Sunday, March 28, 2010

Update on 'Foreign English teachers in the news'

The Joongang Ilbo has an article on the arrests of the former Korean-American gangsters.
R, 26, was reportedly a member of a Korean-American gang in Los Angeles when he got into a fight on July 14, 2006, at a cafe in the city’s Koreatown, stabbing to death a man identified as B, 27. Four days later, R fled to Korea.

After Interpol located R in Korea, U.S. investigators asked the Korean government to extradite him. However, because R has dual citizenship, he had been able to change his name in a Korean court and couldn’t be traced.

During his time on the run, R worked as an English teacher at a hagwon in Suwon, Gyeonggi, for two months. While there he allegedly took methamphetamine and marijuana.[...]

Seoul police said yesterday that R was arrested on the drug charges here, but they plan to extradite him to the United States if the Korean courts agree. They are also searching for Yu, 31, who fled after being interrogated for allegedly taking drugs with R.
The article goes on to mention Lee, 26, who was "deported from the United States in 2006 after being charged with attempted murder and credit card fraud." It also mentions that "Five others, including an American teacher, were indicted without detention for buying drugs from Lee." I'd had the idea that the five others were all native (ie E-2) English teachers, but perhaps that's what the police/media want readers to think. One wonders if there is a reason the two cases were mentioned together. The person wanted for murder worked only for two months while the other person apparently worked for much longer, but the idea one gets from reading the reports in both Korean and English is that both had been working at hagwons for years - which I imagine is what the some elements in the police/media would like people to believe. As Brian in Jeollanam-do noted, the language in Choi Young-hee's 3 bills focusing on foreign English teachers does not specifically mention E-2 visa holders, only 'native English teachers,' but her office told Benjamin Wagner that they were meant to target E-2 visa holders. One wonders, after the fallout of this case, if such vague language could be used to justify making people on all visas be subject to the drug tests and criminal record checks the bills call for. As is pointed out in this article,
Currently, there are 50,666 F-4 visa holders and 22,018 E-2 visa holders as of December 2009, according to KIS. Among those with F-4 visas, the government does not know how many are involved in English teaching.
One wonders if that ignorance applies to F-2 visa holders as well.

The Korea Times reported this week that the government is planning to check the qualifications of Korean hagwon teachers.
Under the current regulations, Koreans who completed at least two-year college courses are entitled to teach at hagwon without legal binding.

Officials from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology told The Korea Times, Friday that they are likely to submit a bill to ban inadequate teachers from working at hagwon.

"There have been no attempts to regulate eligibility of hagwon teachers by law. We plan to submit a bill next month, disallowing ineligible hagwon teachers, to the National Assembly," said an official in charge.
As Brian has looked at in depth, the Korea Times article about this tries to conflate this with foreign English teachers (no surprise, considering it's the Times). It's interesting that, after years of calling for and then implementing rules for foreigners working in hagwons on E-2 visas, nothing has been done regarding the qualifications of the Korean instructors working there. In fact, I'm not sure if the numbers of these hagwon instructors are kept track of. Sex crimes by Korean teachers have been kept track of , as noted in this article:
A total of 124 sexual crimes involving elementary and secondary school teachers were reported to the education authorities between 2006 and 2009. Among them, 47 involved prostitution, 43 were sexual harassment and five were rape cases.

However, only eight teachers (6 percent) were given prison sentences, while 31 were not indicted and 28 received suspended sentences. "It seems that teachers were exempt from punishment through out-of-court settlements with the parents of the victims,'' Rep Choi said. "Moreover, each city and provincial education offices, which were supposed to strictly punish those teachers, gave only verbal warnings. Only 21 teachers were fired for sexual violence.''

According to data collected by the lawmaker, nearly 60 percent of the assailants were merely warned or reprimanded.
It does not seem that such statistics are kept on hagwon instructors, however. It's estimated that there are 480,000 teachers in the public school system, so it's likely a safe bet that there are at least as many (if not twice as many?) hagwon instructors at all sorts of hagwons. While it's been suggested that, instead of comparing the E-2 visa holder crime rate to the general population, it should be compared to the crime rate of Korean teachers, it would likely be fairer to compare it to the crime rate of both Korean teachers and hagwon instructors, seeing as two thirds of E-2 visa holders teach in hagwons. Of course, it's possible such statistics for hagwon teachers do not exist.

At any rate, after years of calls for more regulations for foreign English instructors, and after that, calls for even more regulations (and if Choi's bills and others pass, likely even more calls for regulations), it's nice to see something being done to check the qualifications of Korean instructors, seeing as there are far more of them than foreign English instructors working in hagwons.

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