Monday, January 31, 2011

Queen Bee; or, Return to the Hive

In the comments to this post, seouldout pointed out Korean movies from the mid 80s that dealt with foreign teachers. Today I'm going to look at the 1985 film Queen Bee (여왕벌) (Note: some NSFW images are below.)

A synopsis in English can be found here, while a longer synopsis in Korean is here, and a poster (likely a vhs cover) is here. I was at the Korean Film Archive in Digital Media City this week (which is now very close due to the AREX line being completed) to catch a screening of Declaration of Idiots, and afterward went up to the film library to see if Queen Bee was available. It was (on VHS), and armed with a camera I took shots of some of the more interesting parts of the film. It seems it was shown on TV last year, so there are .avi files floating around on the internet (but to join Korean sites to download it you need all ten fingerprints, a blood sample and a dodo feather, so that might take awhile).

Here's the poster for the film:

I'm sure you'll never guess from the poster what happens in the film or how foreigners are portrayed.

Queen Bee begins with a woman dressed as a traditional dancer and using what looks like a traditional iron, heated in flames, to burn lines into a drawing (of a threesome) on a piece of paper. Then a mostly-unseen black man bursts in and rapes her.

The woman is the mother of Mee-hee (played by Lee Hye-young, who played the principal in Boys over Flowers) and the synopsis of the movie (found on many sites in Korean) says she was with an foreign English teacher and when they broke up, she felt ruined and became an Itaewon girl. I don't remember hearing any mention of English teachers in the film (there were no subtitles, so I may well have missed it, though it would be odd not to pick up those particular words). In fact, many of the foreign men we see - at least at the beginning - speak some Korean.

At any rate, the film then cuts to the present day and we see Mee-hee practicing in her dance studio and teaching young girls traditional dance.

We then meet her sister, Jeong-hee (who's a student, played by then 17 year-old Jo Yong-won (seen here two years earlier)), and they wash each other at the sauna.

(Photo from here.)

From there we move into the hive of scum and villainy known as... Itaewon. Mind you, it's Itaewon in 1984 or 1985, so it looks a bit different than today. The action mostly takes place at the Hippodrome club, where 80s music and fashions abound. Below, Mee-hee verbally fends off a foreign woman who has accused her of taking her guy. It's about the only time in the movie a foreign woman has a speaking part.

We meet a few of her female friends, all 'Itaewon girls,' and then she leaves with the guy below, whose name I forget.

They're confronted by Gyeong-su, a friend of Mee-hee's who has feelings for her and who wants her to change her ways (but whose job - working at a pig farm apparently on the bank of the Jungnangcheon near where the girls live - may not be so appealing). The foreign guy leaves him in the dust and sneers at him.

The foreign guy doesn't end up in much better shape, however. After passing through another club (where a woman is having sex with a foreigner on a chair in the corner), they have a meal at a haejangguk place, where the foreigners speak varying degrees of Korean (and apparently like Korean food; "Where's the kkaktugi?" asks someone). She teaches him to order and after eating they go to his place and Mee-hee whips him and then lets him climb all over her, but before he can do the deed, Mee-hee uses her whip to knock him off of her and walks away. He isn't too happy.

She returns home, and the next day her sister asks about her night ("I didn't hear you come in last night"). Mee-hee meets another bearded American the next night who she admonishes for not speaking Korean to her. He tells her, "I thought I'd practice my English." Also at the restaurant is the guy from last night, who is friendly enough with her.

Mee-hee's sister Jeong-hee goes out with a less-than attractive Korean friend that night to Itaewon (of all places!) and he is apparently affected by the lust in the air, and upon seeing a yeogwan, tries to pull Jeong-hee towards it. She refuses and flees down the steps (the tall ones at Itaewon's east end) and is almost hit by a car. The driver, a foreigner, steps in when her date arrives and she makes it clear she doesn't want to talk to him.

She gets in the car to escape and they drive off. Her date yells, "This is Sadaejuui! Sadaejuui!!" (following the strong, or toadyism).

