in these debates of a number of groups which are clearly not fond of foreigners living in Korea. The other is that, with appearances at two debates held on the premises of the National Assembly two days in a row, the anti-multiculturalism group Love for Our Culture Citizens Solidarity seems to have made some high-profile political connections and may be seen as a "go to" group when dealing with these issues (though I'm not familiar enough with them to say for sure). These were the kind of connections that Anti-English Spectrum made with politicians who later sponsored bills the group favored, and that got them invited to the Immigration policy meeting which decided the drug and HIV tests for E-2 visa holders.

One of the key articles Anti-English Spectrum contributed to which promoted their message of foreign teachers as AIDS threat was this Chosun Ilbo article (titled "White English instructor threatens Korean woman with AIDS" in its Korean version). Another article they contributed to was this one by KBS, titled "Out of Control Foreign English Teacher' Molests [someone] While High During Lesson," which conflates two different events to invent, in the title, an incident that never occurred. A post at this site provided a link to a Chosun Ilbo article from last week that does the same thing for Yemeni refugees. The headline and sub-headlines read:
Korea is not free from Khat, the hallucinogen that ruined YemenYemeni refugee applicant who took drug committed molestation in a club
Court commuted [sentence because it's] "legal in Yemen"
90% of Yemeni men enjoy 'khat'
The article explains how a Yemeni who came to Korea in 2014 and claimed he couldn't return because he had fought against Al Queda but was judged not to be in such danger and was eventually ordered to leave Korea after a grace period. During that period he was arrested for touching women in a club, and then arrested months later for staying in Korea past the grace period and possession of khat, a plant chewed for its psychoactive properties in Yemen. His prison sentence was reduced somewhat since the court later accepted that it was legal in Yemen and that he had not taken something he knew to be illegal. The article then talks about the use of khat in Yemen and how Korea is no longer a "khat-free zone." Between the sub-headlines that suggest he was high when he touched the women and digging up a year-old case at this time, the Chosun Ilbo's stance on the refugee issue seems clear enough.

The petition and the June 30 protest seem to have gotten results. Politicians are falling over each other to submit bills to the national assembly or, as seen above, to host debates on the topic. And in a "let's get this out of the public eye as quickly as possible"-type solution, it has been announced that "Yemini asylum seekers who have arrived on Jeju Island this year will start receiving the results of their refugee status applications in two weeks’ time."

While the experience of a decade of media bias against foreign English teachers and the actions of Anti-English Spectrum can be compared usefully to some aspects of the anti-refugee movement, not all of it applies. The media manipulation of AES, and its use of those reports to influence the government, seem less important when citizens have a means of reaching out to the president - a president put into power through the concerted action of citizens - directly. The populism of the current administration both supports and upsets these activists, as we will see.

Update, July 18:

The fact that overworked public servants dealing with these applications are speeding up the processing of the Yemenis' applications, as mentioned two paragraphs above, should be worrying considering that the Chosun Ilbo has just reported that an Arabic interpreter hired by the Justice Ministry, who had "no professional qualifications but was a[n undergraduate] student of business administration with Arabic as a minor subject," and who was likely hired to save money, "habitually misrepresent[ed]" "stories of asylum seekers, often making them appear in an unfavorable light that may have damaged their chances of staying."
In one instance, a review showed that an asylum seeker told the court in Arabic that he suffered political repression in his home country, but Chang [the interpreter] rendered it as, "I came here to make money." [...] It is unclear whether he was simply incompetent or motivated by malice. [...] 
Chang translated in more than 100 asylum application cases over the past two years. As a result of an internal investigation, the ministry voided 55 of its own decisions against asylum seekers where he was involved, and has already reversed two and granted the applicants asylum.
It goes on to note that "only a handful" of contract or regular translators in government offices have proper qualifications, and that Jeju lacks properly qualified Korean-Arabic translators.

It would seem I was wrong to conclude that the Chosun Ilbo article I mentioned above indicated a stance on the Yemeni refugees. Mind you, the possibility that an article portraying Yemenis as drug-addled molesters was not written for any political purpose but was just a par-for-the-course article isn't exactly reassuring.

