Saturday, October 31, 2009

Club bust and AES update

Yonhap reports that there was a drug bust on Thursday which uncovered 53 drugs users who had attended drug parties in clubs and at a Gapyeong resort.

Twelve people were arrested were arrested for smuggling ecstasy from China and other drug offences included Gangnam club owner Mr. Kim and Itaewon club DJ Mr. An, while 41 were booked without detention. The drugs involved included ecstasy, meth, and pot. The drug taking took place in clubs in Gangnam, Itaewon, Hondae, and Gapyeong resort. Most parties involved 2-300 people, but one in Gapyeong had 4-500 people attending. Most of the people involved were affluent types from Gangnam, employees of places of entertainment (like clubs) and foreign students. Police found out about a party in Itaewon in August and after three months of undercover work made the arrests. They expect the investigation to expand.

While this has nothing to with English teachers, at Anti-English Spectrum, the cafe's manager (엠투) offers several comments on the story, the first being:
Wooshi (Damn)... I hope that they don't overlap with the people that we are trying to track down... ㅠㅠ
The second comment reads:
Right now our group is really in a mess... trying to track down drug-using teachers. It makes me sigh that this good news will just make the suspects [that we are searching for] hide further underground...
But it is still good news.
In another post the AES leader reports he is very tired and very busy tracking foreigners. Yesterday he went to Yangju, Gyeonggi-do, to stakeout a foreign teacher and then to Yangcheon-gu, where another member followed the teacher they suspect of smoking and selling in a taxi to Mok-dong and to a club with lots of foreigners.

Yes indeed, these people really have no lives.

[Hat tip to Benjamin Wagner]

The source of the Kaneko-Park photo

The photo above was posted a few years ago at the Marmot's Hole when Robert wrote about the location of Japanese anarchist and nihilist Kaneko Fumiko's grave in Mungyeong. The photo of her with her husband (their marriage was registered in prison), Korean anarchist Park Yeol drew attention in the comments to that post to how affectionate the pose is (circa 1925), and this posting by Brother Anthony noted that it was taken while they were in Prison. I looked more closely at their case here. One thing I didn't know was that it was apparently Uiyeoldan - a group that would have been called a 'terrorist' group back then - that Park Yeol was hoping to get a bomb (or bomb making materials) from.

Kaneko Fumiko (from here)

I've been reading Treacherous women of imperial Japan: patriarchal fictions, patricidal fantasies by Hélène Bowen Raddeker, or at least what is available of it at Google Books ($195 is a bit steep for me). The book looks at the experiences of Japanese anarchists Kanno Suga - executed in 1911 in a case of 'judicial murder' - and Kaneko Fumiko and their collisions with state power, and reveals something quite interesting:

It's fascinating the freedom they were given while in prison and on trial for plotting to kill the emperor (though it's pointed out Kaneko may have had nothing to do with it, but accepted responsibility anyway). What's also interesting is that it was this judge who asked her to write an autobiography/confession, and who eventually passed it on to her lawyer (also an activist), and thus it's partly because of him we know so much about her. Her confession is available in English. Apparently Park wrote one as well, but it's not available in English, and I'm not even sure if it's available in Korean. Raddeker's book delves into a great deal of material beyond the confession, including her letters and court documents. Park and Fumiko were found guilty and sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life in prison by Imperial pardon. Kaneko responded by tearing up the pardon and saying:
You toy with people’s lives, killing or allowing to live as it suits you. What is this special pardon? Am I to be disposed of according to your whims?
In prison, authorities made sure to watch her so that she didn't commit suicide, because, essentially, the Emperor had ordered that she must live. Strangely enough, the work the women were to do in prison was weave hemp into rope. She refused at first, but one day asked to do the work.
She worked hard that day, and the next morning the guard on duty looked in on her at 6:30 to find her diligently twisting the rope; yet when she was checked some ten minutes later, she was found hanging limply from the same rope now attached to bars at the window. [...] [The doctor’s] report expressed amazement at the ‘determined, carefully premeditated, and calm manner of suicide.'
Reading one of the poems she wrote in prison, her course of action doesn't seem surprising:

One's limbs
may not be free
and yet—
if one has but the will to die,
death is freedom.

One wonders about the urge for martyrdom that drove patriotic assassins like Ahn Jung-geun or Yun Bong-gil to their actions - which they must have clearly known would result in their executions. What's interesting about Kaneko is that it appears she was only vaguely involved in the plan to import explosives but chose to implicate herself. Some have tried to suggest that she had a 'death wish' or that she wanted to be with her lover; she told him "I'll never let you die alone" but only he walked out of jail in 1945 (and 'went north' during the North Korean invasion in 1950, apparently dying in 1974). She was 23 when she committed suicide, and while my knee jerk reaction is to consider her suicide tragic, consider what she wrote to the judge:
So I say to you: ‘It’s a joke to admonish a person who doesn’t want to live to want to live. It’s a real joke to turn a person not content with life and tell him his life is very happy.’

For me life has no value. Value comes through a person’s having joy in life. Everything about humans is individual, but nothing is more coloured by individuality than the issue of life and death.
In the end, who am I to judge the final act of someone who had such a strong belief in the power she alone had over her life and death?

Friday, October 30, 2009

My multicultural society does not include foreign English teachers!

A reader linked to an article titled "SNUE Takes Lead in Quest for Multicultural Society."
With the growing number of interracial families in Korea, schools need more teachers who are well-trained in taking care of multicultural children, educationalists say. Changing the education environment for a multicultural society needs to start from elementary schools, they add.

Seoul National University of Education (SNUE), a higher education institute that specializes in fostering primary school teachers, has taken the lead in creating various programs to deal with the surge of mixed children into elementary schools.

Song Kwang-yong, president of the university, explained the school's "Triangle Partnership" program, which centers on setting up a successful multicultural education environment at primary schools.

"Interracial children are rapidly increasing and elementary schools are the first to be affected by this trend. Our university should be the first to change, and our school is the first to introduce multicultural education programs among Korean universities," Song said in an interview with The Korea Times at his office last Thursday.[...]

Under the programs, teachers receive orientation on how to take better care of children from interracial households, and bilingual teachers are being taught how to efficiently communicate with children from immigrants.[...]

According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the number of children from multicultural families in Korea has more than tripled over the past three years up to 18,778 last year from 6,121 in 2005.

Many of the children have difficulties adapting to schools while around 15 percent of them stop attending schools and instead opt to give up their studies. With this problematic situation, the ministry has allotted about 5.8 billion won ($4.6 million) to the project this year.
It's nice to see the president of what is considered to be Korea's best teacher's university planning for the future and preparing for the challenges that mixed race children will face. Mind you, it seems foreign children don't seem to get the consideration mixed-race Korean children do:
According to the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, 1,402 of 17,000 children of migrant workers attend school – 981 in elementary, 314 in middle, and 107 in high school. This means that most of the children are being left uneducated.
As the Korea Times continues,
Song also stressed that Korean teachers should replace native English-speaking teachers as soon as possible. "Currently, only 20.5 percent of native English speaking teachers (at schools) have teaching licenses (according to data from the Education Ministry, November 2008), so it is urgent for us to foster teachers who have excellent English proficiency," Song said.

"The native speakers are not qualified and are often involved in sexual harassment and drugs."
Before reacting to this, it's worth considering a few things. In September of last year, Song was also quoted in an article titled "The role of universities is important for regional development," saying that he was thankful for the help provided by native speaking teachers employed in Seoul schools but that Korea couldn’t rely only on native speaking teachers. He also said that it would be more efficient to invest in SNUE’s teacher training than in bringing in native speaking teachers. There's no mention of unqualified teachers and their sexual harassment and drug use.