The guy offers to drive her home and tells her his name is Richard, and that he's a professional photographer. She thanks him and says she's a student. He tells her "I pray for God to see you again" (he sounds German, but is supposed to be American). He gets his wish, meeting her on a bridge while out taking photos a few days later, and he takes her to his studio. On the walls are artistic photos he's taken which seem to have a lot of breasts in them.

Mee-hee is shown teaching and practicing at the dance studio where other dancers rehearse a performance which seems to mix traditional Korean and modern dance. She heads off to Itaewon and bumps into the foreign guy we saw first who tells her, "You tease me - try me! I've got to show you how good I can be in bed!" Jeong-hee, meanwhile finds out what her sister is up to in Itaewon, and follows her. This helps her to feel it's okay to date Richard, who takes her out to dinner and then they head to Itaewon to go clubbing. They walk by Wendys (anyone remember where in Itaewon that was, exactly?).

At Wendy's is the foreign guy from the first night and his friend (who sounds Scottish).

What follows is this conversation:

A: ____ will come from Hong Kong in a few days with the goods.
B: Are you sure nothing will go wrong?
A: Don’t worry about it. I will not let anything happen to spoil your dream life of Itaewon.
B: You can have your three essences of life here: women, liquor and joints. That’s why I like this country so much. I’m gonna make a record of having affairs with a hundred girls.
A: Meehee’s always on her high horse like a queen bee.
B: I’m afraid it’s not that easy for you. She’s not like other Itaewon girls. She chooses her own men, and doesn’t give a damn about the guy when she conquers them.
A: I’ll wait and see. Hey, your visa has expired, hasn’t it?
B: I’ll have to rip off a girl.

Just then a girl sits down, and the guys smile at each other.

Jeong-hee is out dancing with Richard; Mee-hee sees this and walks away in disappointment.

The first foreign guy sees Mee-hee leave and is disappointed, but Mee-hee's friend decides to cheer him up with a little bathroom sex. However, they are disturbed by evil black man, who asks him where the hell Steve is.

Steve was seen at the beginning of the movie with another of Mee-hee's friends.

The film cuts to Steve, who is currently having sex with the girl above, who tells him she loves him and that he belongs to her. Suddenly, evil black man bursts into the room, pulls Steve off of her and throws him to the ground saying, "How can you have fun here while I was in jail!?"

Steve tells him that the girl on the bed is a gift for him, which cheers him up. Evil black man smiles and strips, while the girl looks on in horror. As he rapes her, Steve watches with an amused look on his face.

Just to clarify, this is a South Korean movie.

Jeong-hee and Richard leave Itaewon, but they guy she went on a date with earlier tries to approach them once they're in the car. Richard slams the door into him and knocks him down before driving off.

Mee-hee's friend Gyeong-su (who is trying to save he from this life) finds him and helps him up. They go off drinking makkeolli together. Meanwhile, Steve and evil black man exit the motel they were in (without the girl).

Evil black man says, (with an Australian accent, by the way) "Yeah man, that was a good time. That’s what friends are supposed to be like. She was terrific. In fact, I think we’ll have to do this every night."

The hotel owner splashes water (or soju?) like holy water upon their path after they’ve left and spits after them.

The scene then cuts to Mee-hee walking down the street. Evil black man has obviously met up with the foreign guy from the beginning, who obviously devises a plan for revenge: sic evil black man on Mee-hee. He points her out and says how hot she is, which accomplishes the desired effect:

Evil black man approaches, and the usually calm and cool Mee-hee is scared. He pushes her off the street and up against a wall where he starts pulling off her clothes. Gyeong-su walks by and sees this and intervenes, but is knocked down. Foreign guy grabs him and seems to want to force him to watch:

Instead, evil black man slaps him around until police sirens scare them away. Mee-hee is thankful to Gyeong-su and takes him to a yeogwan where she undresses and offers to sleep with him. He instead covers her up, tells her to get her act together, and leaves.

