Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Placing native speaking teachers in schools should be re-examined"

As Brian has noted, there has been talk of public schools phasing out native speaking teachers.

There have actually been several articles about this in the past week or so. According to a November 23 Yonhap article, next year Gyeonggi Office of Education will reduce the number of native speaking teachers for the first time. Out of 2,183 elementary, middle and high schools, 2032 have 2,256 native speaking teachers working for them, and next year 200 (or 8.8%) will be cut. This has led to worries of rising private education costs. The Gyeonggi-do office of education has pointed out that they already have equivalent of 1 teacher per 1 school, the related budget will be increased 500 million won to 4.5 billion won next year, and specialist Korean English conversation instructors will be hired.

A November 25 Donga Ilbo article elaborates further on the latter instructors, saying that Gyeonggi-do began selecting Korean English conversation specialist instructors in June 2009, and there are currently around 650 working in schools, with plans to raise the number to 1000 next year.

It also notes that as the plan to reduce native teachers has become known to students' parents, there has been resistance due to fears of private education costs rising. According to parent Jeong Suk-hee, (39, Bundang): "Among parents there has been talk that Korean English conversation specialist instructors lag behind native speaking instructors," and, "If there isn’t much difference in the supporting budgets, we want native speaking teachers to be placed [in schools]."

On the 28th, Newsis, and on the 29th, Suwon.com reported further on this. Here's a translation of the latter article:
Only 2% of Gyeonggi-do native speaking teachers are at Level S

It has come to light that among Gyeonggi-do native speaking teachers, only 2% were given the highest rating, ‘S Level,’ given to high quality teachers, when evaluated by the National Institute for International Education (NIIED - part of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology).

As these excellent teachers are concentrated in big cities like Gunpo, Uiwang, Suwon and Bucheon, analysis points to a serious imbalance in the region.

According to comments made by representative Rep. Jo Myeong-ho, member of the Gyeonggui provincial council’s education committee, on the 28th, of 2203 native speaking teachers working in Gyeonggi-do, 1274 are from the US, 332 from Canada, 253 from South Africa, 169 from England, 78 from New Zealand, 56 from Australia , 25 from Ireland, and 16 are from Korea.

By Rating, 46 teachers were at Level S, 89 at Level 1+, 320 at Level 1, 452 at Level 2+, 791 at Level 2, and 487 at Level 3, and 18 others.

Only 455 (21%) were rated at level 1 or higher, and in particular only 2% were at the S Level.

Most Level S teachers work in metropolitan areas such as Uiwang / Gunpo (7), Suwon (5), Bucheon (4), Hwaseong / Osan (4); there are none in rural areas like Yangpyeong, Icheon, Gimpo, Gapyeong or Yeoju.

Yeoju and Yangpyeong do not even have any teachers rated at or above level 1.

Native speaking teachers invited through NIIED's EPIK program receive their rating after a comprehensive assessment which takes into account their education and experience, and whether they have teaching qualifications such as TESOL.

Rep. Jo stated that, "If someone possesses a 4 year degree from a university in countries like the US, Britain or Canada, they can work as a native speaking teacher whether or not they have a related major or teaching certificate," and, "Expenses for a single teacher cost more than 40 or 45 million won per year, but there is no data to objectively evaluate their educational effectiveness."

"The time has come to verify their educational ability and qualifications," and, "it's time to improve English education which has given unconditional preference to foreigners with inadequate qualifications and ability," he added.
One wonders if the 'comprehensive assessment' the teachers receives actually involves evaluating their actual teaching, or if it only takes into account what is known about the teachers on paper.

This isn't just limited to Gyeonggi-do, however. On November 26, the Busan Ilbo published the following article:
Controversy over unqualified native speaking English teachers

It has been exposed that four out of ten native speaking assistant teachers in the Yangsan area do not have teaching certification or English (teaching) certificates.

According to Yangsan city on the 26th, a total of 58 native speaking teachers have been sent to teach English at 53 elementary, middle and high schools in the area. Out of 58 native speaking teachers, Yangsan city covers the costs for 52 (1,880,000,000 won), while the provincial education office spends 170,000,000 won on four teachers, and two are paid directly by their schools themselves.

However, among these native speaking teachers only six (10.3%) have teaching certificates from their home countries, 27 people (46.6%) have TESOL, TEFL, or CELTA English teaching certificates, while the remaining 25 teachers (43.1%) only graduated from university.

Yangsan city council representative Shim Gyeong-suk insisted that, "In order to ensure educational value and quality and the satisfaction of school teachers and students, the entire current enterprise of placing native speaking teachers [in schools] should be re-examined."
Not "native speaking teachers should be required by the ministry of education (or immigration) to have a TESOL certificate," but, "the entire current enterprise of placing native speaking teachers [in schools] should be re-examined."

If we take into account the incorrect reports from the end of September saying that, due to their irresponsible attitude, 66% of native speaking teachers broke their contracts this year, leading to a "serious regional imbalance in English education," I don't think it's too difficult to see a pattern.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Line 9 derailment

According to Yonhap, at 8:10 last night, train 0913 on Line 9 derailed as it headed towards Sapyeong station (in the direction of Shin Nonhyeon Station). Luckily, it was going under 20km per hour when it happened, so there were apparently (according to Metro 9 officials) no injuries. As can be seen above, passengers exited out the front of the train. SBS has a video here which the following photos are taken from (YTN also has video, and according to YTN it took only 8 hours to restore service).

That's quite the spacious tunnel. I've taken photos before out the front of the train as it's moving and thought that it might be fun to walk around the tunnels - but a derailment would not be my first choice in getting such an opportunity.

It's also not exactly comforting that it happened on Line 9, considering I take it every day.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mice wine?

Or to clarify, baby mice wine?

The post describes it as a health tonic in Korea (and China), and considering I've heard that cats are used to make a health tonic (as are snakes), it shouldn't be so surprising. Still, has anyone ever seen or heard of this?

The state of dabangs in 1965

James Wade provides an interesting look at the world of Korean tea rooms in the mid 1960s.

