Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Yeongpyeong-do children staying at English village for free

The Joongang Ilbo has a report entitled "The faces of children weighed down by fear of war beam in native speaker's class," which looks at how the Incheon English village has opened its doors to children from Yeongpyeong-do. Sixteen grade one and two elementary school students (as well as other middle and high school students) are being allowed to stay for 6 days (until December 4) for free (including food and accommodations, which normally costs 480,000 per person). The children have complained about the saunas where they have been staying, saying they’re too hot and stuffy, as well as loud. One middle school student said she hadn’t slept well until arriving at the English Village.

It’s made clear how some of the children have been traumatized by the experience of the attack and becoming, for all intents and purposes, refugees. One girl, a grade two student, saw a truck burning during the attack and complains about the life in the sauna, while a grade one boy hadn’t spoken (since the attack) until the day before, when he was able to become more comfortable and started started answering, “저요, 저요” to questions in a loud voice, regaining his former composure.

The English village has waived some of its rules (as in not speaking Korean) in order to make the children’s stay more comfortable. A native speaking teacher and Korean teacher work side by side in order to encourage the children to actively participate in the classes. It would seem Yeonpyeong Elementary school did not have a native speaking teacher, as the elementary school girls mentioned in the article had never seen a foreign teacher before, and were surprised by her blonde hair. “She’s really tall, too,” they whisper.

Parents and teachers from Yeonpyeong-do are invited to come to the classes, and a grade one homeroom teacher from Yeonpyeong Elementary school noted that Yeonpyeong-do’s parents are worried about how their children will adjust, but many can’t get to their schools. She also said that the children might be startled by loud sounds for some time.

As noted in this summary of Lee Myung-bak's address to the nation last week, "Lee said that some artillery rounds fired by the North pounded an area just about 10 meters away from a school on the island." According to this article,
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.”
This Korean Times article looks at the differences between what those who left Yeonpyeong-do want in compensation from the government, and what the government is willing to offer. The government is committed to moving the people back to the island, giving them compensation for destroyed or damaged houses, paying for the repairs/rebuilding of the houses, giving them housing allowances and tax breaks, and possibly putting people up temporarily in Songdo.The residents have other ideas:
Out of a total 1,361 registered residents, most were evacuated to Incheon and other inland areas while dozens of people remain on the island. Many of the evacuees have been staying at 24-hour-saunas or temporary shelters, which they claim to be shoddy.

Choi Seong-il, the chairman of an ad-hoc Yeonpyeong Island emergency residents’ committee, says most residents have decided not to return to the island in fear of another deadly attack, urging the government to fully help them resettle on the mainland and make a living in a new community.
I have my doubts that the government will support calls by some residents for "the government to fully support our livelihoods on a constant basis."

For more on the background of the dispute over the Northern Limit Line, there's a good article by Andrew Salmon at the BBC.


kushibo said...

This is a nice story. Over at Brian's, I had wondered whether if any of the EPIK teachers or some other native-speaking ESL teachers worked at Yŏnpyŏng-do or the other "Five Islands of the West Sea" full- or part-time.

I guess you answered my question about Yŏnpyŏng-do. Any idea about the others? Paengnyŏng-do perhaps, where the population is some four times larger than Yŏnpyŏng-do?

Brian said...

As I just commented in reply to kushibo, in an earlier post I mentioned Yeonpyeong-do as one of the isolated islands off Incheon where they were using native English speakers from, and in, Wyoming to teach English by videophone:

As your post mentions, the school on Yeonpyeong-do has 120 students in a combined pre-, elementary, middle, and high school, and there is no mention of a native English speaker on the school website. Then again, it's common for schools to not list them: four out of five of my former public schools didn't list me on the roster, either.

One would think that if it weren't terribly impractical to put NSETs on rural islands---whether in Incheon, in Jeollanam-do, or other parts of the country---the proximity to North Korea and the periodic episodes of violence would scare a good many applicants away.

kushibo said...

Brian, I think you make a good point about people being scared away.

OTOH, they only need one or two, and some might actually be attracted to the "danger" element of it all. There are, after all, English teachers even in Pyongyang.

If they gave "danger pay" and provided full housing in each place you were shuttled off to, and they had a schedule that accommodated the travel time, I would be happy to do something like that, for a semester, just for the tales it would inevitably bring. Plus it's beautiful out there.

I wonder how much money Inchon sends out Ongjin County's way (that being the county the islands are located in). Do they give extra money to compensate for the fact that travel between islands becomes expensive?

I've always wondered about that kind of thing. Here in Hawaii, there is a not terribly dissimilar situation with the "neighbor islands." Two-thirds of Hawaii's population lives on Oahu, which is not a huge island. The remaining several hundred thousand are spread over seven islands in four other counties, and it makes a difference in how schools and hospitals are run, and how services are delivered. Since I'm in public health, I had thought it would be interesting to do a comparative paper in the delivery of health or educational services on, say, Paengnyŏng-do and Lanai or Kauai, or Ongjin or Chindo Counties versus Maui County.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

When did the English villages start hiring NETs again? Did the Russians quit?