Tuesday, April 06, 2010


The French foreign language teacher scandal of 1984

Prelude 1: The 1983 Law "Limiting Aliens' Residence Period" and banning "unqualified" foreigners from working.

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

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

Part 5: "Jibberish"

On August 21, 1984, an irregular column in the Donga Ilbo titled 횡설수설 ("Jibberish," or "nonsense") provided its own commentary on the subject of unqualified foreign language teachers. Many thanks to Ben Wagner and Kim So-eun for help with the translation:


There is a phrase "Beautiful/American conversation". Of course, it means the direct English conversation taught by Americans, but to hear it in passing it gives off the idea that the person who teaches such conversation lectures is nothing but a “beautiful woman.” At any rate, this “Beautiful/American conversation” symbolizes our country’s foreign language institute fever as there are about 70 official institutes and around 500 private foreign language institutes in Seoul alone. Among these there are not enough [qualified] teachers and a fair share of hagwons have latched onto any Tom Dick or Harry [to hire as teachers].

There was one penniless “French” young man. He was from “Lyon”. There he was a restaurant delivery boy. Carrying only one shabby suitcase, he came to Seoul, and only because he spoke “French” well he became a French teacher. And with the money he earned his station rose and he married a respectable Korean woman and his good life attracted the attention of a newspaper article. Indeed, last week the newspaper "Le Monde" introduced such "success stories."

There is the story of a young man who traveled without money and in Seoul managed even an apartment using his tongue/voice, and the story of another young man who complained about his lack of hours earning money doing things like recording advertisements in French for a large company, and finally there is the story of marrying a maiden from a good family. Also, last June, a young American man caught in Jongno on "document forgery and accompanying charges” confessed he had arrangements with Korean women and female college students who provided him with food and a place to stay, and for one year he lived without a job, eating and living for free.

At the end of his confession, he said “There are hundreds of foreigners like me, and Koreans are exceptionally friendly to foreigners, especially white ones.” As a joke, he said, "If you go to the United States, even beggars speak English well,” but if the power of foreign language extends this far, it would be difficult to stop people from reflecting bitterly on this [worship of foreign languages] as a great sickness. It’s difficult to tell whether the foreign language boom is a bad thing in itself, or whether [the choice of] a marriage [partner], as a personal matter, can be judged as right or wrong, or whether being [overly] kind to foreigners is something to be criticized. Before any of this can be considered, however, one must stand up and have some self respect.
And yes, there is a Donga Ilbo article from June 1984 about the "young American man caught in Jongno." That will have to wait for another day...

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