With its description of the different kinds of music available at different tea rooms, it would seem modern Starbucks, Cafe Bene and their ilk are a poor substitute (especially with the middle of the road mush that passes for music at most). I imagine the coffee is better, though, and the premises are more spacious.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

B.R. Myers on the Yeonpyeongdo attack


Photos of the village in the aftermath of the shelling are here. (Hat tip to DynamicallySparkling)

The Donga Ilbo's article here has a good article about the attack:
Some 120 students attending a public school on the island escaped from their classrooms as soon as they heard the sound of shells and headed for shelters on the mountain in the back of the school.

The school`s vice principal Ha Jun said, “I heard that most classrooms had their windows broken because of the sound of the shells and vibration. Fortunately, no students or teachers were injured.”

It seems villagers were very lucky the shells fell where they did. The article mentions that Daecheong and Socheong islands (the two south of Baengnyeongdo) were evacuated, and that "The Incheon Metropolitan Office of Education indefinitely closed all public schools on five islands off the west coast, including Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong."

[Original post]

NPR interviewed B.R. Myers regarding the attack on Yeonpyeongdo yesterday. At one point he noted the apparent lack of concern over the attack, and wondered if South Koreans are "habituated to a certain amount of tension, and perhaps they see this only as an incremental increase." This is something he brought up at a talk a month or so ago about the lack of state patriotism in South Korea, when he said he worried that continued provocations by North Korea might desensitize people in the South to them (and also noted that the north could not have failed to notice that one of the results of the attack on the Cheonan was that it led to a sizable segment of the South Korean population turning on its own president).

In other news related to the attack, an early article in the Wall Street Journal is here, an earlier report by YTN is here, CCTV footage of the shells hitting the village on Yeonpyeongdo is here, and a report about the two marines who were killed is here. A map of the attack can be found here, which shows the village on the south side of the island (facing away from North Korea), which is located 13 kilometers from North Korea, and where "an estimated 1,700 people live in some 930 houses," according to this Korea Times article.

This MBC report has a satellite photo of the smoke moving away from the island:

The Joongang Ilbo has several reports in English here, here, and here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Boared yet again

[Lengthy update at bottom]

The Joongang Ilbo has an article about sightings of wild boars, including one in Samcheong park on Sunday which resulted in its capture. There's a photo of it after its capture here, as well as a chart showing the number of boars caught by year, as well as the number of sightings in cities and on roads since the beginning of October this year, including a collision in Chungcheongbuk-do that left a driver dead.

This isn't the first time boars have made there way into cities - it was reported on (and blown out of proportion) five years ago after boars made three incursions into Seoul in the space of a few weeks:
The capital is under threat from an unlikely invasion after wild boars were sighted at several locations around the metropolitan area. Last month there were repeated sightings at the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Hotel; now a den that is home to scores of the aggressive beasts has been discovered in Achasan.
Terrifying stuff. Less terrifying were these photos which turned up in June 2006 of a baby boar found in Yangyang, Gangwon-do which was being raised by a woman's dogs as if it was their own.

(From here).

(From here)

Unfortunately, soon after these photos were taken a neighbouring dog realized the identity of the boar and killed it. (I'm not sure if it was possible for that story to have a happy ending, really.)

When I first read about the boars, I wondered just how dangerous they were. To be sure, having a 200 - 300 pound animal charge you is not something that will turn out well, and I eventually noticed that Korean boars did have tusks. What really brought it home was a story in Horace G. Underwood's memoir Korea in War, Revolution and Peace (as well as in Donald Clark's Living Dangerously in Korea) about a hunting trip in the 1930s in (I think; the book's at home) Gangwon-do. The Underwoods built an addition to a Korean family's house with the stipulation that they got to use it for a week of the year, and they would get locals to go up onto the mountain and act as beaters, making noise as they moved down the mountain in tandem, chasing animals to the bottom where the hunters waited. Once, a boar had been shot and one of the Korean men moved towards it when it suddenly reared up and slashed his leg open with its tusk. The man was sent to Seoul and was fine, but Underwood noted that a knife could not have made a cleaner cut than that boar's tusk. He also noted, however, that that was the only time he'd seen a boar gore someone.


YTN has a report on the latest boar to be caught, as does MBC (in IE only). Do watch the MBC report though, as it's got some great footage (hat tip to Gary Norris). When MBC explains the number of wild boars in the mountains around Seoul, it uses these great graphics:


All I can ask is, "What did you do with Cheongwadae, you bastard pigs?!" Even more fun is footage of a convenience store clerk standing on top of the counter, for what is apparently good reason - it jumps up on the counter after the clerk, who leaps off.

That's a pretty aggressive pig.
The one thing I can't figure out is why they blurred out one of the pigs' faces. While it crossed my mind that 초상권 may also apply to wild animals, I then remembered that most of the other boars had their faces shown. Perhaps that particular boar is related to someone in a position of power. Which might explain the cheongwadae connection above.

Here are a few related articles from the Joongang Ilbo over the past five years:

Searching for a meal
‘Wild pig chase’ ends after 11 hours
A hunting ban spurs city boar baby boom
Leopards on the decline (Which says that the last leopard in Korea was caught in Jirisan in 1963)
An article about the mutant boar movie Chaw.
Wild boars are a hog-sized problem (which tells us that in 1518 boars dug up the grave of a queen)
Villagers up in arms as wild boar invade
The quiet night of Oct. 19 [2009] turned to terror with locals’ screams as a group of nine wild and hungry boar slipped into an apartment complex in a mountainous region of Gumi, North Gyeongsang.
If those boars were anything like the one in the convenience store, I don't imagine it would have been much fun for the people outdoors that night.

Still, I can't help but think of something like SNL's classic 'land shark' sketch, with the doorbell ringing and the family thinking the tangsuyuk has arrived*, only to have half a dozen wild boars burst into the apartment instead. It might work as a trailer. Begin by showing deforestation and apartment complexes surrounding mountains, follow it with images of police chasing and killing boars, and launch into the apartment complex attack.
The scene at school the next day isn't difficult to imagine: "Chul-soo! Do you really expect me to believe that a wild boar ate your homework?!"
"But-but - "

It pretty much writes itself...

* I suppose the tangsuyuk had arrived - but in an uncooked, still-living form.