Meanwhile, after promising to be his model, Jeong-hee poses for Richard. He happily takes photos, which progress to nudes...

...which progress to a happy Richard and... well, I can't tell if Jeong-hee is enjoying herself or in great pain (anyone who has seen Gang Su-yeon in the Surrogate Womb will have seen a similar performance).

The next day we see them embracing in front of Jeong-hee's apartment, where Richard tells her, "I love you baby, I want to marry you." Mee-hee sees this and confronts Jeong-hee, telling her not to make the mistake she did. The argument becomes heated, Mee-hee slaps Jeong-hee, and then the conversation continues as Jeong-hee takes a shower (when I tried to find this movie on Emule, that scene was the only clip that turned up, for some strange reason).

Mee-hee can't make the danger that foreigners pose sink in, though it does for the viewers, who are treated to a flashback of her mother's rape by another evil black man.

Alas, Mee-hee was right. Foreign men are scum. Jeong-hee learns this the hard way, when she goes to Richard's apartment and enters despite Richard not answering the door:

Though Richard is having sex with another girl, he isn't the least bit surprised:

When she stammers that he said he loved her, he replies, "Yes, we loved each other… but love is one thing; marriage is another." Then from nowhere his friend grabs Jeong-hee:

Richard tells her, "He’s my friend. And friends share everything." With no reaction from the Korean woman he was having sex with, he then gets up and, saying, "Come on, let’s have fun together," watches as his friend rapes her (the third time in the film someone has watched another person rape (or attempt to) a woman they're dating).

Cut to Steve's ex-girlfriend walking through the streets of Itaewon, enchanting tourists as she hands out flowers saying, "I love you Steve," and talking about marriage as she flutters about, obviously having lost her mind. Jeong-hee runs along a bridge over the Han River (the 63 building visible in the background) and sees the girl standing at the railing.

Jeong-hee later talks to Mee-hee and tells her what happened, saying, "We’ll be queen bees together." She then goes to the disco club and dances alone. The dance floor fills and suddenly we see this sign:

There were quite a few clubs like this at the time (50 in Itaewon), as I noted last week.

At any rate, the foreigners-only sign suddenly smashes (shades of Fist of Fury?) as a coffin is pushed through it (presumably belonging to Steve's ex-girlfriend). Koreans dressed in traditional clothing enter the club:

West vs East.

While Jeong-hee stands with the confused foreigners, we all know she'll eventually reject the dark side. The Korean friend she went on a date with earlier in the movie is part of the group of mourners, who break into the mix of traditional and modern dance seen being rehearsed earlier in the film. He takes her hand, and though reluctant at first, joins in the dance.

She has rejoined the Korean nation, and has been saved. The Korean mourners, having won this challenge, leave the den of western corruption the way they came. Mee-hee, however, wants more than her sister's redemption - she wants revenge. She dresses up and lingers in front of Richard's apartment, asking for a ride to her dance studio.

He offers to take photos of her dancing. She seduces him and they have sex, while she has flashbacks to her rape by an evil black man.

Finished, she climbs off and reaches for a knife, and Richard's blood splatters over the drawing she was working on when she was raped. We then see her dancing a traditional dance:

She dances in the dark as the camera pulls back from her. Just as she's about to disappear in the distance, still dancing, a shot of the Han River fades in, and she appears to disappear into it. Cut to Jeong-hee and Gyeong-su standing next to the river as part of Mee-hee's costume floats away. Jeong-hee walks away, and the film ends.

The message seems to be: Foreigners who can rape, do; those who can't, watch.

Luckily, as I've noted here and here, things have changed a great deal in the 25 years since this film was released. The portrayal of foreign English teachers in films and TV today is far more positive, right?

Even Min-seo's revenge on her English teacher Haines in Bandhobi is rather similar:

I suppose one thing absent in Queen Bee is foreigners molesting children:

Mind you, I haven't yet gotten to the 1984 film Between The Knees, another that seouldout suggested.