Most importantly, it should be noted that the article was written by Kang Shin-who. I've written about him before, looking at how he repeatedly made incorrect assertions that managed to drive a wedge between E and F visa holders. I also mentioned these two cases:
It may be worth noting that Brian in Jeollanam-do has reported that statements attributed to Park Nahm-sheik in an article by Kang from April ["Some English speakers don't have much affection toward our children because they came here to earn money and they often cause problems''] were said to have been mistranslated or taken out of context, according to people close to Park. I wasn't surprised when I read Brian's post, as I had not had any luck finding his statements in Korean.

Another article by Kang from March this year has the supervisor of the Incheon education office, Koo Young-sun, on record saying that, "Many foreign teachers lack teaching methodology and some of them are not ethically qualified to treat children." A Yonhap article on the same topic (in Korean) has no mention of these controversial statements from the supervisor.
He also took a press release by ATEK about the election of their new president and turned it into a platform for Anti-English Spectrum. Another more creative look at his body of work is here.

I don't know if ATEK or anyone else feels like taking it up, but I think it would be worth checking with SNUE president Song's office to see if he actually said these things. If he did, he should be criticized for it, and if he didn't then Kang Shin-who should be made accountable for it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Well, at least the Korea Times has a sense of humour

In the Times the other day, Justice Minister Lee Kwi-nam wrote a message describing how Korea was going to enforce a "consistent and intensified" crackdown on and deportation of as many illegal immigrants as possible and described a plan to fingerprint and photograph all foreigners coming into the country. The name of the article?

Minister Committed to Open Society for Foreigners


We're also told that
today Korea has become one of the most quintessential immigrant nations with a large immigrant population. The number of immigrants in Korea has exceeded 1.15 million, accounting for 2.3 percent of the entire population.
Actually, this number includes tourists and short term stayers (B and C visas), who aren't really immigrants. Last year the number of residents was calculated by immigration to be 854,007.

This was interesting:
On the other hand, since 2002, the number of people who have lost or renounced their nationality has increased to approximately 1.8 million, far surpassing the current 83,000 naturalized or newly reinstated Korean citizens. And this phenomenon in the net outflow of Korean citizens has been continuing.
And I see logic isn't seen as being necessary when devising immigration policy:
To ease anti-foreign workers sentiment, under the principles of the rule of law, the government strictly cracks down on the foreigners illegally overstaying their visa.

At the same time, the government encourages the illegal migrant workers to depart this country of their own volition by discharging them from fines and minimizing entry restrictions, which enables them to re-enter Korea.
We want you out! But come back any time.

He also mentions the ability to get re-entry visas and the like online, which sounds great. Has anyone tried that?

"Korea is like an oxcart going along a highway"

[Another update: Via the Marmot's Hole, Wired looks at the Minerva case, and even brings up Junius. Favourite quote: “That’s the government’s job, to maintain a nice, clean Internet.”]

[Update: I meant to link to this post at Roboseyo...]

Chosun Ilbo columnist Kim Ki-cheon takes a critical look at Korea's dependence on Microsoft and lack of diversity.
Korea's Internet monoculture has been a subject of concern here for some time and remains an issue. In a recently published book, Kim Ki-chang, a professor at Koryo University, says that Korea's Internet environment is so unsound that nothing like it can be found in any other country in the world.

What is the problem? For one thing, accessing many Korean websites requires jumping through hoops not found anywhere else in the world. [...] Nowhere else are websites so complicated and inconvenient.
No one will be surprised that Korean cyberspace - and the software that supports it - is monolithic ['One portal to rule them all'], as cyberspace reflects the people, institutions, and governments that populate, maintain, and rule it. That internet 'structures', so to speak, are weak or on shaky foundations should also be no surprise. What I find fascinating about the internet in Korea is precisely how it reflects the society that created it. The hardware aspect of it, and the speed at which Korea set up its broadband infrastructure is impressive, much like the miracle on the Han, but the software aspects of it represent a structural weakness not so different from the Sangsu Seongsu bridge teetering over that river.

People moved into cyberspace quickly, using it to organize World Cup red devil street cheering and the candlelight protests in 2002 that influenced the election. The government responded by banning all use of the internet to discuss elections during campaigns from then on in, in order to try to prevent 2002 from happening again, but were caught off guard by the 2008 mad cow protests, which in many ways took place as much in cyberspace as in the symbolic space of Seoul's downtown streets. What's interesting in reading accounts of foreign explorers who visited Korea during the Joseon dynasty is how pervasive the government's control of the people was, and how much the people feared talking to the foreigners - at least until no one else was watching. That control has been replicated in an even more pervasive way with the need to use your resident number to do almost anything on the internet, and has been augmented further with the real name system. Now, once events occur, the authorities can trace them back to a single post on the internet and arrest the person (aren't those truth-is-no-defence libel laws handy?). Worth noting is that, with its need for resident numbers, Korea's internet is essentially off limits to the outside world, and a media which is happy to exploit the language barrier and misrepresent what is said in foreign media and a search engine which gives pitiful results when searching in other languages (in comparison to Google) help recreate the Hermit Kingdom of old online, much as the real name system has helped recreate a degree of the authoritarianism and surveillance of the post war authoritarian governments.

It's in Korean cyberspace that we see many of the conflicts that a rapidly modernizing Korea is currently going through, with the desire for democracy and openness slamming up against the state's desire to maintain its authority in the manner that it has for hundreds of years (and which is profoundly anti-democratic). It's also the site of conflict between those who accept or reject Korea's demographic changes over the past two decades, which have challenged the basis of the ethnic nationalism which was used to bind people together in the post war period, from someone like Minu, who used music and video to share a message of inclusiveness, to Anti English Spectrum, who preach a message of exclusiveness and intolerance - to 'expel the barbarians.'

I took a course in my last year of university on the public sphere in England in the 1770s and 1780s, and much of what was interesting about that course was watching how the growth of the press created the public realm - a latter-day cyberspace - and the social changes and popular culture that stemmed from it. This era followed the gin craze - which Gord Sellar has compared to Korea's dependence on soju - and featured figures like Junius, who openly criticized those in power with aplomb and wit - and who could likely never appear on the scene in Korea considering its libel laws and lack of anonymity. I've often thought how it would be interesting to compare the growth of the press and public sphere at that time in England with the development of cyberspace in Korea, as the speed at which Korea is embracing it leads me to think that I'm watching a similar process unfold - all of which makes Korea a fascinating place to observe.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More irresponsible statements about foreign English teachers by national assembly representatives

In the past week or so we've had two National Assembly Representatives make mention of foreign English teachers.

This Newsis article from October 19, titled 'Park Min-sik: “The flood of unqualified native speaking teachers is the Government’s responsibility,”' hasn't been translated yet, so let me summarize it:

It has been pointed out that the government needs to take more responsibility for their lack of supervision over the problem of unqualified native speaking teachers.

National Assembly Legislation and Judiciary Committee member Rep. Park Min-sik (a GNP representative from Busan) said on October 19 that the government's reckless teacher confirmation process is the cause of the problem of unqualified native speaking teachers.

Rep. Park said that there had been suggestions to amend part of Article 76 of the immigration control enforcement regulations six times in the last five years and that visa requirements had been inconsistently (or repeatedly) strengthened and eased and that this had led to weak management of foreign teachers.

The problem grows out of the fact that the door is left wide open so unqualified native speaking teachers can come easily and only when public opinion strengthens is the door locked. The government tacitly stands by as this low quality supply grows.

According to Rep. Park, as of the end of July this year there were 21,498 E-2 visa holders in the country, and since 2005 the number has steadily increased by more than 2,000 every year.

A few notes: This outburst was published only at Newsis and here (it's exactly the same). It didn't get a lot of attention, obviously. While he makes no description of what this foreign English teacher 'problem' is, or how many are involved in it, or say anything specific at all, I have a feeling this was part of a larger conversation, considering Rep. Park's appearance in later articles about the child sex crime task force that was created in the wake of the furor over the Na-yeong case. In that case, Newsis deserves criticism for posting such an article.