Anti-Korean protests in Taipei

The Joongang Ilbo reports that after a Korean official disqualified a Taiwanese athlete who was winning a taekwondo match at the Asian Games last Wednesday (after finding extra sensors to register kicks which had been approved beforehand), Taiwanese have held protests which have included flag burning and calls for boycotts of Korean products.
According to news reports, some people threw eggs at a South Korean school in Taipei on Thursday. An owner of an electronics store in Fengyuan in north-central Taichung County hurled Samsung Electronics plasma televisions on the floor and, with the help of two friends, smashed the television screens with hammers.

Workers at a cosmetics store in Taiwan also threw South Korean products on the floor and stomped on them.

People burned South Korean flags outside Taiwan’s Sports Affairs Council last Thursday after an appeal over Yang’s disqualification was rejected by the Asian Taekwondo Union.

Some Taiwanese are boycotting South Korean goods. Another electronics store owner in Taipei is encouraging his customers not to buy cellular phones from South Korea.

Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has called for a probe into Yang’s disqualification. [...]
Nice to see the president getting on the 'right' side of nationalist hysteria. Now, when I heard of burning flags, I was expecting something more daunting than this:

To be sure, if I were Korean and living in Taipei, I might be worried and would want to be careful when in public places, but if the Taiwanese were, say, ripping up flags on this scale, while yelling, "We will recover our national pride," then I'd be a little more worried:

(From here.)

It's not like things happens on this scale often in Korea (the big ones that stand out in the last ten years have been in 2002, 2005, and 2008 (should we brace ourselves for next year?)), but when it does, it's quite a spectacle to behold.

The Joongang Ilbo article concludes with this:
The ministry also said that Seoul’s representative office in Taipei had been told to convey a message to Taiwan’s government.

“Yang’s disqualification at the Asian Games is regrettable, but the burning of Korean flags and boycotting of products that is spreading across the country is something that calls for attention,” the ministry said yesterday.
Yeah, it sucks when that happens, doesn't it?

Friday, November 19, 2010

'Quirky' female swimmer wins gold medal

The Joongang Ilbo reports on swimmer Jeong Da-rae's gold medal victory, saying she
won over fans with an unexpected Asiad gold medal in the 200-meter breaststroke on Wednesday night, but she’s drawing plenty more attention for her good looks and oddball characteristics.
At least half of the articles about her have the 얼짱 photo below (courtesy the Sports Chosun (as if that's a surprise)):

The article goes on to portray Jeong as an 'oddball' for crying (see here as well):

As if Korean medal winners of both genders don't often shed tears upon winning their first gold medal [1 2 3 4 5 6 7]. It's not oddball at all, but I guess some reason is needed to ogle her. The Joongang Ilbo article also mentions her quirky expressions...

...and adds this:
Another comical scene ensued when she was asked by photographers to strike a pose afterwards. Jeong bit down hard on her gold medal, drawing a quizzical expression from the bronze medalist, Ji Liping of China.
(From here.)

Again, as if biting a gold medal isn't a pretty common thing for Korean medal winners - or any medal winners - to do.
It's two years old, but this article about an English teacher from New Zealand who worked in North Korea is interesting, as are his photos. (Hat tip to Milton)

Also, Gord Sellar and The Korean have continued their debate over whether banmal to an elder deserves a slap (which started over the incident in October where an old woman dragged a teenage girl around a subway car after she spoke banmal to her). Start here for the most recent comments.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ban Ki-moon urges E-2 visa HIV tests be dropped

But apparently certain organizations want them in place.

From the Canadian Press:
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging South Korea to scrap a requirement that foreign teachers take an HIV test, an official said Tuesday.

South Korea dropped a travel ban in January for most foreigners with the virus that causes AIDS, drawing praise from the United Nations. But it still requires foreign teachers, most of whom teach English, to take HIV tests. The ban is largely the result of pressure by parents.

In a meeting last week with Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik in Seoul, Ban urged that the HIV test requirement be abolished, said Yoo Sung-sik, a spokesman for Kim. Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, was in Seoul to attend a summit of the Group of 20 leading economies.

Kim told Ban he would carefully review the request, Yoo said.[...]

In South Korea, if foreign teachers test positive for the virus, the government reports the results to their employers. The government cannot deport them, but employers usually cancel the HIV-infected teacher's contract, their teaching visa is automatically nullified, and they then have to immediately leave South Korea, according to the Education Ministry.

Ban's request was first reported Tuesday by the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

Interesting. I don't think the Ministry of Education has been so upfront about this before, though, as I mentioned here, GEPIK has apparently fired three teachers for being HIV+ in the past. As for the Chosun Ilbo's article mentioned above (there's an English version here), it has an interesting sentence in it:
However, to accommodate the views of the Ministry of Education and students' parents' organization, HIV testing is still required only for foreign teachers who teach [such languages as] English.
Now, it has been said several times that 'parents support the HIV tests for teachers,' such as in the first article above ("The ban is largely the result of pressure by parents.") as well as here:
According to an unofficial survey by the Prime Minister’s Office, the majority of parents wanted solid evidence of their children’s teachers’ HIV status,” said an official of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
The Korea Herald described that survey in more detail:
Concerns were highlighted in a press release from the prime minister’s office on July 12 informing people of the results of a survey on whether or not HIV testing of foreigners should be abolished. In two surveys -- one of 500 men and women over 20, the other of 50 professionals (teachers, doctors) -- the results overwhelmingly indicated the desire to continue testing foreigners for HIV -- 80.7 percent for the former and 82 percent for the latter.
Nothing is said about the "500 men and women over 20" being "parents," but the 'parents have concerns, just look at this survey' line has been used several times now.

More concerning is the reference in the Chosun Ilbo article to the "students' parents' organization" which supported HIV tests. I have never heard of such an organization. There was an organization that wrote the Ministry of Health and Welfare, claiming to represent "parents of students and all citizens," and applauded them after it was announced that HIV tests would continue for E-2 visa holders. They also drew a link between the 'demands of parents' and the survey. That group, however, was Anti English Spectrum.

It seems the Chosun Ilbo has decided that describing AES as a 'citizen's group' is not enough. How fitting for the Chosun Ilbo, which has given AES a voice over the years in its various publications like Sports Chosun ("Beware the 'ugly white teacher'), Weekly Chosun, and Chosun.com, to help re-brand them as a "students' parents' organization."