Oh, and this seems like a rather badly-timed article.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

From 2006: 'Foreign instructors ask for mothers rather than tutoring fees'

Inside Story's 2006 articles on the evils of foreign English teachers

Part 1: Foreign instructors earn money, are 'absorbed in decadence,' women and drugs
Part 2: Low-quality native speaking instructors: 'Korean women give us money and are sex partners'
Part 3: English Instructors 'Treated like kings and get full service including women’
Part 4: Affairs with high school students, spreading nude photos on the internet
Part 5: Foreign instructors ask for mothers rather than tutoring fees
Part 6: Tracking [down] blacklisted foreign teachers suspected of having AIDS
Part 7: There is a 'killer' native speaking English instructor in Korea!

Part 5: Foreign instructors ask for mothers rather than tutoring fees

On September 12, 2006 BreakNews continued rifling through every corner of the internet to find material with which to demonize foreign English teachers shed light on the 'realities of foreign English teachers' and the threat they pose to the good, upstanding, patriotic citizens of South Korea. One wonders just how much the article is based on tips by Anti-English Spectrum (whose leader provides the only interview in the story) and how much the reporter found herself.


Foreign instructors ask for mothers rather than tutoring fees

[Exclusive report] Out of 5 women a Canadian foreign instructor was dating, 3 were housewives!!

Reporter Shin Yeon-hui

'Native speaker blacklist,' illegal, low-grade foreign instructor scandal part 5

Over the last month this paper has carried four in-depth articles on the realities of English Spectrum and illegal and low-grade foreign English instructors. In particular, readers could not repress their astonishment and shock at the repulsiveness of some foreign instructors who see Korean women as sex toys and habitually molest or rape them.

After 'Inside Story' released its exclusive report "Native speaking instructor blacklist," it made a huge impact. On the basis of this news report, local and international broadcasters and media have reported one after the other on the realities of illegal and low quality foreign instructors.

As a result, we have learned that an inspection agency is making efforts to study the realities of native speaking instructors in Korea. It was confirmed that the investigation was started by the prosecution after the article "Foreign instructor spread naked photos of female students on the internet" was published in issue 434 of our paper.

A reporter confirmed that foreign instructor A is currently on the run. Meanwhile, another tip related to illegal and low quality foreign instructors was received by this paper on September 1. The informant revealed the shocking news that there is an online café for Korean women who have foreigners as lovers and that housewives were having affairs with foreign English instructors who taught their children.

Tracing the internet cafe for lovers of foreigners ... which outwardly appears a healthy space

Actual writing posted on the site is full of complaints of victimization like rape and abortion

Following up on the tip, this reporter tracked down the Internet café for women with foreign lovers. The informant explained that among the foreigners whom date, many are English instructors.

The two cafes in question were registered on a portal site. These cafes look like healthy spaces where women share their love stories, but if you read the actual postings at the site, they are not like that at all.

Many of the group's female members complained of pregnancies and abortions, as well as things like unreasonable sexual demands. Most of the postings vent their frustration and pain, saying things such as "I'm four weeks pregnant...", "I'm going to the hospital to have an abortion tomorrow," or "Foreigners are like that. He didn't care that what he was demanding was painful." Beside these, there are also a lot of postings about foreign instructors' shocking romantic / sexual behavior with Korean women.

A female member disclosed the perverted and degenerate behavior of her foreign boyfriend in a posting titled 'My boyfriend now scares me.'

"These days I am worried because of my (foreign) boyfriend who makes more and more demands in our relationship. When we are together, we argue but also fool around and have fun. But when I contact him when we're apart, my boyfriend says a lot of sexual things, like talking about his fantasies. I want to make a video with you. I want to have sex in public. I want to make out with you and other women together and see you do naughty things. And he even talked about bondage ... I like to have sex and tend to enjoy it, but not perverted stuff. So my boyfriend and I have never really complained to each other about sex. Last time we had sex I took photos just for fun. I erased them later, but since then my boyfriend has wanted to do such perverted things that I've gotten really stressed. He is the second boyfriend I've had and it's been almost a year now and we're serious about each other, but he's asking too much. I've lived with people cursing foreign men, saying I should totally ignore them and that they are all really perverts, but now the more I meet him the more I see him changing into a pervert, so it's hard.

Another female member attracted attention by uploading a post denouncing a secret meeting of foreign instructors in Itaewon.

"Not long ago I heard something shocking from a friend. I also once met that person (foreign instructor Mr. C). He is from Italy, but went to school in the US and now lives near Samgakji. On weekends, he usually tries to find girls at clubs or on chat sites, and if she seems easy he sleeps with her a few times and then passes her on to his friends. A while ago I met Mr. C via chatting and he was good looking and didn't seem perverted, but after I had a drink he followed me to the bathroom and suddenly kissed me like it wasn't a spectacle. That many women have suffered this makes me even more angry."