I'll save that for another day, however.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Foreigner-only clubs in 1984

Here's a Korea Times article from August 17, 1984:

Are they certain those "50 disco clubs in Itaewon" are disco clubs? Does anyone know how long those 'GI-only clubs' existed for? And who knew the King Club was around for that long?

I also like that after seeing "decadent shows" staged in the clubs, juveniles become violent, as if exposure to such a foreign place would taint them. Tomorrow I'll post a closer look at such clubs in the mid 1980s.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


'Fighting Korea!'

That image is from September 30, 1988, during the Seoul Olympics. Did anyone else know the use of 'fighting' in Korean to mean 'go for it' or 'good luck' dated back that far?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spoiling morals

From a Korea Times article in May 1984:

Heh. Strip poker. That takes me back. I liked the fact that there "is no law preventing software programs from being duplicated." I also think 4000-8000 won would have been pretty pricey back then. The place mentioned where the disks were being sold, the Seun Sangga, was also well known for in the 1970s and 1980s for selling porn. A friend of mine remembered going there in high school and having vendors calling out in a secretive tone, "Hey, haksaeng!"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thanks Ten

Thanks to Ten Magazine for the flattering review of this blog. Here's hoping that it'll be around at the ten year mark. I also hope there won't be as many negative articles about foreign teachers to translate this year (partly so I can get started on/finish other projects (like this)). One topic I've amassed material on over the years is the 1988 Olympics - and the material I have keeps expanding as I look through old Korea Times articles from that time. Another topic I hope to begin shortly is a look at the 1975 marijuana busts that decimated the rock music scene in Korea. At any rate, there should be more posts on these topics in the future; thanks to everyone who keeps reading!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bits and pieces about English teachers

On January 14, Jeonggyeong News issued this report, titled "WOW EduNet spokesperson Park Seung-tae suggests an alternative to the problems of "Native speaking teacher English education"!"
Demand for English learning is growing and the number of native speaking instructors working in Korea increases every year, but problems with their qualifications are also never ending.

However, because the enormous cost of directly inviting excellent native speaking English instructors to Korea cannot be borne [by hagwons], the situation is that there is no choice but to set up problematic teachers as teachers. Due to the absolute shortage of native speaking teachers like these, there is a need for an alternative to qualitative improvement of Korea's native speaking English education, and demands for this are increasing.

Recently, however, WOW EduNet ( has suggested alternatives to the problems of native speaking teachers.
From there it goes on to act as an advertisement for the company. Interesting idea, though: Slag off foreign teachers to advertise your own company (in a "news" article). The company uses teachers in the US via video chatting. For those hagwon teachers who are annoyed at having to write student reports every month, the company promises parents a report after every class.

In other news, the Guardian recently mentioned HIV testing of foreign teachers in Korea in its education section.

I also found this interesting:

Taken from the video which Brian posted here, it seems perhaps that the robot has the face of the teacher controlling it in the Philippines. However, I've been told that the screens will not show the speakers face as a video chat would, and only feature one of two possible faces.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

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 10: Barking Up the Wrong Tree

On August 26, 1984, Ian Ward responded to the Korea Times article "Foreigners Enjoy Better Life With Mother Tongues," published three days earlier, in a (his?) Korea Times column Miscellany.

Barking Up Wrong Tree

From time to time most article writers cobble together ideas and statistics, and are less than happy with the result. Sometimes the facts are forced into a straightjacket formed of the writer’s preconceptions. Such seems to have happened with an article headed “English, French, German. Foreigners Enjoy Better Life With Mother Tongues” (K.T. 23 Aug.) by Mr. Kim Chang-young.

First, the preconception that foreigners get rich here taking advantage of generous, gullible Koreans. Mr. Kim establishes this to his owners satisfaction, by referring to an American here who used stolen credit cards in dept. stores where no (Korean) saleswoman “suspected him.” He was befriended by “Korean women in military campsides” who provided him with lodging and money and were impressed by his “petty presents in the mornings.”