Not that there's anything incorrect about this, I suppose. They've been 'concerned' about students and concerned with 'parents' for years now, as this earlier incarnation of their website, with its pictures of nationalist forefathers and the statement (in red) "Our homeland is protected by the blood of our ancestors" reveals:

I'm sure AES, with their concern for the nation's children, will have a great deal to say about the owner of a boarding academy booked for 19 sexual assaults against 7 female students aged 15-18 over 14 months (who the girls said acted like a pseudo cult leader saying sex with him would improve their test results).

(On an unrelated note, the Chosun Ilbo's glowing description of the "The 5 Korean Beauties of the Asian Games" begins with 16 year-old Son Yeon-jae.)

And with their concern over sexually transmitted diseases, I'm sure they also have much to say about the 9 year old girl who couldn't afford taekwondo fees who was raped three times by her instructor and given an std, and are busy arguing whether seven years in prison and 20 years wearing an ankle bracelet was really severe enough punishment. (From Korea Beat)

They're likely also debating whether a teacher in Cheongju went too far when he opened the windows and made his (male, it seems) high school students take off their shirts and sit in their cold classroom during self study session last week.

Let's see...

Four out of the 12 most recent posts are about Quincy Black (another shows their media contacts) and there's nothing about these recent cases (or any cases) of Korean children being abused by Korean teachers, and little on the threat posed to them by a Korean Canadian murder suspect. Which should tell you all you need to know about the "students' parents organization."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

20,000 North Korean refugees

Today the morning subway paper Metro had a similar graphic as above (from here), showing that over 20,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea, with 19,000 of them coming since 1999. According to the article in Metro*, 607 came before 1990, 488 came during the 1990s, 312 in 2000, and 583 in 2001. I remember around 2004 or 2005 the unification ministry under Roh Moo-hyun said that it wanted to cut back on the number of refugees coming into Korea, which might explain the dip in 2005. It's obviously been steadily increasing since then, but I would have imagined it to be more than 20,000 people, which is statistically a tiny part of the population.

*Update: The graph I saw in Metro is here, while the Segye Ilbo has a graph showing how the percentage of females among North Korean refugees has changed over the years (and is now at 77%):

Monday, November 15, 2010

Changing the image of English teachers

[Update: The KT has another article about Korea's first Indian English teacher here (via Brian).]

The Korea Herald has an article about ATEK and its desire to change the image of English teachers.

The Korea Times also has an article about wanting to change the image of English teachers:
For many Koreans, English is a language that only those from Western countries can teach. However, a small private school in North Jeolla Province has challenged this prejudice by inviting the first-ever Indian English teacher here last September.
It's interesting that in other articles by this writer, such as this one titled "Foreign Teachers Fight 'Discrimination'; Justice Ministry Discounts the Claim" or this one, which refers to "what they call discriminatory visa rules," claims of "discrimination" are put in quotation marks or made clear that the 'discrimination' is merely something that is claimed by one party. In this latest article, however, the 'prejudice' that "only those from Western countries can teach" English is taken as a given.

That's not to say that there isn't such a prejudice - there is, and I think it's great that teachers from other countries are being hired. Students will get to meet people from other cultures - people who are usually found working in factories in Korea - and learn more about the world, and the education offices will get to save money by paying them less. It's pretty easy to see what one of the aims of the article is, however.
“Indian teachers are quite friendly and respect our culture,” Lee [Chae-chong, a supervisor dealing with English teacher recruitment at the North Jeolla Province Office of Education] added.[...]

“It’s true that some native English teachers are not so serious about their classes and look down on Korean teachers. But our English teacher is very devoted to his classes,” said Yang In-sun, one of Wanju High School’s English teachers. “He also understands Asian values very well.”
One wonders if the first sentence of that last quote was actually said or not. At any rate, even without it, the message would be clear - the Indian teacher respects Korean culture and understands Asian values, unlike those other teachers.

I was wondering if this article, written for an Indian audience, would be a little more neutral. It looks at the background of all of this and interviews the Indian ambassador, noting that the ability of Indians to teach English in Korea
is very much a result of hectic trade parlays which resulted in India's Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) with South Korea last year. [...] Cepa had a clause to allow Indians [to] teach English in South Korea.

"It took great diplomatic effort to achieve this. It can really open the market for our teachers," India's Ambassador to South Korea S R Tayal told Business Standard. "We have to leverage our human resources. South Korean companies employ many Indians in important positions in India. We must have more Indian workers in South Korea."

It turns out that the article was based on the Korea Times article, and ends on this note:
Some welcomed the inclusion of Indians in teaching because they thought the native English speakers were not serious about their classes and looked down on Korean teachers.
On a more upbeat note, in an article with a title containing the quotes "Something I can't imagine in Britain" and "Am I in North Korea?", Voice of the People interviewed a native speaking teacher who was popular and got on well with other teachers until recently, when he became glum after a teacher he works with at his school was disciplined and faced suspension after she donated to a political party, and a teacher at another school was fired. While it's clear that he's being used to criticize government heavy-handedness, it's nice to see an interview with him that actually treats him as a person with opinions worth listening to.

40th anniversary of Jeon Tae-il's death

A memorial to Jeon Tae-il was installed along Cheonggyecheon, near where he set himself on fire on November 14, 1970, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his death. A statue of him was installed on one of the bridges over Cheonggyecheon in 2005, and his death was also commemorated at a pre-G20 protest a week ago.

I previously wrote about Jeon here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cheating death by KTX

Yonhap reports that Miryang Station worker Hwang Gyu-yeong is being hailed for risking his life to rush a woman out of the way of an oncoming KTX train after she inexplicably decided to step down from the platform and walk across the tracks on November 3.

If you watch the video at the bottom of this page, you see that the train arrives about 5 seconds after they step off the tracks.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Public school teacher stats and the inquiry into Quincy Black

On Tuesday the Seoul Sinmun reported on the placement of native speaking teachers in public schools, and provided this helpful chart:

At top are the number of teachers by year, followed by a breakdown by nationality of teachers currently working, and at bottom are the percentages of teachers with qualifications. Interesting to see how the numbers changed over the years. The spike in 1996 and 1997 can be explained by something I quoted here (original link dead):
In 1995, at the crest of a wave of private language institutes sweeping the country, the Korean Ministry of Education launched a pilot program called KORETTA, or Korea English Teacher Training Assistants, later renamed the English Program in Korea, or EPIK. It was the first and only nationwide government-initiated program to address the demand for English education in Korea, designed to place native English speakers in public school classrooms to co-teach alongside Korean English teachers. EPIK, however, was marked from the start by disorganization, miscommunication and allegations of corruption by its foreign teachers.

