Monday, February 01, 2010

LA Times on Anti-English Spectrum

People seem to think that this is the first picture of Yie made available:

It's not; he previously was interviewed by the Seoul Shinmun which posted a video of part of the interview with him (though I can't find the video at the moment).

Original post:

Brian has a good post about this LA Times article about Anti-English Spectrum, which tells us a bit about Yie Eun-woong and his "investigative work."
Yie, a slender 40-year-old who owns a temporary employment agency, says he is only attempting to weed out troublemakers who have no business teaching students in South Korea, or anywhere else. [...]

Yie says he has nothing against foreigners. Growing up near the city of Osan, he often rode with his taxi driver father and encountered foreigners who served at the U.S. military base there. "I learned to pick out the good guys from the bad guys," he says.[...]

The volunteer manager of a controversial group known as the Anti-English Spectrum, Yie investigates complaints by South Korean parents, often teaming up with authorities, and turns over information from his efforts for possible prosecution.
I'd always had the impression it was mostly Korean hagwon and school teachers who were leaving tips, along with jilted ex-girlfriends. I would have liked to have seen this quote expanded on:
"This has nothing to do with race. It is all about teaching," said Kim Young-Lan, a sociology professor at Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul.
Actually, I think it has a lot to do with race - and gender - seeing as photos like the one seen below led to the creation of AES in the first place.

The English Spectrum incident five years ago is something that could stand a more closer look (but I'm too busy to do it at the moment). I'd noticed that Yie's online ID 'M2' was not present when AES first formed; this seems to suggest that he joined a bit later: "In 2005, by then living in Seoul, he joined the fledgling activist group after seeing an upsetting posting on a website: claims by foreign teachers that they had slept with Korean students."

It also notes that ATEK's "[Dann] Gaymer says he doubts that such a posting ever existed." Well, it did, and it can be seen here. What's not translated are the angry comments by the foreign English teachers that saw the post (which the poster said he cut and pasted from elsewhere to test the 'no censorship' policy of the website, Korean ESL (now long gone), much as reports about Christopher Paul Neil failed to mention that at least one of the people who reported him to Interpol was a foreign English teacher in Korea.

Lillias Underwood's book "Fifteen years among the top-knots; or, Life in Korea" describes the 'baby riots' she witnessed not long after her arrival in 1888:
Some person or persons, with malicious intent, started a rumor which spread like wild-fire, that foreigners were paying wicked Koreans to steal native children, in order to cut out their hearts and eyes, to be used for medicine. This crime was imputed chiefly to the Japanese, and it was supposed the story had been originated by Chinese or others especially inimical to the large numbers of Japanese residents in the capital. Mr. Underwood acquainted the Japanese minister with the rumors, in order that he might protect himself and his people ; which he promptly did by issuing, and causing to be issued by the government, proclamations entirely clearing his countrymen of all blame in the matter, which it was left to be understood was an acknowledged fact, and consequently the work of other "vile foreigners," namely, ourselves and the Europeans.

The excitement and fury grew hourly. Large crowds of angry people congregated, scowling, muttering, and threatening. Koreans carrying their own children were attacked, beaten, and even killed, on the supposition that they were kidnapping the children of others ; and a high Korean official, who tried to protect one of these men, was pulled from his chair, and narrowly escaped with his life, although he was surrounded by a crowd of retainers and servants. It was considered unsafe for foreigners to be seen in the street. Marines were called up from Chemulpo to guard the different legations, and some Americans even packed away their most necessary clothing and valuables, preparatory to fleeing to the port. The wildest stories were told. Babies, it was said, had been eaten at the German, English, and American legations, and the hospital, of course, was considered by all the headquarters of this bloodthirsty work, for there, where medicine was manufactured and diseases treated, the babies must certainly be butchered.
These days such rumours of foreigners targeting Korean children are spread in other, more widespread and sophisticated ways:

While the baby riots of 1888 were more threatening, at least the rumours they spread didn't continue for five years... or did they?

By the way, Robert Neff tells me that he gives the baby riots thorough coverage in his new book Korea Through Western Eyes.


King Baeksu said...

Do Yie and his minions "follow" dodgy Korean hagwon owners who hire unqualified native ESL "teachers" sight unseen, withhold pay from their teachers, pocket taxes and other deductions and engage in sexual harrassment of staff?

