Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas in Costaguana

I've made mention of James Wade's book One Man's Korea before, and yesterday I was reading it and came across a timely piece of short fiction in it titled "Christmas in Costaguana," which is from his series 'Chronicles of Costaguana,' tales of foreigners and their interaction with the Spanish-speaking natives (and each other) and a land called Costaguana (the name is from a Joseph Conrad novel, as is the name of the capital city, Sulaco (also the name of the ship in Aliens)), which may resemble another familiar country...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Old and new

These are photos of the second wedding I went to in Korea, in early 2002 (both were of co-workers I didn't know well). While the first wedding I went to mixed the western form of a wedding with things like confetti spray cans, this one was a traditional Korean wedding.

There were samulnori performers in traditional garb, a hen (which had its feet tied, but which fell over on two occasions and started squawking) and traditional architecture, but also the kind of photographer with his flash running around taking photos and guy with a video camera with a huge spotlight (which is visible below) that you see at more western style weddings.

Oh, and it was at Lotte World’s folk village.

Pictured below is the sedan chair that the bride got into and which I got chosen to help carry.

Whoever designed that chair obviously never had to lift one, since the handles were square in shape, and not rounded, and with the weight of the thing, the edges quickly dug into my hand. Hopefully the sedan chairs of old had more rounded handles…

Monday, December 21, 2009

Are you sure you're not talking about North Korea?

“…the Korean people have a hard time; but among the inscriptions in Chinese ideographs over the shops of Korean merchants in Seoul I observed and copied the following:

“The People Enjoy Peace and Pleasure,” “We are Successors to the Work of Shinno and Save the People,” “Heaven and Earth are Comprised in this Residence,” “The Spring Light is Clear and Beautiful,” “Thousands of Treasures Gather Together in the Morning,” “Ten Thousand Pounds of Pure Gold,” “Distribute Liberally and Save the Populace,” “The House of Happiness and Virtue,” “Benevolence, Righteousness, Courtesy, Wisdom, Fidelity, and Filial Obedience.” These inscriptions would certainly lead a newcomer to suppose that in Korea he had found at last a land of virtue, prosperity, and happiness; but the mental jolt that he would get when he came to investigate the palace would probably dislocate all his facilities and reduce him to a state of imbecility!

The activities and operations of the existing Korean Government may briefly be summed up as follows: It takes from the people, directly and indirectly, everything that they earn over and above a bare subsistence, and gives them in return practically nothing. It affords no adequate protection to life or property; it provides no educational facilities that deserve notice; it builds no roads; it does not improve its harbors; it does not light its coasts; it pays no attention whatever to street-cleaning or sanitation; it takes no measures to prevent or check epidemics; it does not attempt to foster trade or industry; it encourages the lowest forms of primitive superstition; and it corrupts and demoralizes its subjects by setting them examples of untruthfulness, dishonesty, treachery, cruelty, and a cynical brutality in dealing with human rights that is almost without parallel in modern times."

- George Kennan, describing Korea in a 1905 article entitled, "Korea: A Degenerate State."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Anti-English Spectrum in the Epoch Times

The international newspaper The Epoch Times has an article about Anti-English Spectrum titled "Foreign Teachers in Korea Vilified by Anti-English Group." I like the subtitle: "Group’s views don’t represent mainstream, says Korean diplomat"

It quotes one of the more useful statements presented in the CBC The Current piece on Anti English Spectrum, that of
Younggoog Park, Minister-Counsellor of Public Affairs at the Korea Embassy in Ottawa.

“Their reactionary views and opinions do not represent the sentiment of Koreans toward Canadians or other foreign teachers,” Park told the CBC’s The Current.
This is a very useful statement for those opposed to AES, and is important because it's the only example I know of of someone associated with the Korean government criticizing them. The words and deeds of government ministries and politicians in Korea have normally been supportive of them. The article has comments from Don Baker as well:
“There's always been a little ethnocentrism in Korea,” says Don Baker, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia.

The people involved in the anti-English teacher movement, Baker says, are products of an education system that for years taught that Koreans were a pure race.

“Until about five years ago Koreans were taught in school that Koreans were a pure race and unlike other people they've never had a mixture of genes; they're a pure people. The government has now changed that because they've got over a million foreign workers there.”

Baker, who travels to South Korea frequently, says the situation is exacerbated by the fact that the country has a shortage of women as a result of selective abortion.

“Koreans want to learn English, but they get turned off by the behaviour of the foreigners, especially when foreign men are dating some of the more attractive women in Korean society when there's a shortage of women in Korea.”

He also notes that Koreans are “extremely nationalistic” and take offence when some English teachers show their ignorance of and lack of interest in Korea’s 4,000-year culture.

“I've seen westerners in Korea who show, just the way they talk, that they really have no clue of the sophistication of Korean culture, and that really irritates Koreans.”
It's nice to see the journalist consulting someone who knows a lot about Korea. The work of Baker's that I've read has had to do with the Kwangju Uprising (he was in the city during its immediate aftermath, and his harrowing trip to Seoul on a 'local bus' with Linda Lewis is related in her book "Laying Claim to the Memory of May" (and can be read here)) and one of his essays was the basis for this post.

Overall, it's nice to see AES getting some critical publicity in Canadian and now international papers - but what needs to happen is for such articles to appear in Korean.

Oh, and the "Dismantle the AES" facebook group now has over 500 members. I don't think 'dismantling' the group is what I'd aim for; I'd just like to see the Korean media take a critical look at them and for the media, immigration, and politicians take a step back from them. There are other sites that complain about foreigners on the internet in Korea, but few have the influence that AES seem to have (at the same time, you don't want to overstate that influence, but having had almost every major paper and network give them favorable press and seeing they way they certainly influenced the HIV tests and commentary on Bill 3356, it's clear they do have enough influence).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The French foreign language teacher scandal of 1984

The French foreign language teacher scandal of 1984

Prelude 1: The 1983 Law "Limiting Aliens' Residence Period" and banning "unqualified" foreigners from working.
Prelude 2: "Koreans have a weakness for Foreigners"
Prelude 3: 10,000 illegal sojourners or immigration cheaters... the days and nights of Itaewon

Part 1: Le Monde and what came before
Part 2: Korea is "Ali Baba's" Cave
Part 3: Seoul Should not be a Workplace for Parisians
Part 4: In private foreign language classes, there are a lot of ‘fraud teachers’
Part 5: Jibberish
Part 6: 'I Want to Strike it Rich in Seoul Too' - Continuous Job Inquiries by the French
Part 7: Foreigners Enjoy Better Life With Mother Tongues
Part 8: Foreigners and Foreign Languages
Part 9: Sickening Face

Part 10: Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Part 11: The First Sanctions on Foreigners Working Illegally
Part 12: All Private Lessons by Foreigners Prohibited
Part 13: Institutes Asked to Hire Eligible Foreign Teachers
Part 14: "Seoul Wind"
Part 15: Foreign Language Teacher Shortage
Part 16: Troublemaking vagabond foreigner story finally airs

Part 1: Le Monde and what came before

Earlier this year, when the Marmot's Hole reported on English teachers filing complaints with the NHRCK, some interesting commenters talked about what it was like to teach English in Korea in the 1980s, starting with this comment by Sanshinseon:
When I was first working for the hagwans here there were no checks of any kind, you didn’t need to show that you had a degree, just if the owner invited you to be an employee, and agreed to “sponsor” (take some limited responsibility for) you, then you got the working (teaching) visa. But then that hagwan owner didn’t “own” you, you could quit (or be let go) and work for someone else, or go entirely independent teaching privates, whatever — until your one-year visa ran out.