In fact, he appears in Korean language articles about the need to permanently ban foreigners with a record of sex crimes against children in Korea (which is necessary, one assumes, because they weren't doing it already?). "An article about this appeared in English in the Korea Times, (as Brian and Stafford have already noted):

The Ministry of Justice said Thursday it will revise immigration rules to ban foreigners found guilty of raping Korean children from re-entering Korea permanently. This is the latest in a series of government measures to keep sexual predators away from society.

If endorsed, it will become the toughest discipline against foreign rapists. The plan was made public during a parliamentary inspection of the ministry held in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province. [...]

In the inspection, Rep. Lee Joo-young of the ruling Grand National Party urged the ministry to tighten the rule on E-2 visa issuance, arguing it’s so lax that many convicted foreigners attempt to cross borders with legal residential status. The legislator did not disclose the exact number of foreigners caught for the violation.

Under the law, E-2 visa applicants are mandated to submit records on their criminal histories and health checkups particularly on AIDS and drug use, which are issued by their country of origin.

But the legislator said it still falls short of thoroughly screening out the entry of rogue foreign nationals. "Many foreigners have been caught attempting to pass through the immigration process with forged documents, indicating rules should be intensified further," Lee said.
So, in a single week we have Rep. Park Min-sik complaining about how the government's lax supervision has led to the 'foreign English teacher problem'TM while Rep. Lee Joo-young has complained about an undisclosed number (only 'many') of convicted foreigners getting E-2 visas.

What's even better is that in this Joongang Ilbo article about the ban on foreigners convicted of sex crimes in Korea, only a paragraph separates Rep. Lee's comments about the need to 'tighten' E-2 visa rules from a comment by Rep. Park, who invokes the 'Anyang elementary schoolgirl murder', Jo Du-sun, Yu Yeong-cheol, and Gang Ho-sun as examples of how the public gets upset and the government promises to make changes, but their response is too weak, and more needs to be done to create effective prevention, punishment and management measures and a strong legal safety net to protect victims. Not bad advice at all, but putting a vague reference to the threat of foreign English teachers next to references to serial killers, child killers and rapists is not very helpful, and the Joongang Ilbo deserves criticism for this.

What's even less helpful is not backing up such assertions that foreign teachers are a threat with any proof, examples, or facts whatsoever. While I realize politicians are lashing out in all directions and trying to look useful in response to public anger over the Na-yeong incident, and foreign teachers who work with children are worth considering, their low crime rate - and the low crime rate of foreigners compared to Korean nationals in general - might suggest that worrying about potential Korean criminals might be the first order of the day. The media also deserves a lot of blame as well, seeing as Rep. Park's comments were obviously removed from their context by someone at Newsis eager to put out a negative story about foreign English teachers, and who forgot - or deliberately left out - an explanation of what exactly the English teacher problem was. Or perhaps it wasn't necessary after all, considering the irresponsible statements from National Assembly members over the past few months, and the years of negative reports about teachers arrested for drugs (fair enough) and reports questioning their sexual morality and connecting them to AIDS (many of them courtesy of Anti English Spectrum). While this is just how the news works, it can be argued, try comparing the incidence of stories like these to positive stories about individual foreign teachers (like this or this). It would be an interesting (if lengthy) project to do so, but I'm sure the outcome would be no surprise.

Recently the foreign crime rate in general - and the sex crime rate in particular - have been brought up by national assembly representatives wielding actual statistics (imagine that?) which are not placed in a proper context (imagine that?). I'll examine those statistics in the near future.

Incorrect figures about foreign English teachers?

Another National Assembly Representative has spoken out about foreign English teachers. This time, nothing negative has been said about the teachers (only their placement around the country). On October several articles were published, including one by Newscan, summarized below:

In Gangnam alone there are 2000 foreign English teachers
Kim Seon-dong: "60% are concentrated in Seoul, Gyeonggi-do metropolitan area”

Grand National Party representative Kim Seon-dong (National Assembly Education, Science and Technology Committee) spoke on October 25 about the ‘situation of foreign teachers over the last three years’ and presented the results of his analysis. "The number of foreign English teachers in 2007 were 13,077, in 2008, 14,122, and in 2009 14,873, as the number increases each year.

According to his analysis, by number Seoul, Gyeonggi-do, Busan, Daegu, and Gyeongsangnam-do have the most foreign English teachers, while Jeollanam-do, Jeju-do, and Chungcheongnam-do have the least.

In addition, Seoul and Gyeonggi-do respectively have 38.9% and 21.1%, and if you combine the two, have 60% of foreign English teachers.

The ten highest level education areas in Korea are, in order, Seoul (6 locations), Gyeonggi-do (2 locations), Daejeon (1 location), Chungbuk (1 location), and in these areas there are 6938 foreign teachers, or 46.6% of the total 14,873 teachers.

On September 21, Kim discussed the situation of native speaking English assistant teachers in the public education system and said there were 7,088 foreign teachers, while in private education there were 2 times the number of foreign instructors and said "In public education English requires more investment for the sake of competitiveness.”

Yonhap also published a short article, which says something different.

Nationwide, in 16 city and provincial offices of education nationwide, there are 7,088 native speakers registered, or half the total number, and there is a placement rate of 65.46%.

Jeju (100%), Chungcheongnam-do (90.39%), Gyeonggi-do (87.13%), Busan (82.68%)have an over 80% placement rate, while Chungcheongbuk-do (40.00%), Jeollanam-do (38.42%), Daegu (30.77% ), Gyeongsangbuk-do (24.61 percent) have a less than 40% placement rate.
So, even though Jeju has so few teachers, they have a high placement rate? You'd imagine the placement rate would be a better measure than simply the number of teachers in a certain area, seeing that there are huge population differences. This news report was especially reported by local press in the provinces, like the Chungcheong Ilbo:

For this year, looking at the number of foreign teachers at the city and province level for this year, Seoul accounted for 38.9% of the total with 5,786, followed by Gyeonggi-do (3134, or 21.1%), Busan (926, or 6.2%), Daegu (716, or 4.8%), Gyeongsangnam-do (561, or 3.8%), Daejeon and Chungcheongbuk-do had 502 and 501 teachers accounting for 3.4%, Chungcheongnam-do had 1.5% of the total with only 229 Jeollanam-do and Jeju were even lower (and South Jeolla and Jeju in the third year in the country as a foreign English teacher wrote.
One thing to note: "The number of foreign English teachers in 2007 were 13,077, in 2008, 14,122, and in 2009 14,873..." Er... no. Those numbers are wrong.

The number of E-2 visa holders were 17,721 in 2007, 19,771 in 2008, and up to July of this year, according to this, 21,498. Now, there are teachers of other languages included in those numbers, but they don't make up more than 1,200 or so. According to this, "Throughout the country, in 1,100 elementary, middle and high schools are some 7000 native speaking English instructors, and in hagwons there are about 20,000." That obviously is more than people on E-2 visas, but may include people on E-1, F-2, and F-4 visas. Above it says "there were 7,088 foreign teachers [in the public education system], while in private education there were twice the number of foreign instructors". While that adds up to the correct number of teachers, it doesn't add up to 14,873.

Strange. And worrying, seeing a national assembly representative once again tossing around incorrect figures, even if, in this case, they aren't being misused to portray foreign English teachers in a negative light.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another incorrect foreign textbook

[Update: The Chosun Ilbo has an article about this here.]

From an article at, a Korean officer studying at the University of Bamberg in Germany discovered that his daughter's German language elementary school textbook contains some rather interesting information about Korea. In a section describing child labor in countries like Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, India, and El Salvador, South Korea is also mentioned, as it describes the life of a 13 year old girl in Seoul who works 11 hours a day in a cramped sweatshop with no windows and stale air ( the sort of conditions Jeon Tae-il fought to reform, before committing suicide in protest in 1970).

The textbook is used in schools in Bavaria, Saxony, Saxony - Anhalt, and Thuringia. The embassy contacted the publishers, and the officer wrote them as well, and they apologized and said they would correct it in the next edition.