In 1996, a summer intake that consisted of several orientation sessions, run by Korea University, brought in more than 860 teachers, but by the third week of October, fewer than 500 remained [468, according to the Korea Times on Oct. 23]. Those who quit cited reasons such as inadequate housing, late salary payments and refusal of severance pay.
In 1997 we see there were 856 teachers, but by the end of the year they started fleeing the country as the financial crisis hit Korea. An April 1, 1998 Korea Times article mentions that
Foreign English teachers are giving up their jobs in South Korean high schools because their pay has shrunk in value, discouraging an ambitious English education plan that started just a year ago. Education Ministry officials said 126 out of 856 native English-speaking teachers quit as of the end of last month [and few would re-sign when their contracts ended in July].
The number of teachers in public schools wouldn't reach the numbers from 1997 again until 2004.

In other news, the Daejeon city journal reports that as Daejeon Dong-gu council's administrative affairs investigative committee begins its probe into the spread of the "native speaking teacher sex video," [the one by Quincy Black] there is debate over the morality of Woongjin Think Big, the educational company in charge of running the International Communication Center, where he was staying.

(The Daejeon ICC, from Daum map's road view)

There are lots of questions being asked about the company's responsibility, whether it moved the furniture in the room afterward, calls for apologies, etc.

The article adds that
the sensation caused by the spread of the native speaking teacher sex video and the related problems with the native speaking teacher recruitment process and qualifications has raised questions regarding the morality of Woongjin Think Big, who are responsible for the management and supervision of these teachers.
If only they'd put "Do you plan to film pornography and upload it to foreign websites during your stay in Korea?" on an application form, the company would be able to blame the teacher (who, of course, should be blamed).

Lastly, Maeil Gyeongje reports that the Daegu International School is being investigated for having 10 foreign teachers work illegally, and for hiring at least 6 unqualified Korean elementary and middle school teachers. The foreign teachers were hired back when the school opened in August, but got into hot water when it was discovered they were paid on September 3, but had received their work visas on September 23, meaning they had been teaching on tourist visas for several weeks.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

1968 Blue House raid revisited

In January, Andrew Salmon wrote an interesting article in the Korea Times about the the 1968 North Korean commando raid on the Blue House, which was followed by the capture of the USS Pueblo shortly after. The article provides a good introduction to the news this week that the only North Korean survivor of that raid, Kim Shin-jo, was appointed as a North Korea human rights adviser. As the Joongang Ilbo notes,
After a year of interrogation by South Korean authorities, Kim was allowed to settle into civilian life in the South and became a citizen in 1970. He converted to Christianity and has been serving as a pastor since 1997.
I'm surprised at such lenient treatment - I wasn't aware that any of the commandos had survived. There is also an interview with him, which includes this exchange:
When you met Park Geun-hye at Hwang[Jang-yop]’s funeral on Oct. 11, what did you say to her?

I said Kim Il Sung knew that if President Park Chung Hee was alive in the South, South Korea would surpass North in terms of development. That’s why he sent me to kill him, and I found it true when I came here.”
That must have been an interesting conversation. The KT also reported on Kim's appointment.

In other North Korean related news, the headline about the photos below (from this article) in a paper I read on the subway (Metro, I think) was "Kim Jong-un pours with one hand, just like Kim-Jong-il."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

G-20 and 'global etiquette'

One of the places where it has been easiest to observe the PR campaigns leading up to the G20 has been the in places connected with subways, as the police presence in subway stations has been growing for some time now (I first wrote about this in June, when I posted the photo below):

Changing trains at Gimpo Airport Station, I'm likely to see around ten police officers there a day, but nothing quite like these guys, who are likely more armed due to the fact that they are at Coex, the G20 venue:

On Line 9, with its trains and stations having screens which continuously replay the same ads, there are also several G-20 related ads, or at least ads I imagine are related, such as the one showing the subway police presence on trains and in stations as they tackle thieves and gropers

Above they take away a wanted criminal, and below is the video accompanying methods for preventing sexual harassment/groping.

I would assume that's meant to be seen by G20 visitors, though it's interesting that they are depicting groping in these videos - I'd imagine that's not the kind of thing the nation branders want to present to the world. One video which refers to the G20, brought to us by Seoul City and SK Telecom, shows both Koreans and foreigners enjoying themselves in Seoul/Korea, but the opening shot is certainly interesting:

That's actually a second or two too late - it begins with her kissing him on the cheek (the entire ad is in slow motion as well). The accompanying text reads "I made a family in Seoul "(but throws this '+a' symbol into the sentence which I don't get), much as the one below reads "I made a miracle in Seoul."

The image above is also reminiscent of this campaign during the last world cup.

What I found rather interesting the other day was a video in the subway station which showed people being rude, which then had a guy superimposed over these images of rudeness talking (via subtitles) about 'global etiquette,' making clear that knocking people out of your way and shouting into your phone loud enough to be heard in Busan are not ways to behave during the G-20.

These images make it clear what the global etiquette campaign is about (click to enlarge):

You can find out more about sunfulls here (sunny + peul ('repeul' instead of 'reply') maybe?). I wonder if the photographer deliberately positioned the western girl under that particular word?

A video about the global etiquette campaign can be found here as well.

Just in time for the G-20 is the Cheonggyecheon Lantern Festival.

The Korea Times also posted an article titled "It’s the foreign journalists, stupid!":
G20 is coming soon. And the Lee Myung-bak administration has decided to mount a massive charm offensive for the most important guests to the event who will shape the way the world audience will feel about the global gathering: foreign journalists.