Secondly, the preconception that foreigners teaching their own language aren’t up to much: “endowed with nothing more than (the ability to) speak their own language.” Reference is made to a Frenchman who came here after “vagabonding in the Philippines.”

Thirdly, the preconception that “Korea is a paradise” where foreigners can make easy money. As evidence, three other Frenchmen joined the first here, a real rags to riches story (arrival with a worn suitcase, now making two overseas trips a year, earning 900,000 won a month). “Seoul was a utopia where the vagrant could earn money enough to buy an apartment in just a few months by teaching French, English.”

Fourthly, statistics are given of offenses committed by foreigners here during recent years… which perhaps ties up with the “vagabonding” mentioned earlier by Mr. Kim or maybe a gloss on a xenophobic view of foreigners.

Fifthly, sandwiched between the above is an indication of the scale of illegally-working foreigners here – of “150,000 dwelling here for over three months … only 338 of them have employment visas … in violation of pertinent laws.” Curiously, the thrust of the article is directed at the much smaller group of English teachers, “1,700-odd foreigners are presumed” to earn their living this way.

How to comment? First, that most countries have the problem of foreigners who overstay their permitted time, often as “illegal aliens.”

Secondly, that “demand” for English teaching is high, particularly so since the declared official policy in Korea (1981) has been to teach English the natural way, speaking first then reading, writing. (A much applauded policy.) “Supply” of competent persons to teach even the Korean teachers who are to take charge of spoken English classes has, apparently, not been attended to. This is a matter for Koreans to take care of.

Thirdly, language schools are NOT known for paying teachers well. (I checked on the schools earlier this year intending to write about them). Often under-capitalized they are unwilling to accept responsibility for teachers, the possible financing cost, of sponsorship. Sometimes they do sponsor and use this as a way of paying very low rates to teachers. At others, the very fact that teachers are not sponsored is held over them as a threat, “as an illegal teacher you’d better accept the low rates of pay or might find yourself in trouble with the authorities.”

Fourthly, who makes the bulk of the money from English etc language teaching – foreigners or Koreans? I suggest language school operators, businessmen rather than those with knowledge of or interest in education, plus publishers of textbooks, producers of cassette and video tapes make most of the money.

Fifthly, if competent teachers aren’t attracted by the “paradise” which Korea is said to be, this is surprising. It is unsurprising that Korean businessmen see in this an opportunity to make money from employing less competent people, illegally, at low rates of pay.

Sixthly, the economic case most easily made against illegally teaching people is that they don’t pay tax on their earnings. Surely this is easily remedied by Korean employers deducting tax at source, from teachers’ pay. Above-board schools do this now, those who don’t sponsor their teachers have every reason to NOT draw attention to themselves by paying tax due from the illegally-employed teachers.

I really think Mr.Kim is barking up the wrong tree. He would be better employed barking up the tree marked “Koreans” than in barking up that marked “foreigners.” Many of the latter – and one sees them from time to time in places foreigners frequent – seem typical young folk enjoying a “working holiday.” They’re not taking jobs away from Koreans, few of them ever report earnings of the level mentioned by Mr. Kim.

Earlier this year Koreans in the U.S. were described as “Mortimer Snerds” which upset many here and there. It seemed unfair as well as unrealistic to stigmatize ANY race in this way. Yet foreigners in any country are an easy target. Dwelling on preconceived ideas about them is no way to achieve Mr. Kim’s declared aim (hope) of “concerted efforts by Koreans and foreigners for mutual benefit on a reciprocal basis.”

That's an interesting look at hagwons back in the day (my, how things have changed), and is also likely the only published response by a foreigner to the portrayal of foreign teachers as vagabond frauds who are treated too well by Koreans which appeared in the Korean media in response to the Le Monde article of two weeks earlier.