In that “freedom of employment” factor it was much better. It should be noted that there were relatively very few Westerners teaching English here in those days, nothing remotely like today; those that were here were more appreciated for “helping Korea get modernized” and were not any kind of a negative social issue (the G.I.s handily filled the role of disparaged foreign demon).
I asked the commenter, Professor David Mason, more about what it was like in those days (thanks to him for answering my questions):
It was more of a "Wild West" feeling I guess, few rules to go by, few other people to talk to about how it goes or get teaching tips or what to avoid, etc. We had no Internet, and even the Lonely Planet books were quite inadequate back then, so it was really a totally different deal -- the lack of information and contacts -- there were just the other foreigners you could meet in the cheap hostels, a few in Itaewon, some places with bulletin boards where you could read a few posted notes and get leads for jobs.

There were so few native-English-speaking people here in 1982-83 (my introduction) that weren't in the Army or with the embassy or some big corporation -- but the demand for learning English was already getting pretty high, more for young office workers than for the kids -- just walking down the street Koreans would sometimes come up to you and offer jobs. Universities only had a few available teaching positions, and they were always looking for somebody else to hire.
Regarding university jobs, he wrote that
Any native speaker with at least a B.A. (and light skin-color) who could teach English classes (hopefully without causing a scandal with the female students, which they sometimes complained / warned openly about). They've always had a pretty fair turnover-rate, far above the rate for Korean professors, as native-speakers went home or to other countries for various reasons, and the best teachers moved on up-the-ladder to better jobs -- I guess that's still the same these days.

Especially the universities outside of Seoul were always searching, often going a semester or two with the job unfilled, because back in those days most of the native speakers only wanted to live in Seoul, for the obvious reasons of less language barrier and more amenities / entertainment.

Most of the jobs available outside universities were with private institutes (hagwan), public schools didn't use native speaker teachers. Some companies, especially exporters, wanted classes for their guys directly in the offices, but that was illegal, just a side-job. Ditto for classes of wealthy children, held in the homes. Sometimes even government officials wanted it for themselves or their kids, and even though that was illegal you were protected from getting busted... All that part is still the same these days, I guess.

If one of the relatively few operating language hagwans or export companies that wanted a teacher sponsored you for a visa, it meant that you could work pretty much any job you wanted to for that one year, and even if that hagwan fired you or you quit, you could still work until the visa was over. So there was a lot of job-switching and freelancing. No degree at all was required for these jobs except at universities.
Clearly, the rules were far more lax back then. As to when this changed, in his original comment he wrote,
It was like that until 1984, when the French scandal impelled the government to impose restrictions such as the original visa sponsor becoming your slave-owner. Many good and self-respecting teachers left Korea at that point, in a kind of protest.
Inquiries asking for more information about this 'French scandal' received the following replies, first from commenter Seouldout:
If memory serves me right there was a Frenchman who was arrested for illegally teaching. English I believe – this is long before Quebecois overran the place. There were allegations of sexual hijinks; not rape or molestation or train groping, but lots of consenting fornication with Korean women…who ought to have paid better attention in the Korean ethics class. They must’ve been worried they’d be caught outside after curfew, so they hooked up with him – those were the days. Anyway, upon his deportation at Kimpo the press (all of them, the entire nation’s) recorded him announcing how much he enjoyed banging their women. And how much the Korean women enjoyed being banged. He may have even declared, “I shall return. To bang again. Au revoir.”

The new laws effectively stopped future scandals.
Sanshinseon replied:
The way i remember the 1984 French Scandal differs just slightly from seouldout — as is typical with folklore — my feeble brain does not include airport boasting, but says that he returned to France he published an article bragging about how easy it was to make money teaching English despite being French, and how easy it was to seduce/bang naive Korean virgins, tell them any kind of BS. A Korean guy in Paris sent a translation of it to all K newspapers, and a shitstorm broke out. We got new laws. I would guess that details on this could only be found in old K papers — the Times & Herald didn’t usually publish much scandal back then — just as today, they still cover much up…
More information was provided by Michael Breen in his introduction to ATEK's English teacher's guide to Korea:
I don’t know if this was the start, but I recall a howl or protest about 25 years ago after a Frenchman wrote an article in Le Monde, the French daily, describing how he had enjoyed life in Korea, drinking, seducing women and teaching language despite being completely unqualified. After this, people started looking askance at foreign teachers, and the authorities introduced regulations requiring them, some what unnecessarily as many were just conversation teachers, to have university degrees.
After reading this, I asked Tony Hellmann if he could ask Michael Breen if he knew anything more; he didn't, but suggesting searching the Chosun Ilbo's archives. I didn't realize at the time that pre-1990 archives were available online, but after a discussion with Benjamin Wagner, he found a Korean-language article referring to the Le Monde article, which led me to the closest university library, which has Le Monde on microfilm.

Jean-Pierre Doumeyrou then provided this translation.


Le Monde, August 12, 1984:
Making Won in Seoul

Some young French found in South Korea the opportunity to "make won" and earn a very decent living. There was a need for a good knowledge of English and, above all, their mother tongue. The Koreans are indeed fond of translations and lessons to develop their commercial relations with France.

Seoul. - Luc landed at Kimpo airport on a summer day in 1981 with a cheap cardboard suitcase as his baggage. After India, Thailand, the Philippines ... travels for nothing. He wanted to forget this crisis and the thirty-six poorly paid and depressing "small jobs" that led to nothing in France.

"I got there by chance. Truly at the end of my rope. I met a guy in Manila who told me about a Frenchman in Seoul who wanted to share an apartment. A Professor. He said it was possible to work . I still had a few dollars for a ticket. Now it's been two years. "

Luc hardly looks like a Young Turk. He blends in discreetly with his surroundings with his out-of-fashion suit, outdated tie and his 50 franc Made in Korea shoes . But he has a chance here: he is French and speaks with ease a high school level English. As a result, many doors have opened. To his dazzled eyes, they open the caverns of Ali Baba where dollars can be picked up with a shovel. But it would be hard to find here the Forty Thieves. Koreans pay on the nail.

Because Korea is to host the Olympic Games in 1988, and because it is after the African market, French became the second language taught after English, supplanting German and even Japanese. The general-president Chun Doo-hwan has registered his daughters in the French Language Department at Seoul National University. The Land of Morning Calm feels bulimia for our language. Some young Koreans choose the literature, but most, more pragmatic, usually study French 'in order to work in export' or to later study specialized fields in France: Design, architecture, fashion ... Alas! Korean Teachers have made of Rivarol’s idiom a somewhat unattractive 'wooden language'. Students know this and therefore prefer native French, so French lecturers have a bright future ahead of them.

By teaching his mother tongue, Luke needed only a few months to have a comfortable apartment. He goes twice a year on vacation. For one, he takes the grand tour of Southeast Asia in good hotels – revenge on the 'road' – and for the other he goes to France to 'see family' and spend his American 'green paper.'