There are many more articles posted on this cafe complaining of the women members' suffering and victimization, but as only a few have been excerpted only a few have been made public.

Regarding this, informant L worried, saying "Women who join this group are complaining of common suffering. Though they share it, there are cases where they do not realize that they are becoming victims."

In being lured, housewives are no exception.

It is now closed, but [there was once a] foreign instructor job search site called 'English Spectrum' where foreign instructors posted and shared articles such as "How to molest Korean elementary school students", and "how to extort money." Informant L saved a post that was uploaded there in 2005 and gave it to this reporter, and its contents are shocking.

"(Foreign instructor) XX [could] really go to jail ... really! In Korea, adultery is still a big crime (remember this is a Confucian country). When he goes to jail, he will suffer a lot. XX may not be the only one going to jail, (Korean woman) 00, who he slept with, might go to jail too. It could happen because her husband found out. That's why I pay a lot of money, to not go to jail. XX could rot for two years in a cell, or be deported. My advice: prostitutes are easy to find in Korea, so it's better to go there. Next time, take your money and have fun with the prostitutes."

This is a comment in response to the original post by a friend of a foreign instructor who told the story of how his friend was sleeping with a housewife and this was discovered [by the husband].

XX, who was in trouble due to adultery, was an English tutor. He demanded that the mother of the student he taught have sex with him instead of paying tuition, and after that this he was found out. A psychiatric counselor who is friends with this reporter told of a Canadian English instructor who bragged, "I've had five Korean women as lovers, three of whom were housewives."

Mr. K, who launched a movement to expel illegal and low-quality foreign language instructors, said, "We have filed civil complaints with the police, received reports from female victims, and have continued to take action to help them, but among problematic foreign instructors there are still many who are not even aware that they've done wrong." "This issue should be steadily publicized so that it does not just get temporary attention and die down. It is urgent that we create an environment in which we can improve laws and the [employment] system so that unqualified foreigners can't be hired as instructors anymore."

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Arguing over Konglish in the 1960s.

AFor my latest article on the Korea Times I look at discussions about Konglish in the 1960s (and 1975). One sentence that was cut for length was near the end, about Korean-coined words: “One was “nodaji,” or bonanza, which originated from the admonishments not to touch the gold in the American-run gold mines in Unsan over a century ago (though Robert Neff has suggested that the imperative “no touch” actually referred to blasting caps and other supplies).”

I must also thank Stephen Epstein for suggesting the “Spanglish” connection and digging up the fact it was coined by Puerto Rican poet Salvador Tio.

Here's one of the articles, from 1975:

Monday, July 02, 2018

From 2006 - Affairs with high school students, spreading nude photos on the internet

Inside Story's 2006 articles on the evils of foreign English teachers

Part 1:Foreign instructors earn money, are 'absorbed in decadence,' women and drugs
Part 2: Low-quality native speaking instructors: 'Korean women give us money and are sex partners'
Part 3: English Instructors 'Treated like kings and get full service including women'
Part 4: Affairs with high school students, spreading nude photos on the internet
Part 5: Foreign instructors ask for mothers rather than tutoring fees.
Part 6: Tracking [down] blacklisted foreign teachers suspected of having AIDS
Part 7: There is a 'killer' native speaking English instructor in Korea!

Part 4: Affairs with high school students, spreading nude photos on the internet

On August 21, 2006, BreakNews published the following story in its series on the scum and villainy to be found among foreign English teachers; it draws a great deal on the previous article. This translation was originally posted at another site back in 2006 and is reposted here with permission.

Affairs with high school students, spreading nude photos on the internet

[Inside Story exclusive report 3] The secret of the nude photos on the website of a famous native speaking English instructor

Reporter Shin Yeon-hui

There is a growing stir from the issue of the “low-quality foreign English teacher blacklist,” reported in an exclusive in Issue 432 of Inside Story.

Broadcasters, “Y” news agency and major dailies ran stories on the “native English speaker blacklist” on Aug. 15 based on our report. In particular, with the U.S. media raising issue with the quality of native English speaking teachers in Korea and [other parts of] Asia and this paper running its report, there have been a string of reports on the realities of low-quality native speaking English teachers.