The local daily, Dong-a Ilbo, said the government has embarked on a plan to “earn the hearts and minds of nearly 3,000 foreign journalists,” who will descend upon Seoul to cover the G20 conference.
Conferences like these always lead to security measures which inconvenience (or anger) locals, but parts of Seoul are taking the charm offensive in oversensitive directions:
Residents in Seoul’s Seodaemun Ward in the city’s west are baffled by their local authorities’ latest move to please the visiting VIPs. They say officials will halt operations at a waste processing facility from Nov. 10-12 for fear that the stench of food waste could tarnish the country’s image. The facility is located in an area through which the global leaders will be passing en route from Incheon International Airport to the capital.

Also ahead of the Nov. 11-12 summit, the Seoul Metropolitan Government this week launched a large-scale cleaning spree, involving more than 50,000 citizens and public officials. Divided into two stages, the project aims to first clean all roadside facilities throughout the city and then keep up their appearance until two days after the summit. (Yonhap News)
Is it just me, or is the phrase "keep up their appearance until two days after the summit" a little too obvious?

I'm curious to see how quickly (or if) the police disappear from the subways.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Second half of Incheon Airport Subway to open December 29

Or most of it, anyways:

According to that map, the stations at Hongdae and Gongdeok won't be open until 2012 and the end of 2011, respectively. According to the Hankyoreh,
Travel between Seoul Station and Incheon International Airport will become faster and more convenient, as the Phase 2 section (20.4-kilometer section linking Seoul Station to Gimpo Airport) of the Korail Airport Railroad opens on Dec. 29. This construction follows the Phase 1 section (37.6-kilometer section linking Gimpo and Incheon airports) that opened previously. It has been almost 10 years since the project started in April 2001.

Travelers can also check in luggage at Seoul Station before leaving for the airport, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said Wednesday. They will pay 5,300 Won ($5) for regular trains traveling from Seoul Station to Incheon Airport in 53 minutes, and 13,300 Won ($12) for express trains in 43 minutes.

They just switched over the signs at Gimpo Airport station the other day. Previously the two levels of the station had the express train to Incheon Airport at level B4, and the all-stop train at level B-3, but now the latter level has signs reading "To Seoul Station," with both the express and regular trains leaving from level B4 (the north side of the station is the platform for line 9). I read somewhere (I can't find it now [update: Wikipedia says this]) that when the Seoul Station portion is complete, some trains from Incheon Airport will shift tracks and take Line 9's route to Gangnam.

The construction taking place in the Magok-dong fields (which I've written about before) has been pretty much completed for some time now (though up until a month ago part of the tunnel appeared to still be uncovered), and trains have been doing test runs for a few months now as well. It's disappointing that the connection to line 2 at Hongdae won't be finished for another year or so, but I can't complain about a subway option that can get me from Gimpo Airport to Seoul Station in 20 minutes.

Friday, November 05, 2010

A Yonhap photographer caught a seagull trying to grab a fish (a gray mullet) from an osprey at Namdaecheon in Gangneung, Gangwon-do yesterday.

(From here.)

(From here.)

(From here)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The battle over HIV tests for foreign English teachers

From this article, illustrating this story

There were a few things I've been meaning to blog about that I needed to pull out and dust off before I felt I could talk about the announcement last week that HIV tests will continue for E-2 visa holders. I decided a chronological review might work best - starting from the beginning of 2009. I'll save what came before that for another day. 
In February 2009, Benjamin Wagner submitted a complaint regarding the drug and HIV tests required for E-2 visa holders to the National Human Rights Commission, and in concert with this, ATEK encouraged people to submit complaints as well. This was done in part to draw attention to Bill 3356, which, if passed, would mandate HIV/AIDS testing of all foreigners applying for work visas in Korea. At the time, ATEK president Tom Rainey Smith (who has been active with Amnesty International in Korea on migrant workers' rights) told me he hoped the challenge would benefit other foreigners besides English teachers.

 [For entertainment purposes, here's a link (first result) to Anti English Spectrum's response to the claims (which was not so different from the ministry of justice's response, but then, AES was present at the immigration policy meeting where the HIV tests were concocted in the first place, so that's no surprise), where AES manager M2 almost blows a gasket after a certain Korea Times reporter stopped by and said that ATEK's discrimination claims did have merit. After several nonsensical comments connecting English teachers to AIDS (drawn from this article), the intrepid reporter backs off, saying there's no need to argue, and adding: "Please round up lots of white molesters." Classy. AES manager Lee Eun-ung also penned an op-ed in the Kyunghyang Sinmun later that month arguing against the English teachers' claims.] 

 In March 2009, Andrea Vandom turned in a letter of protest instead of an AIDS test at immigration, but they renewed her E-2 visa anyway, and then, realizing their "mistake," threatened to "deport her". In June, the Korean Public Interest Lawyers Group Gong-Gam filed a petition with the constitutional court on behalf of Vandom arguing that the tests had been “imposed with no reasonable grounds” and were “based on vague prejudice and bias that foreign English teachers have disordered sex lives”. The Court accepted the case in July 2009. That article also stated that the NHRCK was supposed to hold a conference in July on the matter the E-2 visa requirements, but we're still waiting for that (perhaps this or this is why). 

Also in early June, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon advised Korea to remove its HIV entry restrictions. 