"Here," he says, pleased, "I have the advantage of belonging to a small foreign community - less than three hundred people -thus much in demand. Unlike us, the Koreans do not want to throw out their immigrants. "

Pierre's Miracle:

Michel, too, had his share of tough times in France. Teaching in a northern village in France with a simple BEPC [Junior High Degree equivalent], his future seemed gloomy. In a few years of teaching, he had lost faith. "I could not stand to fight constantly with unruly students anymore,” he sighed. "There is no such problem here; students are motivated and the teacher still represents something ... "

At twenty-eight years, he seems much older. Small, rather unassuming, he lives with a couple of friends. Pierre, who is married, is a French teacher at the university of foreign languages, Wae Dae. He followed a path different from that of others. Tired of selling insurance in the country with his father, he came to Korea 'to try to see it' after a long holiday in Indonesia and Hong Kong. He dreamed thereafter of going to Japan and Canada.

"I was in Seoul for one week, when a Korean addressed me in the street. It was the director of the French service of Radio Korea. It happened just like in a film; he asked me if I spoke French. Yes. We met the next day, and he offered me on the spot a proofreading position and a very good salary."

This miracle happened four years ago. Since then, Pierre has married a woman from a very good Korean family he encountered in a chic club in the city. Michel has not had the chance to get a permanent contract in a university. He sells his French a la carte by juggling between Universities. He also records from time to time, at the Ministry of Defense, voice-overs of films to be presented to French-speaking military delegations. Some private corporations, such as Pohang and Lucky can pay almost 10 000 francs for thirty to sixty minutes of recording, provided that the intermediary wins a below-the-table equivalent. "At this price, we do not dare say anything. On the contrary, sometimes it happens that we are paid by others just 2,000 francs for the same job!" Not too shabby! *

This is the charm of an enterprising country where one can succeed by working. There is no question of earning a living dishonestly. The police are vigilant and it’s easy to end up in jail. But the young high school graduate or university drop-out stuck in an unsatisfying situation can find a job here. Yet must they pass through the "French lobby" of diplomats, business consultants and other key personage... Some appointments and smiles: French in Korea like to host [or receive] each other. The diplomats, certainly appreciated, do not play a decisive role. The country is expensive, tough, and foreigners have a tendency to help each other.

In less than a year, Luc was awarded two contracts in two different universities. Both nine hours per week. Both 9000 francs a month. More than six hours of 'little lessons' with him weekly at 150 francs each. His reputation as a teacher has snowballed. Thanks to the students and their parents, he found translation jobs for the ministry of sports, English-to-French, for 200 francs a page of a thousand letters. It is not uncommon for him to receive three hundred page jobs. Speaking like a Stakhanovite, he said with a smile he'd still like to teach at the French Alliance, but doesn’t really have the time!

All those who newly arrive do not have the same luck. But their drop-zone is the same: the Embassy, the Cultural Center and the French Alliance. Who to see? Who has power? First,the cultural adviser, the Education manager at the Cultural Center and the president of the Alliance. All three have well garnered address books and act as an interface between the newcomers and Koreans. Each year they award hundreds of hours of work per week in the universities, schools, banks, corporations in the francophone sector, in the same way that they have their connections in French radio and television broadcasts, lesson programs at the National Assembly and the French-language newspaper, Le Courrier de la Corée.

The more enterprising candidates do not hesitate, moreover, to market to themselves and place, for example, ads in major bookstores in Seoul, as soon as they have a fixed address and telephone number. They make themselves known in places that channel anyone interested in French in South Korea.

The most favorable time for newcomers is two weeks before the bulk dispatching de jobs by the cultural center (which this formulation would not delight**), and renewal of contracts by universities before the fall semester. Later in the year, a successful installation [in Korea to live and work] would require more time.

Korea still has a bad reputation - probably less deserved than before - which probably explains why it still has ‘niches’ available. All the French met in Korea say they want to 'move to Japan'. But few are so lucky. Though arrangements can be found with the Korean government, the Japanese are hunting systematically all those who try to move to Japan to work.

A foreigner is irreplaceable to teach his language. However, it is known in Japan that foreigners are not so necessary anymore, while Koreans, more modest, are more welcoming. French teachers in Seoul, waiting to 'make yen', 'make won'.

Pierre works from Monday afternoon to Friday morning and escapes every weekend with his wife to Tae-Chon beach or Mount Sorak, or to Fukuoka in Japan. A dream life. Yet they give themselves five more years in the land of the morning calm to earn enough to "have a business of their own on the French Riviera...". Michel explains: "It was nice to make lots of money, but Korea will always remain just a step [before eventually going somewhere else such as Japan]."

Marc Charuel

* Pardonnez du peu is a sarcastic idiomatic expression making fun of somebody who is complaining in a situation where he should be glad.

** Because dispatching and jobs were English words used in the article, going contrary to the French Cultural Center efforts, they would be angered to see them used in a Le Monde article.

Many thanks to Jean-Pierre Doumeyrou for his translation and comments. He also offers an interpretation of the picture:

"It is also to be noted that the cartoon accompanying the article might be a reference to Le Petit Prince (the way the character is drawn, the hair style and the face especially), which is exceptionally well done because the St Exupéry book is one of the first weapons of choice used in teaching French as a second language. This drawing is also to my eyes extremely decent and respectful of both French and Korean culture. You really have to be twisted to see anything wrong with it."

From Le Petit Prince

As it turns out, things were certainly found to be wrong with this Le Monde article. Within just over a month, the situation for foreign language teachers teaching in Korea went from "Koreans do not want to throw out their immigrants" to this, as David Mason relates:

I left back to America in the fall of 1983, the French scandal happened in 1984, and when I returned in early 1986 there were these new rules. No teaching at all on a tourist visa, and when a school or company sponsored your teaching visa they became your "owner" -- you couldn't have any other jobs unless they officially approved it. And if you stopped that job for any reason you just had to leave the country within five days, returning if you had another job that would sponsor your visa, or if not, not. Reentering on a tourist visa to find a new job, if you hadn't found one before your left, would be your only option. I remember some good quality longtime teachers who left in disgust and protest between 1985 and 1987, because they felt disrespected by all this.
As can be seen from the exaggerated way the 'French scandal' is remembered above, and as one can assume from the legal changes that quickly followed, the Le Monde article was blown out of proportion once the Korean media got a hold of it and called for changes to keep penniless, unqualified foreign vagabonds from coming and making larges sums through language teaching and going after their female students.

Doesn't sound familiar at all, does it?

I've found 25 Korean-language articles from that time with titles like "Korea is 'Ali Baba's Cave'", "The French Language Boom is Regretful - Seoul Should not be a Workplace for Parisians," "In Private Foreign Language Schools there are many 'Fraud Teachers,'" "'I Want to Strike it Rich in Seoul Too' - Continuous Job Inquiries by the French," "Ministry of Justice: Foreign Tutoring Ban" and "On TV Tonight: Vagabond Foreigner Attacked."

Of these 25 articles 7 are in the process of being translated. If anyone reading this would like to help with translations, that would be very helpful. Feel free to contact me at mattvanv at yahoo dot com. The way the media and government look at foreign language teachers today is not anything new, as the story these articles tell of the Korean media and government's first reaction to the "social problem that has recently come to light of the illegal employment of unqualified foreigners on temporary stays" will seem very familiar, but with one noticeable difference in the final chapter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Proposed revisions to the Immigration Control Law

A thoroughgoing revision of the Immigration Control Law has been proposed by a Democratic Party member, reports the Korea Times:
A bill has been proposed that would require immigration officers to submit a court-issued warrant before entering a building or house to search for undocumented immigrants. Rep. Lee Chun-seok of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) proposed a revision bill Monday that calls for overhauling the Immigration Control Law.