For those who are curious about the 'Mortimer Snerds' comment, it appeared in the June 13, 1983 Time Magazine article "Los Angeles: The New Ellis Island," which looked at the different ethnic groups in Los Angeles. About Asians, it said,
The "ABCs" (American-born Chinese) tend to be contemptuous of the "FOBs" ("fresh off the boat"). L.A. Filipinos have their own snickering Tagalog-language acronym—"TNTs"—for their new and often illegal arrivals. Nisei, or U.S.-born Japanese, are embarrassed by Japanese nationals who speak no English; newly arrived Japanese, in turn, are wary of L.A.'s native sansei (third generation) and yonsei (fourth). But all the Japanese seem to agree that they are superior to other Asians. And everybody picks on the Koreans. Says U.C.L.A. Sociologist Harry Kitona: "They regard the Koreans as the Mortimer Snerds of America. They cannot learn the language, their food smells and they cannot express themselves." In a city with half a dozen major "Oriental" communities, national distinctions seem magnified, perhaps because these uneasy ethnic cousins have been thrown together as never before.
As described here, Mortimer Snerd was the secondary dummy of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, created in 1938:
The character was an amiable hick, with a slow drawl reminiscent of the Disney character Goofy, and a streak of innocence and unique logic [...] The dummy reflected this, with buck-teeth, elongated nose, and more mundane "rube in the city" costuming.
If you follow the first link, the puppet looks like he might be a vagabond.
South Korean immigrants also tend to be middle class, or working slavishly to get there. Their numbers have gone up 16-fold since 1970, with virtually all of the newcomers settling in a 2-sq.-mi. swath along jumbled Olympic Boulevard. They seem eager to become full-fledged American bourgeois, holding golf tournaments and staging beauty contests. According to L.A. Demographer Eui-Young Eu of California State University, 40% of the area's documented Koreans own their homes. Most are fervent Protestants. Koreatown has some 400 churches. Ironically, younger Koreans are more likely to commit crimes than any other Asian nationality.
That last sentence is rather interesting. The article got several responses, such as the two below:
As an American citizen, but first and last a Korean, I felt your article gave an extremely negative view of the Korean people. You quote a sociologist as saying that the Japanese regard Koreans as "Mortimer Snerds." Well, these assumed "superior Asians" have much to learn before making ignorant, prejudicial generalizations about Koreans.

Ho Joung Ha Lafayette Hill, Pa.

The Korean American Coalition feels that your article accentuated the negative aspects of immigration while ignoring numerous positive contributions made by recent immigrants. Koreans have already improved Los Angeles by transforming a previously deteriorating neighborhood into a vibrant area called Koreatown. Most of the Korean immigrants are highly educated and skilled and are ready and willing to make contributions to this country. In fact, more than 60% of the Koreans who came here in the past ten years have at least four years of college.

Tong Soo Chung President, Korean American Coalition Los Angeles

On the bright side, at least there weren't articles with titles like "In America, there are a lot of Korean criminals," or with lines like "deviant and criminal acts by Korean immigrants have become common."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Foreigners Enjoy Better Life With Mother Tongues

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 7: Foreigners Enjoy Better Life With Mother Tongues

I managed to track down some more articles about foreign teachers from August 1984 in the Korea Times. Thanks to Robert Neff for suggesting the National Assembly Library as the place to find the Korea Times on microfilm.

On August 23, 1984, the Korea Times published this article on page 5.
English, French, German
Foreigners Enjoy Better Life With Mother Tongues
By Kim Chang-young

Once there was a time when Koreans associated gratitude with foreigners here apart from what and who they were.

Whether a sense of indebtedness to foreign nations for their assistance during the Korean War is still rooted or not, the country now appears to be a “paradise” to a great many foreigners.

The foreigners endowed with nothing more than speaking their own language are enjoying a good life here by making the most of their mother tongues.

In a newly industrializing country in the Orient like Korea, foreigners have a merit even on the simple ground that they can speak their mother languages such as English, French, German, or other languages.

They get more popularity even among young people in a unique situation as they are in a country which was brought under U.S. military administration for three years after liberation from Japan and was later helped by combined U.N. forces during the Korean War (1950-53).

