A week ago I posted on an article about Koreans working as 'fake native speakers' at phone English companies, which put the blame on the companies for the situation. On the 15th, Sports Seoul decided to go a step further publishing an article titled "Ddeokbokki should be pronounced 'ddeobbogi'" - the sorrow of fake native teachers."
You really can't make this stuff up.
The article begins by referring to Mr. Kim (27), who works at a famous language hagwon as a native speaking teacher, who was startled by the news of the recent crackdown on 'fake phone English native speaking instructors' because he also poses as a native speaker at the hagwon. Saying that one can't easily distinguish between a fake and the genuine native speaker based on pronunciation alone, he asserted that hiding one's identity is easy at Phone English companies. The same is not true for those pretending to be native speakers at hagwons, where instructors frequently come into contact with students. After the crackdown on phone english companies he is sweating over having to disguise himself as a native speaker more thoroughly, saying, "I feel grief in my life." The author then urges readers to listen to the difficulties of fake native speaking teachers.
Most Korean instructors acting like native speakers lived in places like the US during their childhood and so their pronunciation is the same as a native speaker, and their command of Korean differs according to each person, with some being stronger than others. Obviously, in language hagwons they pretend not to know a word of Korean, and sometimes make up that they are mixed race Koreans.
We're told that the reason they have to pretend to be native speakers is that because of the demand for native speaking teachers. As an official from a famous hagwon in Seoul explained, "Parents prefer native speakers over Korean instructors who are good at English because they want them to teach not only English but also their culture and etiquette, so parents only send their children to hagwons with foreign teachers."
The next section is titled "Ddeokbokki should be pronounced Ddeobbogi," and tells the story of Mr. Gang (29) who works at a language hagwon in Seoul, and who has become fearful during meal time. Not too long ago, thinking he'd just grab a quick meal at a gimbap place near his hagwon, he ran into students he taught there, and for awhile he didn't know what to do and debated and agonized over how he should speak while his students watched. Almost instinctively, he placed an order for 'ddeobbogi,' deliberately using poor pronunciation [that's also how it's been newly Romanized]. Another fake native speaking teacher always carries an electronic dictionary because after class students often inquire about the English terms for particular Korean words, and acting as if he doesn't know the word (or Korean), he shows the students the English words in the search results. At that hagwon, if the students ask what a word is in Korean, another instructor acts as if he doesn't know and puts on an agonized expression while finding the relevant English word.
Up next is a look at what happens when teachers who are 'invisible' because they are thought not to understand Korean hear secrets said in front of them by unsuspecting students. At one hagwon in the capital area, Mr. Song (29) was amazed when he heard a girl in her early teens speak in Korean to her friends about a sexual experience. He said he'd heard students speak openly in front of him and many times had wanted to tell the parents. There are students who bear untold animosity towards their parents, and others who are overworked and stressed. He hears private conversations and secrets and agonizes over the 'sad fact' that he cannot do anything about it.
Then we learn that it's not these teachers' fault for doing what they do, and the special circumstance that we have to understand is that "the idea of preferring blue eyes" mass produces these fakes. We're told that not all korean instructors act like native speakers, but the number of fake native speaking instructors is higher than one would imagine. Mr. Song, who has for 8 years moved from one famous hagwon in Seoul to another, says that usually at famous hagwons in seoul, the rate of real native speaking instructors and Korean instructors is about 5:1, but at small scale hagwons there are no small number of fake native speaking instructors. In October a Canadian wanted for murder in Canada was discovered teaching as a native speaking teacher in Korea, showing how difficult it is to properly obtain native speaking teachers. Even if fortunate enough to retain good teachers, the cost is not insignificant. For them insurance and accommodation, and even utility bills should be paid. Because if this, some hagwons pressure Korean instructors to pretend to be native speaking instructors. In spite of deception regarding nationality, the backdrop to their business is the parents' preference for native speakers.
What a tale of woe about these fraudulent native speaking instructors.
Back in September there were several reports, including one from the Chosun Ilbo, which were basically advertisements for Best ID Korea, which purported to be the best at doing background checks, which told readers that "The problem of foreign instructors with criminal records who have faked their background is becoming serious." Much of the reports back in 2005 and 2006 about foreign teachers focused on them being 'unqualified' or having fake diplomas, and we can see outcries against foreign teachers with fake diplomas here (Chosun.com!), while NoCut News reported in July that new E-2 visa rules would require an apostille with a diploma, an "active measure to solve the problem of fake diplomas."
Neither article about these fake native speakers has shown calls for them to be punished, and both go out of their way to defend the fake Korean teachers, revealing that it's not really their fault, they're forced to do it by hagwons, or can't resist the lure of easy money (never an excuse for foreigners). It's not really the hagwons' faults either, as they are forced to do it by parents who want their children to be taught be native speaking teachers and by the high costs of real native speakers who are treated so well that even their bills must be paid by the hagwons. The case of the Canadian teacher [no mention of his ethnicity] wanted for murder in Canada who taught in hagwons in Seoul is just an example of how difficult it is to hire good teachers, not an example of how a policy of excluding F-4s from criminal background checks has allowed wanted killers to teach children.
The accompanying cartoon, depicting the ddeokbokki incident and the teen talking about her sexual experience in earshot of the teacher raises questions:
Do they have blond hair (and a goatee and earring) because they are masquerading as foreigners? Hard to know, considering how bizarre it is.
I have no doubt that there must be a lot of pressure on these Korean teachers, and that some of their experiences acting as someone they're not must be unpleasant. It would just be nice if media reports about real native speaking teachers gave even 20% as much consideration to them as is given to the fake ones. But that's probably 20% too much to ask.