The Human Rights Commission has repeatedly recommended the government revise the law that permits immigration crackdowns with a warrant. The commission expressed concern that immigration officers tend to enter workplaces employing illegal foreigners without producing IDs and carry out raids without seeking permission, often inflicting physical injury.

Three people were killed and 24 were wounded during crackdowns between January 2005 and August 2009, according to the Ministry of Justice. Under the proposal, night raids would be banned, even if a warrant is issued. Instead, the bill calls for random questioning in accordance with the rules that apply to Korean nationals.

The bill also would remove a provision that bans political activities of foreigners, as Korea has already granted suffrage to them in certain elections. In May 2005, the government revised the Election Law to allow foreigners who have lived in Korea for more than three years to vote in local elections. Foreign absentee voters are already allowed to cast ballots by mail or at their embassies here.

The number of illegal aliens decreased to 181,331 in October, down from 210,596 during the same period a year ago, according to the Korean Immigration Service.

The bill also calls for excluding foreigners who have received a suspended sentence from a local court from deportation. In addition, if a suspected illegal alien challenges a deportation order, the government must complete the review of his or her right to stay here within 20 days. The bill also would require the immigration service to provide deportation orders and documents that explain the process to foreigners in their native languages.
Comprehensive indeed. Reining in some of the powers of immigration police strikes me as a good thing, seeing as they seem to have far fewer limits on their powers than other law enforcement officers. Does anyone know if tasers are used against Korean demonstrators by riot police or regular police? I know they've been used against migrant workers before, but don't know if they've been used on them exclusively. Removing the provision that bans political activities of foreigners is certainly interesting, and could certainly open up new avenues (and makes sense if some people are allowed to vote but could still technically be arrested while voting). Excluding foreigners who have received a suspended sentence from a local court from deportation also seems to make sense - if the court saw fit to give them no jail time, one imagines the crime would not be severe enough to warrant deportation... but then considering how many people who have committed sex crimes in the past have gotten off with only suspended sentences, perhaps that's not the best argument.

Also, if the "number of illegal aliens decreased to 181,331 in October, down from 210,596 during the same period a year ago," is this due to sustained crackdowns (last I heard, the immigration prisons can only hold 3000 or so people, so they'd have to be quickly deporting them to cause a decrease) or have they been slowing the number of people coming into Korea to work under the EPS, or have there been any amnesties allowing overstayers to leave without punishment? I'd be curious to know how many people have been deported this year to see its effect on the figure above.

Lastly, as good as this looks, it's being proposed by the opposition, so there's no guarantee this would pass in the GNP-controlled National Assembly.

(Hat tip to Tom Rainey-Smith)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cdn City to Colbert: 'Drink anti-freeze and die.'

This article about a letter (pdf) written in response to comments critical of Canada made by Stephen Colbert, was at the top of Yahoo Canada last week. Why, I'm not sure, seeing as the article was almost three weeks old at that point.
Cdn city puts Stephen Colbert "on notice," offers him position during Olympics

RICHMOND, B.C. - The city that will play host to long track speed skating during the 2010 Olympics is putting satirical talk show host Stephen Colbert on notice.

Colbert, who recently announced he's sponsoring the cash-strapped U.S. speed skating team during the upcoming Winter Games, has given Canadians a strict wag of the finger for denying the American squad ice time at the Olympic oval in Richmond, B.C.

Colbert has called Canucks "syrup-sucking Canadian iceholes" and has urged his "Colbert Report" viewers to send in letters demanding Canadians cease their icehole-ish behaviour.
The Ottawa Sun also mentions that Colbert "called for “Saskatchewhiners” to “unclench their frosty sphincters.”" Awesome. The first article continues:
City of Richmond spokesman Ted Townsend has sent a letter of his own to Colbert's studios in New York, offering the former "Daily Show" correspondent an olive branch.

"Dear Cousin," the letter begins.
"As a proud syrup sucker, I am saddened that you would cast aspersions on Canadians as part of your otherwise laudable quest to assist the cash-strapped American speed skating team.

"We have always welcomed our friends from south of the border with open arms (well, except in 1812). In fact, we've always fondly considered you as our American 'cousins' and politely tolerated you, even when you were in an imperialistic mood."
Townsend wrote in the letter that international skaters have never been barred from the Olympic oval, though they have been asked to follow rules to get on the ice.
"You might have noticed that us syrup-suckers are big on rules and regulating things; that's how we got universal public medicare," the letter reads.
The Sun adds:
“We just can’t stand the thought that someone would think we aren’t playing fair,” the letter reads. “So as the Canadian Iceholes who also happen to be the proprietor of the Richmond Olympic Oval, we are inviting you to find yourself some sled dogs and venture forth to our great frozen wasteland to be our guest at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in February.”
Okay, I'll give credit for playing on stereotypes of Canada as being permanently covered in snow. The first article continues:
But to show there are no hard feelings, Townsend, who calls himself "chief syrup sucker," has offered Colbert a position as ombudsman of treatment for American speed skaters during the 2010 Games.

The city has included a pink toque with the letter, which Townsend said could be part of Colbert's uniform during the Games.

"We hope you will take us up on this offer, dear cousin," Townsend letter reads.
"We suggest you start the training for your new position now. A good start would be to acclimatize yourself by drinking at least one litre (oops, sorry, make that a quart, I forgot that you Americans don't do metric) of radiator anti-freeze fluid per day."
So in other words, the title should read: "Cdn City to Colbert: 'Drink anti-freeze and die.'" Y'know, I think Rain's response to Colbert was more entertaining and dignified, in comparison to snide remarks about health care, the metric system (what a zinger that one was!) and the War of 1812. As someone who sat on a bus tour of Washington in high school and listened to classmates cheer when our (American) guide mentioned the burning of the White House during the War of 1812, I find it worth mentioning that it was the British who burned it - not Canadians.

At any rate, being interested in Korean nationalism as I am, it's interesting seeing this example of Canadian nationalism at work, especially since the different regions don't get along well and 'nationalism' in a negative sense most often exists at the provincial level - stirring up feelings of victimization due to the special treatment Quebec or Ontario receive is a favourite - the only negative thing unifying them all that can be used in the popular realm is thumbing their nose at the US* (in the same way that Korea does with the US and Japan - they know those countries won't actually threaten them back).

There have been different measures (in the publicly owned media) in the past to create a more positively oriented unity. When I was younger, National Film Board animation (such as this: 1,2 or this or especially this) or the Hinterland Who's Who (see here, though my favourite is here) used to play in the time after programs ended (long since replaced by advertising), and in the 1990s vignettes from Canadian history would play, though at that time I suppose Molson Canadian's "I-Am- Canadian" commercials were the most popular example. Yes, that's right - the most visible icons meant to induce Canadian patriotism at that time were beer commercials. With the latter in mind (and the fact that Molson has yet to produce a drinkable beer) it was with some amusement that I read about the Annexation Manifesto of 1849. As Britain moved towards free trade and ended preferential treatment of its colonies, and a free trade agreement between the future Canada and the US died in the US Senate, merchants in Montreal felt the only way to save their bottom lines was to join the U.S. Among the earliest signers of this manifesto? The Molson brothers.

Hey, it made me laugh.