Dispatches from the front lines of the Drug Cartoon War

[Update: Corrections are added below. I somehow missed the Yonhap story about the (separate) Incheon bust which Brian links to in the comments; it's the only story in Korean about the bust.]

Via Brian, it's nice to see the Korea Herald's Matt Lamers getting to the bottom of the cartoon that appeared in the Kyunghyang Shinmun. I was made aware of the arrests and cartoon the other day but never got around to writing about them. Needless to say, I was confused by the cartoon [...] since neither the or Kyunghyang articles mentioned English teachers [because there were none]. The Herald tells us that
When reached for comment, a spokesperson from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency told The Korea Herald that the arrests on Oct. 23 included 12 Americans, 11 Korean nationals, two Italians, one from England, one from Russia and another from Canada. In total, seven of the 17 foreign nationals were of Korean descent, the spokesperson said.
I've searched for both 'foreign teacher' and 'native speaking teacher' at Daum and Naver and can find no mention of foreign teachers in Korean accounts of this arrest [because there were none!].
I [correctly, as it turns out] thought this Korea Times article was about another arrest entirely. As the Times puts it:
Some English instructors at universities in Incheon and Gyeonggi Province have been arrested for using and selling drugs. The foreign affairs division of the Incheon Metropolitan Police Agency booked three Americans, including an English lecturer from a university in Incheon, for using and selling hashish (cannabis resin). [...] Another instructor from the United Kingdom was also caught for keeping 13.3 grams of hashish, worth 3 million won, in his car.
Interesting that the Korea Times was the only paper to mention the foreign teachers who were arrested [Again, this is a different case than the gyopo students and Koreans case.]. 'The Korea Times: The only English daily that provokes English teachers... daily!'

Of course, gyopos being arrested for drugs has happened before, and in one case, former gang members deported from the U.S. were working as English teachers here, leading to this cartoon:

English instructor

My favorite drug cartoon is this one, and as I pointed out here, its use in the article it appeared in is as inappropriate as the Kyunghyang's cartoon.

I was going to say that this cartoonist really put the '마' in '마약', because I assumed, after reading this post, that the '마' in '마약' (illegal drugs) was the same as the '마' in '마녀' (魔女) or witch, which means 'magic' or 'devil, according to this site. Using that site and yahoo's dictionary, I found out, however, that 마약 is this in hanja: 麻藥, and that the '마' means '(to have) pins and needles / tingling / hemp / sesame / numb / to bother'. I then recognized it as the '마' in '대마초' (大麻草), or marijuana, which strikes me as odd, because pot was made illegal in 1976, after a lot of other drugs, (and the use of the term 마약 predates this). Why the drug 마약 is named after was legal for so long I'm not sure. It's noted (via this comment) here that the character 마 - 麻 - represents two marijuana plants hanging to dry, and indicates use of the plant is quite old in China. So what actress Kim Bu-seon said about marijuana having been used for 5,000 years as medicine is essentially correct. But I digress. Let's get back to these fellas:

It turns out no harm was meant:
The cartoonist told Expat Living that it was all a big misunderstanding, and that one of the two white people he drew is actually supposed to be a gyopo.

"Yes, I knew that both Koreans and foreigners were involved in this case. The one on the right was drawn to portray a gyopo, since many gyopo dress up like that, and the one on the left with curly hair was to portray a foreigner," he said.

Well, as long as he wasn't trying to portray a negative stereotype, I'll correct his cartoon for him. The last thing we want is to portray a negative stereotype.

Now, when I was looking up recent articles about foreign teachers at Naver and Daum, I did find a Yonhap article (also at the Busan Ilbo and Segye Ilbo) about another drug bust, which I'll summarize. [Or read Korea Beat's translation - remind me to check there first next time!]

In Busan four foreign English teachers have been arrested for smoking pot. Miss. T, a 24 year-old female Canadian teacher and Mr. P, a 24 year-old American were arrested on the 26th. Mr. Bae, 23, was also arrested for smuggling pot as a favour for Miss T, and two other foreign teachers were booked.

According to the prosecution these foreign teachers smoked pot twice since 9 pm on September 26 at a residence in Busan’s Haeundae-gu, Songjeong-dong. Police believe Mr. Bae mailed 1.27 grams of pot from Canada. Prosecutors said that they will expand the investigation, as other foreign teachers may be involved.

The police know not what they've done. Soon, Busan will be hit by a crime wave as marijuana junkies, looking for their next fix, make the debauchery and lawlessness of Hongdae look like mere anarchy. That's what happens when you remove so much marijuana - a whole 1.27 grams! - from the underground economy. Stock up on supplies now, folks.

Or should I say 'stalk up'? In recent posts at anti-English Spectrum, they've described some of their stalking stakeouts. In one they said they were watching a female teacher suspected of drug use. They then said they didn't find any drugs, but they did find a used condom. In another post, they show a bag of shopping receipts from a gyopo teacher they were stalking. The only thing I can guess is that they are going through the garbage of people they are stalking.

Also, as a heads up, in recent posts they've mentioned other people they're 'staking out', mentioning an officetel in Gangseo-gu and another stakeout in Yangcheon-gu.

More on Minu's deportation; Stealing from deportees


NoCut News interviews him by phone, where he notes that, after 18 years away, he notes that he doesn't have many friends in Nepal, but has lots in Korea.

Original Post:

The Korea Times reports on Minu's Deportation and elaborates more on his accomplishments.
Minu first came to Korea on a tourist's visa. He worked at restaurants and had spoken up for his fellow migrant workers' rights. He is one of the founding members of the Migrant Workers' Television (MWTV) and has disclosed social prejudice and discrimination against foreign workers here as a video journalist. He received the first-place culture minister's award in a writing contest for foreigners sponsored by state-run television network KBS. He has also lectured at numerous universities and corporations to raise awareness for expats here, especially visiting here under the employment permit system or without any legal visa.
However, the Lawyers for Democratic Society claimed that Minu was deported after an appeal against his arrest was filed. "The authorities didn't send a notice to his lawyers, which is clearly against the constitution," the liberal lawyers' group said.
It also notes that "The Migrant Trade Union also criticized the government for targeting Minu out of political interest." As I said in my last post about his deportation, immigration cannot make exceptions, only examples, and this is confirmed by their response:
"His deportation was to set an example of principle: abide by the rules," the ministry said in a press release.
I could say I'm disappointed, but I really don't have high expectations for a ministry that invites hate groups to make immigration policy.

I also hope this didn't happen to Minu:
Employees of a travel agency were apprehended for stealing goods from bags of deported foreigners. The Incheon Gyeyang Police Station booked two staffers, including a 19-year-old identified as Lee, from a tour agency for larceny and indicted three others without physical detention on the same charges, Sunday.

The agency oversees departure procedures of expelled foreigners by proxy. The staffers rummaged through the luggage of deported foreigners at the checkroom of Incheon International Airport and pilfered small goods such as jewelry. They stole a golden ring from an illegal Chinese person in March and committed 87 more thefts up to September. The total value of goods stolen was 91 million won ($77,000). Police said they stole items from deported foreigners because the victims usually do not realize the theft immediately and cannot file a robbery report after they are expelled from Korea.
That's just low. Eighty eight thefts? As if deportation wasn't a bad enough experience already, the people the Korean government have charged with overseeing the procedure steal from those being deported? I'd hope an apology is offered by those in charge, but I imagine I'll be disappointed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A 'fanatic', a 'miscreant', 'bloodthirsty': How the Japanese perceived An Jung-geun