Prior to our report on the blacklist, we ran an in-depth report on the shocking debauchery of some low-quality foreign English teachers subtitled, “Low-quality foreign teachers absorbed in women, drugs.” This got a huge response.

Since the paper ran two exclusive investigative reports into the realities of low-quality foreign teachers, netizens have been flooding our Internet edition, “,” with comments and tips.

Meanwhile, we’ve gotten a shocking tip from Mr. Kim, who tipped this paper off to the “native speaking teacher blacklist.” The new tip from Mr. Kim includes:

—People being sued or personally threatened after they’ve lodged complaints against unqualified English teachers;
—Foreign teachers going around with high school girls;
—A famous English teacher openly posting pictures of nude Korean women on his homepage;
—English teachers who appear on TV illegally tutoring or asking outrageous prices.

Since we reported on the blacklist, composed based on acts of degree forgery, sexual assault, theft and other misdeeds by foreign English teachers, we’ve gotten a string of trips about native speaking English teachers from former and current English teachers and students. This is evidence that the problem isn’t limited to just a small minority of foreign teachers.

Posting naked women photos on his homepage

Of all the examples we’ve seen so far, the decadent behavior of American Mr. A, a well-known teacher at a famous foreign language hagwon, is the most shocking.

Mr. A is a native speaking instructor who is supposedly doing well, who in addition to his good looks is the main teacher at his hagwon. But on his personal homepage, Mr. A has shockingly posted nude photos of the Korean women with whom he has slept and is sharing them with other native speaking instructors.

When we visited the homepage address, provided us by tipster Mr. Kim, nude photos of Korean women—their faces visable—were openly posted. The photo were taken on a bed and sofa, while in the background, your attention is drawn to various articles that appear to be personal items.

In this place, presumed to be Mr. A’s home, it appears he naturally took nude photographs of Korean women wearing not even a stitch.

Kim explained, however, that there is room to debate whether the women were Mr. A’s students or paid models.

Mr. A, whose homepage contains an astonishing number of nude photos, is still working as an instructor at the well-known foreign language academy.

The Kim family, who run a restaurant in a neighborhood with many hagwons, tipped this paper to the following scenes they’ve witnessed in a Gyeonggi-do hagwon area:

—A foreigner and a Korean high school student in their restaurant. At first they thought they were teacher and student, but they caught them kissing in the bathroom;
—The girl paid for the food;
—In the car, the student and the foreigner shamelessly engaged in embarrassing acts of affection;
—You can witness many such scenes near the train station and throughout the hagwon area.

The Kim family pleaded to our paper, “If you have the power to help our youth study properly, please help.”

Partiality for high school girls

In an email tip to this reporter, Mr. Bae, who works as a hagwon English teacher, strongly criticized a) some teachers who joke around during their conversation classes; b) foreign teachers who think students should be grateful for their time even when they [the students] buy them meals, unlike Korean teachers who buy meals for their students; c) the attitudes of foreign teachers, who emphasize only time and bonuses.

Bae said, “Korean departments of education should try to cultivate Korean [English] teachers rather than insisting on native speakers only.”

He added, “With white loafers who can’t get jobs back home working as English teachers, we must sound the alarm again some instructors who joke around, waste time and act arrogantly.” He stressed, “More than anything else, what needs to change is the attitude of students who insist on learning from native speaker instructors only.”

Mr. Jeong, who recruits teachers for English hagwons, said, “When we place an advertisement for native English speaking instructors, there are numerous occasions when many of the native speaker applicants are unqualified. In particular, I was surprised to hear that among some of the foreign job seekers registered at, it’s the rage to engage in illegal tutoring.” He scolded the government for lacking measures to deal with low-quality native speaker instructors, saying, “We are virtually ridden by illegal native speaker instructors, but it seems the government has formulated no measures at all. In this situation, native speaker instructors must really look down upon the government and Korean people.”

He also said some of the people who appear on TV are openly working as English teachers. “I inquired about private tutoring and was introduced to a female actress who frequently appeared on a certain TV program. I turned her down, however, when she asked for 70,000 won an hour.

It’s absurd that someone would ask for several times more money just because they’re riding their fame from appearing on TV. This is clearly illegal, and we must awaken to how the broadcast companies and these individuals are being managed.”

Accuse me, and I’ll file charges

The inappropriate behavior of some foreign teachers has reached a dangerous level, but the reality is that there’s really no place to file complaints about the unethical behavior of low-quality English teachers. In fact, there are increasing instances of tipsters having their identity exposed or receiving threats.