*If you want to make fun of the U.S., this is how you do it (the penultimate statement inspired part of the title of this post).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Migrant workers submit petition to the NHRCK over HIV testing

This article is two weeks old - it seems the English media didn't report on it, and I could only find this Yonhap article (and reprints of it) in Korean (hat tip to Benjamin Wagner):
Activists protest S.Korea's HIV testing for foreign workers
By AFP - Tue Dec 1, 9:06 AM PST

SEOUL (AFP) - Activists Tuesday filed a petition with South Korea's human rights watchdog, seeking an end to mandatory HIV tests for some foreign workers.

A group representing HIV carriers, a migrants' trade union and three other rights groups said in their petition that the policy breaches the rights of migrant workers, according to the National Human Rights Commission which received the document.

Foreign applicants must prove they do not have HIV to qualify for work in the entertainment sector or low-skilled industries in South Korea. But local workers are not required to do so, Amnesty International says.

South Korea also requires HIV testing of would-be language teachers from overseas.

The Ministry of Labour obliges all low-skilled work applicants to submit physical examination results including HIV testing in their countries of origin. Upon arrival in South Korea, they are tested a second time for HIV and if positive are subject to deportation, Amnesty said in a report published in October.

Such practices are "in breach of the rights to human worth and dignity and rights to work" the five groups said in the petition filed to coincide with World AIDS Day. They said discrimination against foreigners on grounds of nationality, social status or illness was in breach of the constitution.

"According to South Korea's AIDS prevention law, a person's consent is required before testing for HIV. But foreign workers are made to receive health checks without being informed that they include a HIV test," Youn Gabriel, the head of Nanuri+, an HIV carriers' group, said.

"Even foreigners who have received work permits are deported from the country if they test positive for HIV," Youn was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency. More than 600 foreigners have been forced to leave since the late 1980s, he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has urged South Korea to remove emigration and immigration controls on foreigners with HIV, noting it is one of 12 countries in the world with such restrictions.
Notice the mention made of a 'migrants' trade union'. The name of this union is the Migrants' Trade Union (MTU), and their site is here. The Seoul High Court recognized their right to form a union in January 2007, but this decision was appealed by the government, and the case is pending. So this Korea Herald article from last week isn't quite correct:
A group of foreign nationals working in Korea has formed a labor union, the law firm representing them said Tuesday, in a first for the country, according to Yonhap news.

Five foreign lecturers working at an educational institute in Incheon, west of Seoul, received approval from local authorities on Nov. 24 to launch the union, according to the firm. Its members later increased to nine.
Actually, there was another attempt by foreign English teachers to unionize back in 2001 or 2002 which resulted in the presence of gangsters and riot police outside the hagwon, if I remember correctly. That story just popped into my head now - I'll see if I can track down more information.

As for the MTU, they posted this on their site:
Today, we got 'Concluding observations of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights' on S.Korea. [A]mong the recommendations,

20. The Committee is concerned that migrant workers are subject to exploitation, discrimination and unpaid wages.

The Committee recommends that the Employment Permit System that has already recognized migrant workers as workers entitled to Labour Law protection be further reviewed. The Committee recommends that particular attention be paid to the fact that the three month period stipulated for a change in job is highly insufficient. This is especially true in the current economic situation, in which migrant workers often have little choice but to accept jobs with unfavorable work conditions just to remain regular. The Committee further recommends that the State party uphold the High Court’s decision to grant legal status to the Migrants’ Trade Union. [Emphasis added]
The last sentence was certainly seen as good news by the MTU. It goes on to list other recommendations by the Committee, including the following:
23. The Committee is concerned that, notwithstanding the fact that the State party legislation penalizes trafficking not only for prostitution or sexual exploitation but for any profit purpose, a high number of women and children continue to be trafficked from, through and within the country for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labour, especially women workers originally arriving on an E6 visa (entertainment). The Committee is particularly concerned about the low number of prosecutions and convictions of traffickers. (Art. 10)

The Committee recommends that the State party intensify its efforts to combat trafficking in human beings, especially women and children, for any purpose, inter alia, by:

(a) strengthening monitoring of issuance of E6 visas
Well, they needn't worry about monitoring E6 visas. As noted here, when Immigration announced it was considering removing HIV tests from the E9 and E2 visa application process, it was announced that
"There will be no changes for E-6 visa applicants. We do not deal with non-professional workers as the Labor Ministry is responsible for AIDS tests on E-9 visa applicants," Ahn Kyu-seok, the KIS spokesman told the Korea Times.
It's hard to see such a quick dismissal of changes for E-6 visa applicants regarding HIV testing as anything but an acknowledgment that the E-6 visa is being used for sex work.

It's good to see migrant workers challenging HIV testing as being discriminatory. What would be even more interesting would be seeing E-6 visa holders doing the same thing, as it might shine a light on the open secret of that visa's use in importing foreign sex workers.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The 12.12 Coup 30 years later

Today is the 30th anniversary of the 12.12 Coup in which Chun Doo-hwan (and colleagues such as Roh Tae-woo) took control of the military and began maneuvering towards the presidency - a path which led the following May to increasing the level of martial law, closing the national assembly and universities, the arrest of dissidents and politicians, and the Kwangju Uprising.

In the wake of the assassination of Park Chung-hee, figurehead vice president Choi Gyu-hwa was made president, General Jeong Seung-hwa (Chung Sung-hwa) was put in charge of martial law command, and Chun Doo-hwan was put in charge of the investigation into the assassination. A closer look at the coup and the events leading up to it can be found here. The photos, including one of soldiers in front of Gwanghwamun (above) and Jeong Seung-hwa (who was arrested during the coup, below) are from here. From that article, it seems there will be nothing new learned from those involved who are still alive. It mentions that Jeong died in June 2002, but that former presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo are mostly in good health (other than both having prostate operations and Roh being hospitalized for Pneumonia last year).

Gen. Jeong Seung-hwa after his arrest.

It's hard to believe that it was only 30 years ago that this happened.

Friday, December 11, 2009

CBC radio reports on Anti-English Spectrum

CBC Radio's The Current had a report today about Anti-English Spectrum. This follows on the heels of the National Post reporting on them last week (hat tip to Brian). The report featured interviews with ATEK's Dann Gaymer, as well as Andrea Vandom and Benjamin Wagner, and also had a statement from the Korean Embassy and a comment from a Canadian teacher busted for pot (whose story I'd be curious to hear more about). It was nice to hear the Korean Embassy say that most foreign teachers behave in Korea and have a good experience; it'd be nice to hear people in similar positions in Korea say such things about foreign English teachers behaving, however.

I'll have to give it another listen before I make any more comments. It's nice to see AES getting some negative attention, considering how I've been doing my best to shine a spotlight on their negative aspects (such as here and here).

A description of the show (and the ability to listen to it) is here, while an mp3 of the report can be downloaded from here (right click and 'save as' - keep in mind the link will die within a few months).

(Just in case, the podcast page is here.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

R.L. Dunn article about Jack London in Korea

I've written about the exploits of the three foreign correspondents who made it into Korea at the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War in these posts:

Part 1: From Japan to Korea
Part 2: In Seoul and Chemulpo
Part 3: Along the coast of Korea

I'll return to this eventually, but I recently discovered the existence of a useful article (via a footnote in a collection of Jack London's letters) and found out that the newspaper it appeared in - the San Francisco Examiner - could be found at the San Francisco Public Library. I emailed them to ask if they would photocopy it for a fee. Instead, the Magazines and Newspapers Center emailed me a pdf of the article, so a big thanks to them for doing that. Here's the article, from June 26, 1904.