Today is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Ito Hirobumi by An Jung-geun. Here are contemporary reports from the Japan Times, which I recently found out is carried on microfilm at the local university library (from 1897-1909). Just prior to this, in September 1909, Japan and China had worked out the Jiandao Convention, defining Korea by its present northern boundaries, and in late October Ito was visiting Manchuria. This article from October 26 (pg2) gives some background:
Prince Ito’s Tairen Speech –
The Kokumin’s Tokyo Letter (Oct. 22) discusses four important points in Prince Ito’s speech at Tairen which may be taken as a manifesto of Japan’s Chinese policy. The Prince emphasises, in the first place, the importance of the maintenance of peace in the Far East to the welfare of the Japanese Empire and the heavy responsibility falling on Japan for maintaining that peace. Secondly, the prince points out the close relations Manchuria has with that peace, and insists on the necessity of maintaining the principles of open door and equal opportunity in that field. Thirdly, the Prince alludes to the serious consequences of the success or failure of Chinese reforms upon the Far Eastern situation, and expressed Japan’s willingness to give direct and indirect aid to China’s success in that work. Fourthly, he declared the development of Manchuria must be effected by the co-operation of Japan, China, Russia, and all the Powers who have interests there. The paper is anxious that Americans should bear these words in mind as being Japan’s own declaration through Prince Ito’s mouth. Thus, although the noble visitor to Manchuria himself avows no other object for his tour other than mere personal observations, yet the paper is hopeful of beneficial results coming from the trip. His meeting with the Russian Finance Minister at Harbin and with native officials in Manchuria is bound to enhance these results.
The next day (pg2) explains further:
There is both advantage and disadvantage in being great, so that when a man of international eminence, like Prince Ito, goes abroad, the public both abroad and or [sic] home will insist upon reading into his travels some significant mission, which he generally ends in accomplishing, sometimes even in spite of himself. The advantage or disadvantage of greatness, which may be personal, national, or international, will, however, depend almost altogether on the estimation the public has come to form of the characteristic attributes of the man. These remarks, borne out by experience and observation, as we believe, would justify us in saying that the present trip of Prince Ito on the continent, though any political object of it has been disavowed by himself, has by the force of circumstances, assumed the character of a mission of its own, the importance of which cannot be over-estimated, as it is, all in favour of international good understanding and of dissipating many misconceptions formed about this country.

As we write we are in receipt of a Harbin dispatch, conveying a most disastrous piece of news which suddenly robs us of the train of thought we have been persuing. It says that Prince Ito is in a serious condition as a result of an attempted assassination by a Korean miscreant at Harbin. Dumbfounded we stop, only to express our most fervent hope that particulars to follow will prove His Excellencies injuries to be not so dangerous as reported, and also to add our sorrow that the blood spilt of Korea’s best and sincerest friend will forever remain a dark stain on her, to say nothing of the heavy veil of gloom that now hangs over Japan and the Japanese nation.
This also appears on the same page:

A Seoul Dispatch states that the punitive force under command of Major-General Watanabe has withdrawn from South Korea after a very successful campaign. The troops have taken 1,055 prisoners and killed 334 insurgents who made resistance. Ninety-five muskets and 33 swords were also taken. There are no signs now of insurgents except one or two ringleaders.
This appears on page 3:


An official despatch received from Harbin says that Prince Ito was shat at several times by some Koreans, just as the His Excellency landed at the platform of Harbin Station at 9 o’clock Tuesday morning. One of the bullets took effect. The telegram does not say how serious the wound is or who the Koreans were.


A later dispatch received at the Mitsui Bussan Kaisha yesterday states that Prince Ito was shot by a Korean at Harbin station that morning at eleven. His Excellency died on the spot. Mr. Kawakami, Consul General, and Mr. Tanaka, Director of the South Manchurian Railway Co., sustained slight injuries. The ruffian was arrested on the spot.

An article the next day notes that Kawakami was hit in the right arm, Tanaka in the foot, and “Private Secretary Mori was hit by a bullet that passed through his arm and shoulder.”

We find more in this Oct 28 article (pg2):

“I have given my life to the state and to my country; I shall not regret when, where, or by whose hands I fall.” These are the words which Prince Ito oft repeated whenever warned of personal danger. The great man is now no more. He is gone a victim of Korean fanatics. The nation, high and low, universally and most profoundly mourns over the loss of this world figure so unexpectedly taken away from it. […]

Now this noble-minded man, the greatest of our statesmen has met a cruel death at the hands of a Korean assassin. The thought will no doubt rankle in the nation’s mind for a long, long time to come. But nothing would be more ill-timed for our compatriots than to be carried away by the passion of the moment. The assassin may have accomplices, but they are no doubt of a class ignorant and blinded by prejudice that can no doubt be found in any country, and we must not regard them as representative of Koreans and the Korean nation. If Prince Ito had a voice now to speak, we feel quite certain that he would resent most strongly any suggestions to avenge his death on Korea. The Prince really had the best wishes for Korea and for the promotion of sincere friendship between the two countries. Nothing would be more desecrating to his memory, therefore, than to contemplate acts that would tend to undo the plans the Prince left behind for the guidance and regeneration of Korea. We cannot help warning our countrymen, especially those in Korea to be mindful of how they act and what they say about that country at this juncture. Large heartedness shown at a moment like this will bear fruit that will never be reaped by any harsh, vindictive action. To be thus disposed will be another way of paying the highest tribute to the departed Prince.
On the next page:
Detailed reports published by the Kokumin say: - When the special train carrying Prince Ito arrived at Harbin, the Prince held a conversation with M. Kokovtsoff for about 20 minutes, after which he alighted on the platform and exchanged greetings with the officers and officials. By the request of the Russian Finance Minister, the Prince then passed in front of the line of Russian troops. He had just come to the end of the line when a Korean in European clothes fired at him with a pistol. The Prince was taken into the carriage, and due measures were immediately taken to attend to his wounds but he expired at about 10. The culprit was at once arrested by Russian soldiers.


One shot pierced the upper right arm and grazing the side near the arm pit entered horizontally at the seventh rib. Another bullet piercing the right elbow on the outer side, and, passing along the upper arm on the inside, and turning slightly inward, entered at the ninth rib, piercing the lung and diaphragm and lodged in the left ribs. The third shot entered the abdomen just above the peritoneum and lodged in the muscles. Two of these wounds were mortal and no help could be rendered.


The assassin is about 24 years old and goes by the name Shi Mei-shou (though this is still uncertain). He is not a native of Fusan, but he left that place for Vladivostok, whence he came to Harbin on the 25th. That night he slept out of doors near the station, and next morning he mixed himself with the waiting Japanese. He claims that he recovered the honour of Korea which was dishonoured by the Prince. He declares that he committed the act solely on his own initiative, and that he had no accomplice, but the authorities do not credit his word on this point. On the day previous, two Koreans were seized at Seikakang (?) in Sungari and when searched, both were found to be armed with pistols. They were consequently taken under escort to Harbin. These two stated on the morning of the 26th that their companions were 30, one of whom had attained their common object. On the morning of the 25th, an unsigned telegram was sent to a Korean in Harbin which was suspiciously worded. These incidents prompted the Russian authorities to exercise on strict vigilance, but in spite of this the regrettable incident occurred.[...]


Despatches from Seoul dated Oct. 27 state that the Press Association sat far into the night on the 26th and made the following resolutions: - That Prince Ito’s assassination was the result of anti-Japanese feeling in Korea and in order to dissipate such errors and avoid the repetition of the horrible crime, the final resolution should be adopted by the Japanese authorities; That the Korean Emperor proceed at once to Japan to apologize to the Emperor.
On page six the assassin is described when speaking of
the unnatural death of Prince Ito, who fell a victim to the hand of an assassin, a reckless Korean miscreant …. A Korean named Un Chi-an … the bloodthirsty…heinous assassin.
The next day, October 29, describes him further (pg2):
The assassin, who gave the name Un Chi-an, was arrested on the spot by Russian guards and was handed over to the Japanese authorities. He is now under examination and says that he is from Phyongyang . As to his accomplices, no definite report is as yet to hand.
On the same page we find this:

The Emperor was really shocked by the news of the terrible end of Prince Ito on Tuesday and did not retire to bed until three o’clock the following morning. The Retired Emperor learned the sad news while taking supper and was so shocked that His Majesty dropped a dish from his hand. Lady Om, being anxious for the Crown Prince in Tokyo, was in tears.
On page 3 the same day, we find responses from the foreign press.
Speaking of the Times [of London] it said “the paper wished that Japan’s Korea policy inaugurated by the enlightened hero of heroes should not be changed at this perilous juncture.[...]