Who's really responsible for "low-quality" ESL education in Korea?

ZenKimchi said...

Funny you should mention the baby riots. There's a Korean drama playing right now of the first Western doctor in Korea. One of the issues in a recent episode was the Japanese spreading rumors to the Korean countryfolk that westerners ate Korean babies.

Anonymous said...

The baby riots are pretty darn interesting. I'm looking forward to reading more about them in Neff's book. In contrast to Underwood's account of the anti-Japanese origin, I had thought that Christianity, the Catholic French and more specifically the land purchased for what would become the location for Myeongdong Cathedral had more to do with the political motivation for the rumors.

I don't know enough about this issue, but Prof. Donald Clark reminded me of "the Tianjin Massacre of 1870, in which the Catholic mission was accused of collecting babies for their parts, to process into Western medicine in the dispensary."

The interesting part would be finding out how much Korea knew about the Chinese incident by 1888. As a pre-formed idea, with a proven effectiveness (a good number of foreigners were killed and it created an int'l incident), it may have been a convenient rumor to have handy in case of foreign encroachment.

Historical accounts have it that the "haughty Chinese Minister Yuan Shikai watched the negotiation [of the Korean-French Treaty of 1886] in disgust, and 'used every means in his power' to spoil it." (Prof. Ryu Dae Young citing Foulk to Bayard, 12 May 1886, DD.)

Stephen Beckett said...

Probably just as damaging to the image of foreign teachers in Korea is this guy:

He's the one-man advisory committee and sole proprietor of Safe Schools Korea, and he appears to believe that offering background checks external to those required by the Korean government, having first made spurious and alarmist claims about the potential threat posed by foreign teachers, is somehow a positive and helpful community service. Or perhaps it's more that he's simply after making a tidy profit on fees he charges. Whatever his motivation, he's been seeking to promote his services recently, and I don't think he should be encouraged to continue in this enterprise at the expense of the professional reputation of foreign teachers.

Anonymous said...

Matt said:

These days such rumours of foreigners targeting Korean children are spread in other, more widespread and sophisticated ways

Well, it seems to be more than just a rumor: Paedophile worked as teacher in South Korea

matt said...

AES's reason for only targeting non-ethnic Korean foreigners is clearly based on race, and I imagine the 40 years of Korean women 'servicing' foreign soldiers has had some influence on this dislike of foreign men being with 'their' women. Of course, by the 1970s the Korean government was taking an active part in organizing the gijachon outside US military bases, much as parts of the government or Korean hagwon owners (as King Baeksu points out) are responsible for bringing over so many foreign teachers.

I was only vaguely aware of the Tianjin incident - those are some interesting points about the context in which the Baby Riots occurred, Ben. I'd be curious to learn more.

As for anonymous's link, perhaps you would have more luck proving that foreigner teachers being out to do evil to Korean children is "more than just a rumor" if you had linked to a story about someone who was known to have actually committed a crime in Korea. Let me help you out by providing the full list of such people here.

Robert said...

Matt - thanks for the plug. Actually the rumors that eventually led to the Baby Riot appear to have been spread in the mid 1880s or earlier - according to the account given by a Korean working for a missionary family - which is included in the book. During the Baby Riot a lot of people thought the Chinese were spreading the rumors while some blamed the Taewon'gun.
Robert Neff

Kamiza said...

In studying Korean argumentation and debate, I have found that the point at which one person accuses another of misdoing is the point at which he or she is unknowingly admitting their own guilt in similar--if not worse--misdoings.

Dig up dirt on the other guy to
distract everyone from seeing the dirt all over your own filthy face.

Watch the nightly Korean news,
and put my observations to the test.

Anonymous said...

In studying Korean argumentation and debate, I have found that the point at which one person accuses another of misdoing is the point at which he or she is unknowingly admitting their own guilt in similar--if not worse--misdoings.

Hmmm, your comment exactly explains why the whites are so much obsessed and guilty about "racism" issue. Do not neglect the long history of westerners’ cruelty and prejudice against other races. It was not long ago.

Kamiza said...

Thank you "Anonymous." You just illustrated my point wonderfully.