Jack London knows not fear

R.L. Dunn, Commissioner to the Japanese War for “Collier’s Weekly,” Eulogizes the Daring of the Great Novelist.

He arrived in Korea with Frozen hands, ears, and feet, but physical ailments could not keep him from the front

By R.L. Dunn
Special Commissioner to the War in the Orient from “Collier’s Weekly.”

“I want to say that Jack London is one of the grittiest men that it has been my good fortune to meet. He is just as heroic as any of the characters in his novels. He is a man who will stay with you through thick and thin. He doesn’t know the meaning of fear and is willing to risk his life in the performance of his duty.

“I got to Korea one month before London. Immediately after my arrival at Chemulpo the port was closed. London knew that. So did the other correspondents who were at that time in Japan. They evidently decided that it would be useless to try to get into Chemulpo. London had another idea. He came over to Korea in a junk. From Fusan, where he landed, he came to Chemulpo in a sampan. A sampan is an open boat, big enough to carry three men. It is very similar to our rowboats. It took him seven days to make the trip from Fusan to Chemulpo.

“The weather during this trip was at the zero mark. When London arrived in Chemulpo I did not recognize him. He was a physical wreck. His ears were frozen; his fingers were frozen; his feet were frozen. He said that he didn’t mind his condition so long as he got to the front. He said his physical collapse counted for nothing. He had been sent to the front to do newspaper work and he wanted to do it.

“London was absolutely down and out, to use the slang expression. He had to undergo medical treatment for several days. As soon as he was able to move about he and I started for the front. The Japanese troops monopolized the regular roads. We had to make our way through the ice-crusted rice fields.

“Korea is a very mountainous country and traveling under the best conditions in winter is a tragedy. We had to beat the soldiers to a village in order to get a place to sleep. A village containing six houses would be utilized by a regiment of infantry.

“If we got to the village first we held a room against the soldiers. If they got there first we had no place to sleep.

“Our entire stay in Korea was a succession of hardships that is almost impossible for anyone who has not visited that country during the winter to realize. We were held at Ping Yang by the Japanese Consul for a week. Our forced stay at Ping Yang was the result of a complaint lodged with the Japanese Government by the correspondents in Tokio who did not have the grit or the enterprise to get anywhere near the field of action. Finally we reached Sunan, one of the most northern towns of Korea. There we were put in a military prison for four days. Then they sent us back to Seoul.”

Monday, December 07, 2009

Calls for improved sex eduation... again

The Joongang Ilbo takes a lengthy look at the perceived need for improved sex education in the wake of the Na-yeong incident. An excerpt:
At the very least, it’s clear that there is a severe lack of sex education in the educational system across Korea. In fact, sex education here more or less remains stuck in the 1980s, as students often receive just an overview of the subject through simple cartoons that rely heavily on metaphors.

“All I remember about sex education is a videotape that showed a swarm of bees carrying pollen. That’s the only sex education I got from school,” recalled 35-year-old Choi Yu-jeong, a graphic designer living in northern Seoul, who attended middle school here in the late 1980s.

Fast forward to 2009, and things aren’t much different despite rapid changes in almost every other aspect of society.

Videos that teach through metaphors are still used by health teachers, and many students find them boring and useless. According to a survey conducted by the Aha Sexuality Education and Counseling Center for Youth in 2007, 43.8 percent of teenagers said the sex education they received from schools was neither helpful nor practical.

At the same time, the country is grappling with a high level of abortions and an increase in sexual crimes against and among youth. The number of abortions totaled 350,000 in 2005, according to the latest government figures, which is much higher than many other countries, experts say. Additionally, the National Police Agency said in July that sexual violence committed by teenagers jumped from 1,165 incidents in 2003 to a whopping 2,717 in 2008.
'Related agencies' are passing the buck, however:
“It’s the schools’ role to allocate their budgets and decide whether they will have sex education programs,” said Cho Myeong-yeon, an official with the student health team of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

Earlier this year, the ministry issued new guidelines that suggest schools nationwide provide at least 17 hours of health classes each year. The courses, it says, should deal with seven different subjects including diseases, personal hygiene and sex education.

Some observers applaud the move, but they say it’s simply a start - not a solution.

“It’s a great achievement, primarily because we had no guidelines in the past,” said Kim Hye-sun, a chairperson at the Seoul Health Teachers Association and a health teacher at Samjeong Elementary School in Banghwa-dong, Gangseo District, western Seoul. “But we have to teach seven different subjects within 17 hours, and that isn’t enough to continuously educate children on diverse aspects of sex in organized ways.”
I've taught students from that school (hey, how often do you see Banghwa-dong in an English language newspaper?). Mind you, kids there might be better off being taught traffic safety; two students have died after being hit by cars in the last two years.

A two-year-old Joongang Ilbo article also looked at the same topic. As I pointed out here, one of the incidents that set off a debate about the need for improved sex education was this incident:
The shocking news of a middle school girl who became pregnant after she was raped on her way home from school and went into labor in the classroom last month had pushed the Health and Welfare Ministry to promote better sex education in schools. Afraid that she might be expelled from school, the young girl had kept her condition a secret from her teachers, parents and school mates. She was taking her final exams on June 27 when her water broke and she gave birth to a boy upon being rushed to the hospital.

Wearing an obstetrical binder when she began getting big, the middle school girl hid her pregnancy from her teachers and friends at school. According to her homeroom teacher, because she was always a quiet child, no one thought anything was amiss. And since her working parents spent little time at home, they too did not notice anything was wrong, she added.
That's from a July 8, 1996 Korea Times article. Needless to say, I'm skeptical that much will come out of this current call for change, though I'd love to be proven wrong.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Planning to tour the Blue House?

Here's the English page about tours to the Blue House (Cheongwadae) on its website; note the pop-up:

CheongWaDae Tour is temporarily closed

Following the World Health Organization's decision to raise alert level about the spread of Swine Flu (also known as H1N1),

CheongWaDae Tour is temporarily closed

South Korea has been relatively safe from the pandemic but infections are worried to accelerate as people getting together like group tour.

Sorry for this inconvenience

Compare that to what can be found on the Korean-language site:

Guide to Matters of Attention Regarding Tours Due to the Spread of the H1N1 Flu

Due to the spread of the H1N1 Flu, starting September 1, anyone under the age of 18 (including infants and preschool children) and foreigners will be temporarily excluded from tours.

As the alert levels of the H1N1 Flu have elevated to "serious" levels, we request anybody who displays one or more of the following symptoms* to refrain from participating in tours, and in order to prevent the spread of infections we request people to wear masks during tours. *Symptoms to heed: high fever, runny nose, stuffed nose, sore throat, coughing, etc.

As this measure is to ensure the safety of tour participants and to prevent the spread of the H1N1 Flu, we request your understanding.

This was sent to me by Benjamin Wagner, who said "a student happened to mention that a Chinese classmate wasn't allowed to go on the school tour to the Blue House because foreigners were excluded. We got curious and decided to call up 청와대 to find out what the policy might be. A friendly woman in charge of 청와대 관람 (viewing [tours]) told us that anyone under 18 years of age and foreigners were temporarily excluded from all tours at this time. They are not sure until when this will continue, but they will put up a notice about any changes on their website."

I'd imagine the source of the majority of H1N1 infections in Korea is now other Koreans, not foreigners, but then that has been the case for HIV infections for over a decade and people still see AIDS as being a foreign disease. On the other hand, what president would want people like this walking around his house?