Some papers referred to the ungrateful attitude of Koreans towards Japan, saying it was comparable to that of Indians towards Great Britain. The policy with which the Late Prince had been guiding Korea with indefatigable zeal and yet he had become the victim of the dastard Koreans.[...]

Among the unanimous regrets with regard to the death of Prince Ito throughout the press in Europe, the Ross is the only exception in attributing the death to the Japanese oppression of Korea.[...]

“The New York Sun has stated that the Prince was one of best friends to Korea[.]”

The World stated that the Korean question had been settled and nothing could now change the fate of the peninsula. But the consequence will be only the prolongation of a more high-handed policy in Korea. The Tribune has said that the outrage was not the fault for Koreans in general, as it was perpetrated by a fanatic, admitting that the progress in Korea was due to the efforts of Prince Ito.
On October 30, more is written (pg2):

[T]he Korean Crown Prince is sorrow-stricken by the untimely death of his Grand Tutor. The young Prince is especially sad at heart because of the fact that the ruffian who has perpetrated the crime is one of his own people.[...]


The Emperor of Korea, accompanied by his suite went on Thursday afternoon to the Residency General and expressed his deep sympathy with the tragic end of Prince Ito, saying that His Majesty was prepared to take any steps which might be best adapted to show his sympathy. The Emperor of Korea intends to confer a posthumous name on the late Prince. His Majesty has also decided to contribute a sum of 30,000 towards the funeral fund. Prince Wi Hoa left yesterday for Japan with the above mentioned name and the gift.
We also find out more about the killer:
A Seoul report says that it is stated that the assassin belongs to the Syo Peuk Hak Hoi and has been leading a vagrant life. […] According to a later report, the pistol used by the assassin was a Browning pistol. […] With regard to the trial of the criminal who shot Prince Ito at Harbin, Count Komura, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, on Wednesday issued an instructions to the Kwantung Government to try the case in its court.
The same day, on the next page, was a telegram written to the Russian minister in Tokyo by the Russian Minister of Finance M. Kokovtseff, who of course witnessed the attack:
Harbin, Oct. 26th.
Today at 9 a.m. at the arrival of Prince Ito in Harbin, when His Excellency, having alighted from his car, together with myself and the local Russian authorities, passed before the front of a guard of honour, came up to the group of civil authorities and foreign Consuls, a man with a Browning pistol fired several shots from behind the backs of the latter by which the Prince was mortally wounded. At the same time Mr. Tanaka was slightly wounded in the leg, Consul General Kawakami severely but not dangerously wounded, and Mr. Mori slightly wounded.

The murderer who appears to be Korean was arrested, and during the inquest stated that he had come to Harbin specifically to kill Prince Ito, to avenge the wrongs done to his country, and also because Prince Ito had sentenced to death several of his relatives; he also said that he was happy he that he succeeded to carry out his criminal intention. The plot was evidently prearranged. Yesterday at the station Dziadziagow (?) our police arrested three suspicious Koreans armed with Browning pistols. Consul General Kawakami asked the Russian railway police to let all Japanese subjects freely enter the Harbin Station, and it was absolutely impossible to distinguish the murderer, as a Korean, from the Japanese.
Within a year, there would be no need to distinguish Japanese from Korean subjects, as they would be one and the same (though they certainly weren't treated the same).

Also, it was thirty years ago today that Park Chung-hee was killed by Kim Jae-gyu, the head of the KCIA. I've written about it a bit here and here.

Here is Kim Jae-gyu re-enacting the murder.

Sitting next to him is Kim Gye-won, the Blue house chief secretary, who Kim didn't kill and who eventually revealed he was the killer. He also appears in the back, second from right in this photo, taken in the late 1970s:

In the front row we have the Park family - Geun-hye, Geun-young, Park Chung-hee, and Ji-man, as well as Jeong Seung-hwa (army chief of staff); in the back row is Chun Doo-haan (head of Defense Security Command), Cha Ji-cheol (Blue House security chief), and Kim Gye-won (Blue house chief secretary). None of his family was present the night he died, though everyone else, other then Chun, was. Jeong was in a separate part of the compound, and had been supposed to dine separately with Kim Jae-gyu that night before the dinner with Park was announced, so Kim entertained Chung separately. Kim killed Park and Cha, though left Kim Kye-won unharmed. At the cabinet meeting when prime minister Choi Gyu-hwa was made president, Chun Doo-hwan would be chosen to investigate the assassination. From there lies the path to the 12.12 coup and the Kwangju Uprising.

To get a better sense of what happened that night, watching The Presidents Last Bang would likely help, as it stays quite close to the known facts about that night, and is a great film, unlike 'An Jung-geun' or '2009 Lost Memories', which are not.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Minu Deported

I mentioned the arrest of migrant activist Minu yesterday. According to this report at, Minu was deported Friday night.

A KT article from a week ago quoted immigration:
"We are well aware that Minu is a sort of symbolic figure for illegal sojourners and he is drawing a lot of support from many human rights groups. But we cannot make an exception no matter how many petitions they make," a senior immigration officer said, declining to be named.
I guess he already got enough exceptional treatment from immigration when they sent a squad to stake him out and arrest him. 'We cannot make exceptions,' only examples.

Killer handprints, dude!

Via ROK Drop comes this photo in the Korea Times:

Independence activist Ahn Jung-geun remembered: Officials from the Ministry of Patriots & Veterans Affairs and citizens take part in a hand printing ceremony Wednesday, at the Yeouido Park in Seoul, to mark Ahn Jung-geun (1879-1910)’s 1909 assassination of Hirobumi Ito, a former prime minister of Japan, in Harbin, China. Ahn held Ito responsible for the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910.
So Ahn held Ito responsible for an event that occurred after both of their deaths? Alrighty, then. Hopefully that colorful little Ahn character above doesn't run amok in Myeongdong, shooting elderly Japanese businessmen.

A year ago I looked at the way famous Korean assassins patriots are memorialized. Seeing as Ahn's deed may have brought annexation on Korea even sooner than planned (seeing as Ito Hirobumi was actually opposed to it), one hopes children are not taught to revere him as a hero or anything of that sort.

'Ding Dong the witch is dead!'
A children’s choir sings yesterday at a ceremony marking the 98th anniversary of independence fighter Ahn Jung-geun’s death. He was executed for killing a Japanese diplomat in 1909.
Yup, just a diplomat. Not Japan's first prime minister or anything like that. I'll save a lengthier look at this for another day.

Tomorrow: Unrecognized world record holder speaks through mudang, says 'Why doesn't anyone have choirs for me? I killed 58 times as many people.'

Friday, October 23, 2009

Stop Crackdown, or Why a quarter of the foreign population in Korea still lives in the Fifth Republic

The Korea Times reports on an Amnesty International report on migrant workers in Korea:
In the 98-page report, Disposable Labour: Rights of migrants workers in South Korea [here, pdf] , Amnesty International documented how migrant workers often work with heavy machinery and dangerous chemicals without sufficient training or protective equipment and are at greater risk of industrial accidents, including fatalities, and receive less pay compared to South Korean workers.

“Migrant workers are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation largely because they cannot change jobs without their employer’s permission,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Programme Director. “Work conditions are sometimes so bad that they run away and consequently, lose their regular status and are then subject to arrest and deportation.”

South Korea was one of the first Asian countries to legally recognise the rights of migrant workers and granted them the same status as Korean workers with equal labour rights, pay and benefits. However, five years on from the implementation of the Employment Permit System (EPS) that was meant to better protect the rights of migrant workers; many continue to face hardships and abuse.