A 37-year-old American was recently arrested in Seoul by police for having allegedly purchased jewels and other accessories worth more than four million won with five credit cards he found last May.

John F. Hadkym used the credit cards including a Diner’s Club card, all of which belong to a U.S. woman, on various occasions at department stores, but, according to him, no saleswomen suspected him.

He revealed that Korean women in military campsides had provided him with lodging and even money when in need so he did not experience difficulty though he had not much money with him. “They were moved impressively by my petty presents in mornings,” he said.

Featuring more clearly than this were some cases carried on the Aug. 13 issue of Le Monde that Korea was depicted as having some of bonanzas any westerner can exploit easily, given the ability of just speaking.

Luc came to Korea in 1981, holding a worn suitcase, on advice of a Frenchman he happened to meet while vagabonding in the Philippines.

Seoul was a utopia where the vagrant could earn money enough to buy an apartment in just a few months by teaching French and occasionally English.

Free from financial difficulties now, he makes two overseas trips in a year – one to Southeast Asian countries and the other to Paris to meet his relatives.

Michael, 28, and his friend, Pierre, are two others who found Korea a good jobsite. In the country where they dropped in without special purposes, they have made lectures at a university and a broadcasting company, respectively, and received some 900,000 won in monthly pay.

They are a few of thousands of foreigners who are utilizing the “Korean phenomenon.”

Roughly 100 foreigners are reportedly working with foreign language institutes as lecturers, and approximately 200 with government offices and business firms as consultants, engineers, or copy readers. The remaining 1,700-odd foreigners are presumed to earn a living by lecturing in English for families or students in groups privately.

However the problem is that most have engaged in business in violation of pertinent laws, for no more than 338 of about 150,000 dwelling here for over 3 months have obtained employment visas, according to immigration officers.

A few foreigners have filed application forms for the change of visa status for employment these days, disclose the officers in Seoul.

Koh In-Kyong, president of a language institute in downtown capital, says some three or four foreigners come to his office daily to seek employment as lecturers. “One time early this year we put an ad in an English newspaper but we had difficulty to select even two competent persons among the large number of applicants.”

Marking controversy is the rapid growth in offenses committed by foreigners since 1980.

The number of foreign people indicted on a variety of offenses doubled to 283 last year against 149 (140?) in the previous year and 144 in 1981, according to Supreme Court statistics.

The 1983 number broke down to 72 from the United States and Japan each, 54 from Taiwan, 35 from Hong Kong and 90 from other countries.

Among them, the statistical yearbook shows, 94 violated the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 90 committed contraband and 12 employed violence.

It is hoped that both Koreans and foreigners in this society exert concerted efforts for mutual benefits on a reciprocal basis.

I think that article might be the best of the ones that had come so far, going beyond its influences (distorted takes on the original Le Monde article, this Joongang Ilbo article on 'fraud teachers,' and this Donga Ilbo article which mentioned the American arrested in June for credit card fraud) to even include the now-familiar refrain "foreign crime continues to rise." I also appreciated the use of 'vagrant' instead of 'vagabond' as a translation of 뜨내기. There are lots of interesting figures there (200 foreigners working for Korean companies and 100 hagwon teachers), and one wonders to what degree this media response to an article in Le Monde was just taking out upon the easiest (or most convenient) foreign target a negative reaction to 'so many' foreigners coming to Korea in the wake of its nascent economic development.

More interesting than this article is the response it garnered in a letter to the editor a few days later. I'll save that for tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just say no to military cooperation with Japan

I think it's good to see that certain ties between South Korea and Japan may get closer, but not everyone agrees:

"Vehemently oppose the signing of a
military pact between Korea and Japan"

This small protest was held in front of Seoul Station last week.

Even beyond the mentions above of Lee Myung-bak, 'new right', and the Grand National Party (which point to the protest's leftist origins), the hand print of Ahn Jung-geun, who assassinated Ito Hirobumi a century ago, should make the stance of those who made the banners pretty clear.