That's not to say the Blue House shouldn't be careful, but you'd think their precautions would also extend to Korean adults.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Modern girls and boys

[Update: I suppose one of the quintessential modern girls would have been Choi Seung-hui.]

In my post on Sweet Dream, I mentioned the concept of the 'modern girl' of the 1930s and compared it to the concept of the 'doenjang nyeo' of this decade. I found another photo of the modern girl which makes quite clear the issues that the cartoonist had with them:

From the Chosun Ilbo, Jan 20, 1932

What I found interesting was this cartoon about the 'modern boy':

From the Chosun Ilbo, Nov. 29, 1930

It would appear the 'metrosexual' trend in Korea is not a particularly new one, if this cartoon is to be believed.

Korea to the world

In February 1963, American 'Mountain Poet' Jesse Stuart visited Korea as part of a tour of Asia in which he held lectures and taught creative writing. His advice to Koreans was printed in the Korea Journal (click to enlarge):

It seems his advice was taken. Maybe a little too much, as this video promoting the 10th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific reveals, where they do actually mention AIDS for ten or fifteen seconds in what is otherwise an extended tourism advertisement.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

SMOE's annual HIV retest requirement

Benjamin Wagner has an article in the Korea Herald about the retesting of all foreign SMOE employees for HIV and drugs when renewing contracts.
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has decided to retest all of its 1,120 foreign English teachers for AIDS and drugs -- regardless of visa type -- and plans to continue retesting them on a yearly basis. Other provincial education offices are instituting similar plans.

There are 59 countries that have some form of HIV-related restrictions, but with this new retesting scheme Korea has become one of only six countries with the most restrictive forms in place.[...]

The Korea Immigration Service has explained that they will not be requiring E-2 visa holders to provide additional AIDS and drug test results when renewing visas with current employers.

"Please note that in this case," the KIS announced in July, "if you have already submitted relevant documents, then you do not need to submit them (again) when you extend your sojourn period." The SMOE, however, has told teachers that the "HIV and drug test" is "a yearly requirement" and further warned that the test results are "an inspectable item at our office by the Korean government auditors and failure to it turn it in will have an impact on your employment with SMOE."
Read the rest of the article here.

Making out in Korean English @koreangov

I discovered the blog @koreangov via Roboseyo yesterday, and if you haven't read it, it's well worth your time. Imagine consistently funny satirical "government press releases" in the kind of English that obviously hasn't been checked by a native speaking editor.

I wonder what the earliest publication of such writing would be. Jack London included a note written in broken English from his Japanese interpreter, K. Yamada, in a letter home to his future wife in 1904:
For you don't returned returned within long time there happened trouble yesterday that I has been arrested to Japanese gendarme as reporting military secret to you and after 10 hours examined several questions, I could come back to my boarding house. Received telegram and I shall do your order.[...] If you don't come back I can't help plenty troubles.
London makes no comment on the style, however, only using it to illustrate his many woes. As for official communication, I imagine, with so many foreign 'advisors,' during the late Joseon and Daehan Empire eras, that there was better proofreading done than these days, but I'm not really sure. If anyone's interested in how things were done in 1959, this description of the water clock at Deoksugung might be of interest. In the essay looking at the history of expat publications in Korea that opens Scott Burgeson's book Korea Bug, he notes that Peace Corps newsletters, particularly The Noodle, also used to poke fun at such language, such as in fake letters to the newsletter asking for English lessons, along the lines of 'I want to intercourse with you.' (I don't have the book with me at the moment - if someone wants to send or post one of those letters in the comments, please do.) (And speaking of Scott, there's a lengthy interview with him in the Korea Herald here.)

That there were interesting things to be found in the Korea Times back in the day (when it seemed to have a better reputation that it does these days) is also obvious in Korea Bug, with its mentions of Gary Rector's columns and an inclusion of an article by Ken Kaliher that appeared in the "Thoughts of the Times" section in 1976 about his memories of Nakchi Kolmok', the street that used to mirror the almost disappeared Pimatgol, running parallel to Jongno on its south side. Actually, related to tortured English, in his interview, Kaliher takes issue with "written English - Korean organizations pour millions of won into slick publications, but won't spend the extra thousands to have competent native speaker check the English. So yes, they have a fancy English publication to show off, but it's full of stupid mistakes. All those students who love to learn English idioms should be teaching their parents about 'penny wise and pound foolish.'"

More evidence about interesting things to be found in the Korea Times in times past can be found in James Wade's book One Man's Korea (Hollym, 1967), which I recently bought online. It collects Wade's articles from the Korea Times (under his own name and various pseudonyms like "Alf Racketts" and "Arthur Journeyman"), Korea Journal, and other publications. Wade first served in Korea with the U.S. Army in 1954 and returned in 1960, working as a musician, writer, and columnist. The book includes KT columns, fiction about Korea (including a series of stories published in the Times poking fun at the foreign community), travel articles and articles about Korean musicians. The "Scouting the City" columns by Alf Racketts read like mid-1960s blog posts, ripping on Nelson Algren or Male magazine for their takes on Korea (and its prostitutes), tearing down other well-known authors, describing trips to kisaeng houses or rainy days at Haeundae, and complaining about Korea's Christians. A later Korea Journal review is here, though perhaps the titles of this and this (not by Wade) should have been proofread. Here's a piece somewhat related to the topic at hand (the first of many I imagine I'll post):
Getting Down to Earth

I have in my private library (very private, alongside certain translations Chinese novels and outpourings of Parisian high spirits) a little pamphlet I picked up for a few cents in the market at Pusan in 1954. The title of this pamphlet is "American Slang," and it is mostly in Korean, since it is a manual for study by Koreans who wish to acquire language proficiency in order to get jobs with American agencies, specifically Army units. However, the words that are defined and discussed by the Korean philologist appear in English as well as Hangul transliteration, so I know what the subject matter is.

I should like to quote from this manual, but I know that if I do so in such a way as to give an accurate idea as to its flavor, even my very tolerant editor will suppress this article. (He has told me that he sometimes receives complaints even now about the nature of some of the material appearing in this 'family-type' publication.)

Suffice to say that among learned dissertations on the usage of "Habba Habba" (Obs.?) and "I wanna see a man about a dog" (Archaic?), there is a preponderance of material dealing with sexual intercourse and/or personal abuse in those ageless Anglo-Saxon terms which anyone who has ever been associated with the U.S. Army, however reluctantly, will instantly and perhaps squeamishly recognize.

Now this seems to me an aspect of cultural interchange that has heretofore been shamefully one-sided. How many times has your housemaid or driver come out with something approximately English in mixed company that produces snickers or blushes due to its Rabelaisian frankness? How many times have cultivated and high-minded Koreans (provided any of these trust you enough) asked you in private whether certain English words or phrases ought to be used openly or not? Obviously the Koreans are trying to find out the score. But are we Americans?

It is not enough, in the view of this rich English rhetoric of my little pamphlet, for Americans to be able to call someone a "stone-head" in Korean. They can't fool us; they must have some riper epithets in their vocabularies than this. But how are we to learn them? No enterprising publisher, to my knowledge, has put together a comparably rich pamphlet of "Korean Slang."