In September 2008, there were an estimated 220,000 irregular migrant workers in the country. The government of South Korea pledged to half this number by 2012, launching a massive and sometimes violent crackdown on migrant workers. Immigration officers and the police are accused of sometimes using excessive force against migrant workers and operating outside the law.
Korea Beat translates an article elaborating on the last sentence:

On the 19th the office of Pro-Park Coalition Representative Noh Cheol-rae released a Ministry of Justice study which found that from 2006 through August of this year three foreign illegal immigrants were killed in raids and 24 were either seriously or lightly injured.

But no Immigration Service employee has been punished over this, the study found. In 2005 one Seoul Office of Immigration employee was indicted but found not guilty, and in August of this year two employees of the Daejeon Office of Immigration were punished without an arraignment process.

One such death, of a 51-year-old ethnic Korean woman from China who came to Seoul in 1999 to earn money to pay off a family debt and provide college tuition for her daughter, was described in this 2008 Joongang Ilbo article:
Oh’s mother, Kwon Bong-ok, died on Jan. 15 after falling from the 8th floor of a motel in Seoul where she was working as an illegal immigrant. She had been dangling from the window ledge by her fingers to hide from South Korean immigration officers hunting for illegals.
The article about the Amnesty International report continues:
“Disposable Labour” documents how the South Korean government has not sufficiently monitored workplaces, with high numbers of accidents, inadequate medical treatment and compensation, and unfair dismissals. Amnesty International interviewed migrant workers who described how their employers forced them to work long hours and night shifts, without overtime pay, and often had their wages withheld by their employers.

“Despite the advances of the EPS system, the cycle of abuse and mistreatment continues as thousands of migrant workers find themselves at the mercy of employers and the authorities who mistreat them knowing their victims have few legal rights and are unable to access justice or seek compensation for the abuse,” said Roseann Rife.

Amnesty International research shows that women are at particular risk of abuse. Several female workers recruited as singers in US military camp towns have been trafficked into sexual exploitation, including the sex industry, by their employers and managers. Amnesty International spoke to trafficked women who said they had no choice but to remain in their jobs because they were in debt to their employer and did not know where to turn to for help. If the women ran away, they risked losing their legal status and being subject to deportation.

“These women are double victims, first they are trafficked and then they become “illegal” migrants under South Korean law when they attempt to escape from their exploitative situation,” said Roseann Rife.
The ostensible original purpose of the Industrial Trainee System (ITS, 1992-2006) was to allow jaebols like Samsung and LG to provide training to employees of their overseas branches, but instead it quickly became a way for small and medium sized businesses to import cheap labor. It's important to note that most migrant workers who worked under the ITS and who now work under the Employment Permit System (EPS, since 2004) have to pay brokers large amounts of money to come work in Korea, and take out loans to do so (a common figure I've seen is around $10,000 US). Needless to say, it takes time to pay that (and the accruing interest) back, and that is what led many (if not most) ITS workers to jump ship from their incredibly low-paying jobs (at which they were only allowed to stay for two years) and make more money illegally. This problem still exists with the EPS, which allows for stays of up to three years, but does not allow people to change jobs, making jumping ship a necessity in a bad situation (if they want to be able to pay back the loans). Essentially, it was the system that the Korean government (along with the Korea Federation of Small Businesses (KFSB)) created that led to so many 'illegal' workers, and the powers that be were generally happy to ignore them for years (other than the occasional 'crackdown', done for show), because who doesn't want an internal colony of powerless, cheap, disposable labor, especially in the midst of radicalized Korean labor unions?

When the EPS was implemented, it became pretty clear what the government wanted - anyone who had been in the country for more than four years had to get the hell out. While factory owners were annoyed, as they found that ''Migrant workers who have stayed for four years or longer tend to be diligent, responsible and reliable when working at our factories and take jobs that few South Koreans are willing to do", those same workers also were more likely to do things such as try to organize themselves and communicate with Korean activists willing to help them. Indeed, they had generally been the ones fighting for the ITS to be improved, and were purposely left out when the EPS came in, giving them no option to become legal workers. One of the activists involved in this struggle was Kabir Uddin, who discussed the situation many workers found themselves in and how he helped found a migrant workers trade union in this 2003 interview. Though Kabir was deported in 2005, the struggle he was a part of found success - for now:
The Seoul High Court issued a judgement on 1 February 2007 calling for the cancellation of the rejection by the authorities of the Migrant Workers' Trade Union's Notice of Union Founding. This ruling, in effect, recognizes and thereby legalizes the MTU as a union representing the rights of all migrant workers, regardless of their status. The Ministry of Labour has appealed against this decision to the Supreme Court.
This case is still pending.

One of the more interesting manifestations of the migrant protest movement took the stage at the June 2005 Migrants Arirang Festival at Seoul Plaza. From a Joongang Ilbo article:
A performance by a group of rock musicians at the “Migrants Arirang” festival before thousands of migrant workers and Seoul citizens tomorrow will be a unique celebration of Korea’s changing work force and the country’s demographics.

Stop Crackdown has not only become more popular among migrant workers who identify with the band’s cause for human rights for migrant workers, but has also gained bigger acceptance among Korean fans, who wrote words of encouragement on its Web site ( The rock band is scheduled to perform at the festival, but there is one thing that puts their appearance in doubt. All five members are staying illegally and are subject to deportation.

The band was formed in December 2003 when they were protesting against the police crackdown on illegal migrant workers in the Anglican Church near Deoksu Palace.

"We protest in hopes that the government will come up with different policies toward migrant workers," said Minod Moktan from Nepal. Vocalist Minod has been living and working for different factories in Korea for more than 10 years and can speak fluent Korean. Other members are Soe Moe Thu, Soe Thi Ha and Ko Nay from Myanmar and Harry Ken Achmad from Indonesia. Some of the members have played music in independent bands, and won awards in local contests before the band was formed. Bassist Soe Moe Thu was in a the group Eureka and even produced an album. Minod won a KBS singing contest for foreigners in 1999.

Just eight days after they formed, they recorded nine songs for an album. A studio gave them free recording time. “Our friends have taken their own lives after the deportation began,” Minod said. “These things become history, and many migrant workers return to their country with grievances.”[...]

The public response has been positive, he said. “Some said it changed their perception on migrant workers or even said, ‘Migrant workers are human beings like us,’” Soe Moe Thu said.

According to Minod, police are checking door-to-door in neighborhoods with a high concentration of migrant workers as part of a crackdown. “The ministry invited us, and we are very anxious and don’t know whether to perform or not,” Minod said jokingly. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has reportedly asked Immigration Bureau to lay off the crackdown tomorrow for fear of scaring away migrant workers. “We don't want much,” Soe Moe Thu said. “We just hope that migrant workers and Koreans become closer to each other.”
It wasn't until I saw this article again that I was reminded of their first performance at a 'cultural festival on the grounds of the Anglican Church near City Hall in December 2003. I was there, and remember it, and a quick search on my computer turned this up:

Here's a short clip of Stop Crackdown doing a cool-sounding sound check at Seoul Plaza for the 'Migrants Arirang'.

Stop Crackdown was not allowed to play their song of the same name, but their name was on a large screen, getting their message across anyway. It's helpful when your band's name is a political statement. This is both a great song and video - and as an exercise in empathy, a wonderful piece of propaganda.

Now, back to the crackdowns that don't stop, in this case one involving the singer for Stop Crackdown:

In the wake of a hurricane crackdowns on undocumented migrant workers and the detention of 33-year-old Nepali musician and cultural activist Minu (real name Minod Moktan) by the Korea Immigration Service, protests over target crackdowns are growing. [...]

Prior to this recent target crackdown, the Korea Immigration Service had arrested and deported undocumented migrant workers who had served as leaders of the Migrants Trade Union, a union founded for and by migrants, in 2007 and 2008. According to representatives of migrant worker groups, Minu, who had been engaged in human rights activism, became a target after a recent election of documented migrant workers to positions of leadership.

Previous crackdowns on MTU leaders include this one and this one.