 In September 2009, the Korea Times reported that "Korea is moving to scrap its policy of banning foreigners with HIV/AIDS [...] in the face of protest from foreigners and legal experts against what they call discriminatory measures." It said that E-2, E-6 and E-9 workers needed HIV tests. However,
"There will be no changes for E-6 visa applicants. We do not deal with non-professional workers as the Labor Ministry is responsible for AIDS tests on E-9 visa applicants," Ahn Kyu-seok, the KIS spokesman told the Korea Times. "However, if the Constitutional Court rules that making foreign instructors submit documents on HIV tests is unconstitutional, we may have to scrap the requirement," Ahn added.
Interesting that E-6 visa applicants were to face no changes, but not particularly surprising (considering recent events) that they seemed reluctant to change the E-2 HIV tests even in the face of a possible constitutional court ruling. In early December, migrant worker activists filed a petition against mandatory HIV tests with the NHRCK:
The petition, submitted by five groups, including the HIV/AIDS Human Rights Solidarity Nanuri+ and the Migrants’ Trade Union, says South Korea infringes on the human rights of foreign migrants by conducting tests for HIV on them without their knowledge or consent. The coalition made the complaint to coincide with World AIDS Day.
On January 4, 2010, it was announced that Korea had lifted travel restrictions on HIV positive foreigners. A subsequent closer look at this policy a few days later by the Korea Herald, turned up less than hopeful responses from Ministry of Justice spokesperson Ahn Gyu-seok, who said,
"Originally, we deported foreigners who tested positive for HIV. And they were not allowed to visit Korea again. But in light of the Jan. 1 announcement, the rule is just getting more flexible, meaning that the rule is not changed," the spokesperson said.
He then said that non-dangerous HIV+ foreigners could remain in Korea, but that if the Ministry of Health judged them to be dangerous, they could be deported. According to Park Il-hoon of the Ministry of Health,
"If foreigners who test positive for HIV negatively influence public health, we will restrict them from revisiting Korea. For example, in the case of HIV-positive foreigners having sexual relationships within Korea is one example of when we would restrict someone," said Park.
The article also noted that National Assembly representative Lee Sang-jun, who drafted Bill 3356 (which would mandate HIV/AIDS testing of all foreigners applying for work visas in Korea) still hoped the lifting of the HIV travel ban would not affect the passing of his bill. According to this Korea Herald article, which looks at how Education officials have urged the Ministry of Justice to "reinstate deportation and to institute further restrictions in the form of annual re-tests for HIV,"
In a reply to proposals from national, provincial and municipal Education Review Committees in February and March [2010], the Ministry of Education agreed to petition the Ministry of Justice to revise regulations to give legally binding force to re-testing requirements already in place at some public schools. 
If the MOE is looking for "legally binding force," that seems to suggest they don't already have it, which makes one wonder about the annual HIV re-testing requirement already in place to renew contracts for SMOE and Ulsan MOE. In mid July, the Prime Minister's office announced they were going to make things easier for E-2 visa holders (just as tougher new regulations were being announced) but added that
the government decided to retain the current system obligating foreign language instructors to get an HIV test, citing a public survey in which the test was supported by 80.7 percent of ordinary citizens.
The Korea Herald explained further:
Concerns were highlighted in a press release from the prime minister’s office on July 12 informing people of the results of a survey on whether or not HIV testing of foreigners should be abolished. In two surveys -- one of 500 men and women over 20, the other of 50 professionals (teachers, doctors) -- the results overwhelmingly indicated the desire to continue testing foreigners for HIV -- 80.7 percent for the former and 82 percent for the latter.
[AES responded to this with the post "We stopped the claim that AIDS tests for native speaking teachers should be abolished!" (here, first result)] The Herald also noted that
The Ministry of Justice recently announced a “revision of HIV infected people regulations.” According to the revised regulations, while HIV tests for foreign teachers on E-2 visas will remain in place, a positive test result will not automatically result in visa cancellation or deportation. 
According to Ahn Kyu-suk, a public relations official with the Korea Immigration Service, though the rules have been slightly changed, the safety of Korean citizens is still the main concern. Ahn said that deportation can still occur if the health administration reports someone being a potential hazard to societal health. 
Of note is also the fact that according to the Ministry of Justice there has yet to be any reported cases of teachers testing positive for HIV.
Actually, according to a Simin Ilbo article from October 2009 titled "From AIDS to Drugs, Native Speaking Teachers," three teachers in Gyeonggi-do were found to be HIV+. In 2008 a female teacher working at a middle school in Gapyeong was found to have been infected with HIV by her husband, and after the truth was discovered, she was deported 9 days later, while in early 2009 two native speaking teachers set to work at middle schools in Icheon and Paju were fired after testing positive for HIV during their health screening. The Herald article continues:
The MOJ’s move to ease restrictions on HIV testing is considered in-line with the government’s January pledge to remove restrictions for foreigners based on HIV status. Education officials, however, are urging the MOJ to reinstate deportation and to institute further restrictions in the form of annual re-tests for HIV. [...] 
An official with the KIS meanwhile said that as far as their regulations go, teachers on E-2 visas only need to get a HIV test upon the initial issuance of an E-2 visa, not for the renewal of a contract.
While EPIK is toeing the line on this, SMOE and Ulsan MOE are not, and the latter is facing a challenge at the moment because of
one case where a teacher wanted a contract renewal, but did not agree with having to be tested again for HIV. The case has been in arbitration for a year now. Kyung Hee law professor and U.S. attorney Benjamin Wagner represents the teacher who is bringing the challenge.
Meanwhile, the Korea Times reported in August that
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea is likely to conclude that the nation’s visa rules requesting foreign English teachers to submit AIDS/HIV test results infringes upon human rights. 
Lee Sung-taek, an inspector of the state human rights agency, said Tuesday the agency has completed investigations of petitions, filed by a number of native English-speaking teachers who claim the current E-2 or English teaching visa rules are “discriminative” against them. 
“The investigation report will be referred to the agency’s committee next month, and the committee, consisting of three permanent members, will decide whether the AIDS check, imposed on native English speakers, is against human rights or not,” Lee told The Korea Times. “(As an inspector), I am positive that immigration authorities would be advised to revise the controversial visa regulations regarding the AIDS check-up, although immigration authorities are not obliged to follow the human right agency’s decision.”
The article also notes that the NHRCK review "also affects E-6 (entertainers, artists, athletes and models) and E-9 (non-professional employees) holders, who are also subject to compulsory AIDS tests." 