This is a project which I recommend to UNESCO, the USIS, and especially the Army information program, on the principle that, until we have it, our effectiveness as representatives of western culture is severely handicapped. (-1964)
Moving past the obvious differences in the terms on which foreigners meet Koreans these days (not just your driver or housemaid anymore), and the fact that Korean films can teach a lot of the 'riper' slang these days, there is a book I can think of that has such Korean slang: Making Out in Korean. Of course, that book hasn't always been so popular here (it also appeared in some of the earliest posts at Anti-English Spectrum in 2005).

Question: Would this kind of writing in Japan be similar? I'd imagine so, seeing as Korean and Japanese are grammatically similar, and the example above might suggest similarity. Another question would revolve around the origins of the terms 'Japlish' and 'Konglish.'

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Pearl S. Buck Foundation, Sosa, and "half-castes"

[Update] Below I asked for suggestions as to how the title of the book “My Forsaken Star” might be translated. Commenter notlearningcantonese went one step further and gave me a link with lots of information. Thanks for that! 내별은어느하늘에 : 白人混血兒洋公主의手記 [백인 혼혈아 양공주의 수기]/ Nae pyŏl ŭn ŏnŭ hanŭl e : Paegin honhyŏra yanggongju ŭi sugi Author: 朴玉順. 에니朴(朴玉順)著. ; Ok-sun Pak, Annie Park Publisher: 王子出版社, Sŏul : Wangja Chʻulpʻansa, 1965. Description: 258 p. : illus., port. ; 19 cm. Therefore, “My Forsaken Star” comes from "My star in which sky: Notes of a young white mixed-blood prostitute [yanggongju]." 

 [Original Post]

Over at the Marmot's Hole, Robert linked to this Chosun Ilbo editorial which looks at Bucheon’s dispute with the Pearl S. Buck Foundation. That foundation was established in 1965 in what was then the town of Sosa (pictures of it in those days can be found here). Here's a rather interesting December 10, 1965 Time Magazine article from that time which mentions not only the foundation of the Foundation, but interest in Korean Society about "the problem of illegitimate half-castes," four decades before Hines Ward.
At six, she followed her Korean mother to a ramshackle bar and discovered that her mother was for sale to U.S. servicemen. On the way home, alone, the little girl had an even more traumatic experience: a man lured her into an alley and assaulted her. At eight, she learned why classmates jeered "half-caste!" at her: her father had been a white G.I. At 16, she was a full-fledged prostitute working among American soldiers who liked her slim Occidental legs and ample breasts. Now, at 19, after six abortions and uncounted liaisons with every variety of G.I., Annie Park is the most-talked-about girl in South Korea. With the help of a ghostwriter, she has published a bestselling autobiography that at last forces Koreans to think about something they would rather forget—the problem of illegitimate half-castes. There are an estimated 20,000 half-caste children in Korea; 500 to 600 more are born each year. Sadly, even in their homeland, they are displaced persons from birth. Under the Confucian concept of tightly knit families, Korea's half-castes are considered outcasts. And the mixed-blood children remind many Koreans of the shame of widespread prostitution and of the subservient role Koreans have often had to play to the bigger and richer G.I.'s. My Forsaken Star has been serialized in newspapers. Work began last week on a movie based on the book, and a television series is planned. But Koreans seem to savor the book more for its lurid details of commercial love than for the insights it gives into the plight of half-castes. Some U.S. welfare groups have actually come to grips with the half-caste problem. In the past ten years, 5,670 mixed-blood children have been adopted by families in the U.S. through such groups as the Holt Adoption Program, the National Catholic Welfare Conference and the Child Placement Service. But the vast majority of these children are the offspring of white G.I.s. Finding foster parents for Negro-fathered children is much harder. With that in mind, the Pearl S. Buck Foundation began operating in Korea just last month. Its initial hopes are modest: to provide funds directly to mothers of Negro-Korean children so that the little lost half-castes will have at least some chance of growing up with enough food to eat in homes of their own.
Does anyone care to suggest a translation of “My Forsaken Star”? If it could be tracked down, it might make for interesting reading. It's too bad Naver’s newspaper search only goes back to 1970.

Another rather interesting Time article from 1969 looks at the darker side of the Pearl S. Buck foundation. It describes the muckracking activities of Philadelphia Magazine, and its

willingness to take on just about anyone—even so unlikely a figure as Pearl Buck. There she was, some days ago, a silver-haired, 77-year-old Nobel-and Pulitzer-prize winning author, meeting the press to try to cover up for a colleague. He had been accused, in Philadelphia's pages, of mishandling charitable funds and making homosexual advances to the Korean boys he was supposed to be helping. "A bunch of downright lies," said Miss Buck gamely, but Theodore Findley Harris, 38, had already resigned as president and executive director of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation.

The foundation was set up in 1964 to help Amerasian children in Korea, where youngsters fathered by U.S. soldiers are spat upon for their half-caste status. In April of this year, Philadelphia's Reporter-Writer Greg Walter listened to tapes a local radio station had made (but had never used) in which four Korean boys described unwilling homosexual contact with Harris. He then began digging. He traveled across the U.S., talking to former and current foundation employees, to board members and benefactors, to the young men on the tapes, to Miss Buck herself. Harris repeatedly refused to see him. As Walter tells it, Harris was a dancing instructor who, in 1963, wanted to be just a gigolo and began ingratiating himself into the comfortable Bucks County life of Pearl Buck. He fawned, she loved it; together they wrote a mawkish book (For Spacious Skies) about finding one another. A year later, she made him president of the new foundation. [...]

But there still was no effective machinery in Korea. Harris eventually got around to appointing an overseer there; he was the first in a long line of "permanent representatives," all of whom, says Walter, have complained about the lack of money and direction from Delancey Place. But there has always been money to spruce things up just before Miss Buck arrives. Once, at the foundation's center at Sosa, Korea, $5,000 went into hurry-up redecorations, although there apparently was not enough to put up a fence around a small pond on the property. One evening during the Statesiders' visit, the body of a four-year-old was found floating in it. Harris periodically brought Amerasians to the U.S. under various foundation study programs. There was difficulty in getting one, Bob Park, out of Korea because he was of draft age. But Harris found him so attractive that he had Miss Buck pull strings. Park, now a student at the University of Arizona, remembers: "One night on the way to America he asked me about my father and I began to cry; he kissed me on the neck. When I would go to bed he would hold me in his arms. I did not like, but I thought this is the way American father treat his son." Recently, Park and some of the other boys complained about Harris' conduct, and the foundation responded—by withdrawing its support of Park and two others. [...] Walter... once attended a writers' workshop run by Miss Buck. For his recent article he interviewed her twice. The first session was easygoing and pleasant, but then Walter began to probe. "She told me I was vile. She said she was ashamed of me, that I had been her favorite pupil, but that now she was terribly disappointed in me."

Younghill Kang (who I've mentioned before), the first Korean American (or, as the title of his second book put it, “Oriental Yankee”) writer, received a lot of praise for his first book The Grass Roof, but, as this article puts it:
He is said to have commented that it was his great misfortune that Pearl Buck’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel about China, The Good Earth, was published in the same year as The Grass Roof.
More articles mentioning the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, or mixed race children, are listed below: Foundation celebrates memorial hall opening (this has a bit of background) Beneath the shadow of prejudice (a good article, but the link is broken). Smile that challenged ‘one blood’ ‘Hines mania’ leaves bitter taste in mouths of biracial Koreans (this has lots of statistics) Ward now proud of his heritage Heartwarming or cautionary, Ward’s story resonates here