Some labor analysts and human rights observers are commenting on the need for reevaluating positions on issues facing undocumented migrant workers as they have effectively become integrated members of Korean society. In Minu’s case, he immigrated to South Korea in 1992 and went to work at restaurants and sewing factories in the Uijeongbu area. During this time, he campaigned actively on social issues, produced a documentary on migrant worker human rights and served as head of the executive committee for the Migrant Worker Film Festival. He has also been the recipient of a number of awards, including the Grand Prize at the Foreign Artists Competition, and was awarded a plaque of appreciation from the Minister of Culture in 1999.

More on his arrest can be found here, which makes the case that it was no random arrest, but that he was targeted for his activism:

In 2003, during a historic sit-down protest against the crackdown on undocumented migrant workers, Minod founded the first multicultural migrants’ band in South Korea—“Stop Crackdown Band.” In 2005 Minod also helped to found MWTV, a television station that provides a ‘voice’ to migrants through which to speak about their lives and experiences. He has served as MWTV’ Co-Representative and Director of its Film Production Team. He has also produced two documentaries that look at the lives of migrant workers in South Korea. All of Minod’s cultural activities have been carried out with the goal of raising awareness about the discrimination and human rights abuses faced by migrants in South Korea and creating cross-cultural dialogue as a means to address these problems.
A Facebook group has been set up with information and links to a petition. A related video is here.

The Hankyoreh story continues:

Target crackdowns that have occurred in the wake of President Lee Myung-bak’s remark last March that “illegal residents should not be allowed to just strut around” have been widely condemned by human rights and labor organizations around the world. Representatives at the press conference say, “This pattern of target crackdown has become so obvious that it has induced intervention on the parts of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants and the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association.” The number of deported migrant workers has gone up from around 20 thousand a year during the Roh Moo-hyun administration to 32 thousand last year under the Lee administration. As of late July 2009, some 17 thousand have lost their jobs and were deported.

As much as we'd all like to criticize Lee Myung-bak, the Roh Moo-hyun administration also deported a lot of migrant workers. When the EPS was first instituted at the end of 2003 everyone who had stayed in Korea for over 4 years had to leave, and by the end of the year 40,000 had either left voluntarily during an amnesty, or had been deported. At least nine people committed suicide. In 2004 - still under Roh Moo-hyun, remember - an article titled "Government Tightens the Screw on Alien Workers" was published.

From next January to August, 118,519 people's visas will become invalid.[...] If only half of them return to their home countries - as was the case this year - the number of alien laborers staying here illegally will exceed 270,000. If this estimation turns out to be true, Korea will become a lawless world for migrant workers, and governmental policies will cease to be binding.
First of all, the figures for undocumented workers at the end of 2006 - two years later - was almost 212,000 [see here], so the doom and gloom scenario above did not occur. Second, even if the number had reached 270,000, there were more than that by 2003, and Korea did not "become a lawless world for migrant workers" at that time, which suggested that either those pushing such a scenario were either unaware of the past, or were engaging in scare tactics. More elaborate scare tactics were seen in October 2004, when the Marmot's Hole reported that
in materials submitted to Rep. Kim Jae-gyeong of the National Assembly's Legislation and Judiciary Committee, the Justice Ministry revealed that anti-Korean activities on the part of illegal foreign residents in Korea were on the rise, and there were concerns that some of these malcontents might try to link their activities up with al-Qaeda. According to one high-ranking government official, “Among the Muslim illegal residents here in Korea, there are individuals worthy of keeping an eye on.” [...]

The Chosun said the authorities first became aware of these anti-Korean activities during a demonstration by illegal residents held at Myeongdong Cathedral early this year. During the demonstration, protestors shouted slogans like “We totally refuse to leave Korea on our own,” “Overthrow the government,” and “We oppose the Iraq deployment.” According to the government, this was the first time the protests took on a political nature; previous protests by illegal aliens had been small affairs focused on crackdowns on illegal aliens. The government judged that behind the now political protests were certain “radical forces,” and began preparing countermeasures.

I knew some of the people in the photo below, and attended some of the Myeong-dong rallies (the 'sit-in' that began there in November 2003 lasted for over a year). The involvement in anti-war rallies and the like generally stemmed from the quid pro quo system (especially among the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions) which can be summed up by 'if you attend my protest I'll attend yours.' I know very well that the idea that these people would have ties to foreign terrorist groups was patently ridiculous. I can also assure you, considering the way in which they were monitored by immigration police (likely including phone taps) that the authorities knew this as well, making this accusation a blatant scare tactic.

As for the kind of countermeasures that the government prepared, this Chosun Ilbo article, titled "Residents Engaging in Anti-Korean Activities to Be Deported," gives us a clue:
The Ministry of Justice has judged that anti-Korean activity, focused on illegal foreign residents, is on the rise, and accordingly, will punish those involved under the National Security Law or criminal code and forcefully deport them.
"Foreign workers hold a press conference in front of the Sejong
Center for Performing Arts on Aug. 17, protesting forced
deportation and calling for the legalization of all illegal
foreign workers in Korea."

The Justice Ministry said the countermeasures had been prepared because illegal foreign residents were linking up with radical forces and civic groups to oppose government policies in an organized way and hold illegal demonstrations.

The justice ministry shall regard the following as anti-Korean activities: denying the Korean system (i.e. government) or policies, or stressing the negative aspects of Korea; terrorism conspiracies or threats; leading or inciting demonstrations against national policies; and criticizing government measures while making political claims, and propagating those claims.
Before you go complaining about the 'dictator' Lee Myung-bak, you might want to remember that this was all on 'progressive' Roh Moo-hyun's watch. The activities listed as anti-Korean above would make a great many foreign bloggers, and any foreigner who has complained to the NHRCK about the E-2 HIV tests, for example, fair game for arrest and deportation. I couldn't help but note the threat of using the National Security Law, and how similar those anti-Korean activities above correspond with it, or with some of the Emergency Measures of the mid 1970s, which banned nearly all criticism of the government.

With this in mind, it's worth reading this piece by Jamie Doucette comparing the plight of migrant workers to the Korean concept of minjung, a term used during the democracy movement of the 1970s and 1980s, a pairing first inspired by noting the location of the migrant worker's protest: Myeongdong Cathedral, the traditional refuge for student activists in the 1980s. Even the way the demonstration suppression tactics I've seen were carried out, with the riot police would try to surround the migrant workers (who would be defended by Korean activists) and then send in immigration police to grab them (using tasers if necessary), were a throwback to the days of the fifth republic when grab squads would haul in students isolated by the riot police.

While what I've just described took place under the Roh Administration, it also presided over the largest drop in the population of undocumented workers, as the number dropped by 150,000 between 2003 and 2004. It wasn't crackdowns, however, but legalization that was most responsible (a more in-depth look at this is here). Mind you, it was temporary legalization, and it was acknowledged by the authorities in 2004 that as their "visas [became] invalid [...] only half of them return[ed] to their home countries [...] this year", but, as the government complained about this, they continued to import new workers, all while being aware that their (occasionally flammable) immigration prisons only have space for around 1,300 people. In other words, the government is aware that their policy is only going to increase the number of undocumented workers. The government knows well that workers must pay off the loans accrued when paying off brokers to come to Korea in the first place, and can probably guess that allowing them to stay longer might lower the number who overstay, but don't want people staying that long, as they might form attachments to Korea, and so don't change things, which leads to people (over)staying for long periods of time anyways. It was the original sin of the ITS (and government indifference) that led to so many people becoming illegal residents, but this has never been acknowledged. Whatever one's thoughts are on overstaying by people under the EPS or on tourist visas, consideration should be given to those who fled unjust treatment under the ITS, especially to someone who has spent 17 years - half his life - here.

Needless to say, a government that spouts rhetoric about becoming a multicultural society but through its inaction (and its action of crackdowns) keeps a quarter of its foreign population living in a terror of the police and immigration agents similar to that felt by citizens and student activists back in the days of Yushin and the fifth republic probably should drop that 'multicultural' rhetoric.