 Then on October 25, the Joongang Ilbo published an article (in Korean) titled "'Compulsory AIDS tests' for foreigners to be abolished at the end of the year. UN points about 'violation of human rights' accepted; Native speaking teachers still need to be tested." It was pretty much copy and pasted by the Chosun Ilbo as well. The Joongang Ilbo's English site translated most of it under the title "HIV rule to be lifted for E-6 visa holders."
The Korean government is moving to revise visa regulations on HIV/AIDS ahead of the upcoming G-20 Summit in November, to match global standards on the issue, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
[I'm sure the G-20 delegates will appreciate the fact that the one visa which still requires HIV tests applies to people from the US, Canada, England, South Africa, Australia, China, and Japan.]
Currently, foreigners with E-6 visas - entertainers, athletes and performing artists - staying in the country for more than 90 days must submit an HIV-negative confirmation document prior to entering the country. Those without the document must take an HIV test within 72 hours of their arrival in Korea. 
The revised regulation will make E-6 visa holders exempt from the requirement and will come into effect at the end of December, said the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
The Korean version adds that,
Related to this, at the end of September the Ministry of Justice also announced legislation to amend enforcement regulations of the Immigration Control Law that would abolish confirmation of foreigners' HIV negative status. Until now, foreigners entering the country to work in hotels or adult entertainment businesses needed to submit a confirmation of HIV negative status in order to receive an E-6 visa and register [at immigration offices], but this procedure will be eliminated. This procedure will also be eliminated for industrial trainees when they receive permission to extend their stay, and for sailing crew when they register [at immigration offices]. However the process of requiring the submission of a health check confirming whether they are infected with AIDS will continue to be required for native speaking teachers when they apply for visas.
The English version notes that the industrial trainees are on D-3 visas, and tells us that "E-10 visa holders [...] are foreign sailors employed by Korean companies. " It also adds that "The policy will remain in place for E-2 visa holders - foreign language teachers - because of strong public opposition" [emphasis added]. The part in italics is not in the Korean language article. Interesting that the need to continue testing E-2 visa holders didn't seem to require any extra comment or justification in the Korean version. 

As for the reasoning behind the Ministry of Health's decision to remove the tests, it quotes ministry official Jeong Eun-gyeong: “We’ve decided to ease the rules as HIV is not transmitted through air or water but through human contact most of the time.” She also notes that abolishing the tests was agreed to in order to meet international standards. 

The English article ends by noting that "About 70 HIV cases among foreigners are reported every year," illustrated by this chart:

The Korea Times also reported on this, noting that 4000 E-6 visas are issued every year, but it states instead that it is E-9 visa holders under the employment permit system who will no longer have to submit results or be tested to renew their residency - which differs from the D-3 and E-10 visa holders mentioned in the Joongang Ilbo article. It also notes that the Ministry of Justice's September repeal of the automatic deportation regulations for people on E-6 and E-9 who test positive for HIV has been submitted to the National Assembly for confirmation. It's interesting that E-9 visa holders were brought into this, considering that the Ministry of Justice stated in September 2009 that E-9s fell under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Labor. 

While the Joongang Daily added the part about "strong public opposition", the Korea Times went further in laying out the reasons for E-2s continuing to be tested.
“Education is considered a very intimate relationship. According to an unofficial survey by the Prime Minister’s Office, the majority of parents wanted solid evidence of their children’s teachers’ HIV status,” said an official of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. 
“The continuation does not mean the government regards foreign teachers to be HIV positive or have the potential of transmission ― it is just intended to assure the parents. We are considering revisions in this area, too,” he added.
In other words, the MOE is saying to foreign English teachers, "We know you don't have AIDS, the tests are all a show for the parents so just play along." Cute. As for the "intimate relationship" of education, I thought foreign teachers had no "affection" for Korean students, unlike Korean teachers (though using the word "intimate" in English also conjures up other kinds of relationships between teachers and students; perhaps those teachers should learn from education officials). 

 When it comes to the claim that the MOE is "considering revisions" in their HIV testing policy, the Korea Herald article from August seemed to make that pretty clear. That article also has an interview with an official at the National Institute for International Education Development, a division of the MOE, which oversees EPIK,
“For the extension of visa or renewal, submitting an HIV test should be mandatory, but since we have to listen to what the MOJ is instructing, we changed our regulations.” 
Jung added that negotiations with the MOJ on the matter were continuing and that as far as the NIIED was concerned, HIV test submissions, deportation, and re-testing should be enforced because of concerns expressed by parents and doctors. [...] 
Citing the survey as one reason for keeping HIV testing regulations rigid, Choi Hong-jun, deputy director of EPIK, said that even though the MOJ has revised its regulations, negotiations are underway to reverse the new policy.
Those negotiations may include the MOE filing a petition with the MOJ to make the already existing annual HIV retests at schools in Seoul and Ulsan "legally binding." Perhaps what we are seeing with E-2 HIV testing being frozen in place, while HIV tests for other foreign workers are phased out, is part of a compromise between the two ministries. Or perhaps not - only time will tell. 

Anti English Spectrum was thrilled with the announcement of the continuing HIV tests for English teachers, and sent a report to the Ministry of Health and Welfare the other day titled “Worries about and a demonstration of support for keeping AIDS tests in place for foreign teachers on E-2 visas.” M2 noted that after sending the report, the disease policy (division) of the Ministry of Health and Welfare contacted him, and he also firmly conveyed information about native speaking teachers' "fabrications and false claims." In the report itself, AES claims they represent "parents of students and all citizens," and write "Because it allows for sovereignty over protection of citizens’ health and human rights and managing the safety of children, we are in support of the current system." They also declare that the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s policy is also in accordance with the demands by many parents for stronger management of foreign teachers, and they use the results of the July 2010 survey by the Prime Minister's Office to support this. 

They also make a request: "However, we ask that you should be vigilant against the distortions of some native speaking teacher groups who will express their discontent regarding this policy. [...] Ministry of Health and Welfare, do not by blinded/fooled by them." 

I get the feeling someone watched Revenge of the Sith a few too many times. 

 For those with their vigilance powered up, ATEK's statement is here (I hope they sent one along to the Ministry of Health as well). And true to the desires of their first president, the process they helped start has indeed benefited other foreigners in Korea. 

Just to show how much attention AIDS gets in Korea, depending on the story, there are almost 100 news reports about the 19 year old HIV+ girl in Busan who sold sex to about 20 men, though the second part of the story hasn't been widely reported in English:
The court rejected the arrest warrant when it was revealed that she is mentally disabled and has the mental development of an eight year old. A prostitution victim protection organization “Sal-lim” and psychiatrist pointed out that in light of this level of development, it is not possible that can be held responsible for criminal action or for taking these actions on her own. When the arrest first took place, the woman's father had told the police that his daughter was forced to sell sex by someone else, but police officers chose to charge her with a crime.
And just for fun, I couldn't help noticing that YTN published an article stating that 1 in 22 African Americans are at risk for HIV a week after the story of 'Quincy Black' broke.