Mr. Ahn, a tipster who complained of this, told of his experience when he protested the behavior of one foreign teacher whose behavior he could no longer tolerate. The teacher, who teaches in an English hagwon for young children, did not even graduate from college. In class, he swears at students to “shut the fuck up,” and when they play “the question game” (if you answer the question, you win), he lets students win by asking the other side, “Do you want to sleep with me?”

Ahn said, “I asked the teacher why the students were cursing in his class, and he said that since it was English class, it didn’t matter if they swore in English.” At this point he understood this wasn’t a person qualified to teach children.

According to Ahn, one of the teacher’s parents is Korean, so even though he’s an American citizen, he has an F-4 visa (permanent residency issued to North Americans of Korean descent), and using this, he conveniently acts Korean or American depending on the situation. Unable to graduate college, he drifted around without work and is now teaching kindergarten and elementary school students English at a hagwon in Gyeonggi-do.

Furious that the teacher was using swear words with the students, Ahn strongly protested to the hagwon, but outrageously, the hagwon arranged a meeting between him and the teacher, who in turn threatened to report Ahn to the police.

Ahn was dumbfounded. “If you protest to hagwon about an unqualified teacher, I naturally thought the school would take measures to get the teacher to wake up or fire him, but I never expected that a complaint could be lodged against me with the police.”

Mr. Lee, who experienced a similar instance, said he received several threatening text messages from the teacher. Feeling threatened, Lee asked the police and immigration bureau for help, but at the immigration office, he was told that all the teacher needed to do is say he didn’t do it. The police, meanwhile, told him they visited the hagwon and said he [Mr. Lee] had placed a tip, exposing his identity as the tipster.

The hagwon is standing with the problematic teacher. Lee bitterly complained, “I made a just complaint in my own country, but nobody will help, and an unqualified foreign teacher, from a position of superiority, is turning on me like a thief on a master.”

Meanwhile, most of the netizens who read this paper’s exclusive report on the “native speaker teacher blacklist” agreed that low-quality foreign teachers should be expelled from the country.

The following are netizen comments posted at “,” our Internet edition.

A netizen going by the name “Min So-hee” said, “I decided to learn English, but after watching the behavior of the foreign male teachers at the hagwon, I felt serious doubts, and now I have fundamental questions about why I must learn English.” She said, “Learning English is fine, but I hope this article become an opportunity to inform countless women like me that it’s not good to get close to English teachers.”

Another netizen wrote, “Frankly, for me it’s easy. This is just the tip of the iceberg. This is an important problem that is entangled with Western fundamentalism, in which low-quality English teachers and other whites treat other races as inferior races, as well as other issues. After this article, I think there will be a lot of tips and information. There is still too much that needs to be put into article form.”

Another netizen drew attention with an essay exposing the realities of foreign English teachers.
Pointing out the problems of Korea’s English-learning craze and calling for improved screening of foreign teachers, he wrote:

There are 30,000 foreign teachers residing in Korea thanks to Korea’s English-learning craze, and for someone like me, who has thought the one issue we must overcome is that of the legal qualifications and unethical character of foreign teachers, it was very nice to see an article showing the realities of these low-quality English teachers.

Just because you speak English as a native language doesn’t mean you can be a teacher, and by the same token, if there’s a problem in the character of a teacher, there must be severe discipline for that person. In Korea, there are good foreign teachers combining legal credentials and proper character, low-quality teachers who are both unqualified and unethical, and low-quality teachers who are legal but unethical. With the current system, it’s hard to sort them out.

But this is something we must do. The fact is that anyone who has experienced English education has experienced low-quality teachers, and even if they’ve never experienced one directly, they’ve heard around them instances of harm. I’ve heard stories of people suffering from classes taught by bad teachers, and beyond the educational damage, there are everyday cases of female victims keeping silent about their experiences because they are of a personal and sexual nature.

So that more instances of harm caused by low-quality teachers do not occur, I think we must acknowledge the problems of the current situation and discuss the many views as to how to solve them.

Another netizen wrote, “In five years of teaching, I saw many kind of native speaker teachers. While working with them, there were many times when I had to quit because I felt dirty and ashamed due to their feelings of superiority and insincere class preparation, and native speakers lacking even morals are given full-service like a king, receiving money for their plane ticket, free apartments, cable, Internet and furniture. Now with even women satisfying them in bed, would native speakers return to their own countries to work in Walmart again?”