Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Perhaps I was wrong to suspect ill intentions while reading the sensationalist headlines describing the suicide of the foreign teacher in Busan. Then again, perhaps not, considering this article brought to us yesterday by reporter Gwon Sang-guk at the Busan Ilbo:
[News Follow-up] Severe Alcoholic Openly Teaches Students
Unbelievable Native Speaking Teacher Employment System

At 6pm on the 19th native speaking teacher B (32) was found dead after jumping naked from the waist down from an apartment in Millak-dong in Busan.

Police said that according to the apartment watchman and other sources, B threw off his pants in the hallway on the 14th floor and then threw himself [out of the building]. CCTV also caught him alone in the elevator with a soju bottle.

Before this on the 14th at Gimhae Airport B wanted to go home without a ticket and caused a disturbance. At this time he was also drunk.

Why did the native speaking teacher jump to his death?

American B entered the country in December after receiving a visa to work as a native speaking teacher in Busan. At the apartment he jumped from, he was known to acquaintances who lived there. After receiving his pay at the hagwon on the 15th, he caused problems such as being absent without leave, and left the 'one room' he had lived at until then to stay in a motel. Police said he drank alcohol in the nearby Gwanganni area the day he died and are trying to determine precisely what led to his death.

The hagwon said B already had almost 2 years experience working as a native speaking teacher in Gyeonggi-do and a clean criminal record.

Through the health center it was found that a employment health exam had been completed. The hagwon said, "He was a big person and normally had an outgoing personality so we can't imagine him doing something like this."

But acquaintances in the native speaking teacher community knew B differently. In New York, where he lived for some years, he received treatment for severe alcoholism, and at the time he entered Korea he had not fully recovered. A severe alcoholic who caused a disturbance in a public facility and jumped to his death worked as a teacher and openly taught students in Korea.

Native speaking instructor recruiting is full of loopholes

Due to increased demand for native speaking instructors and economic difficulties in North America, the number of foreigners wanting to come to Korea has grown. Loopholes in the native speaking instructor employment process persist, however.

After frequent incidents, in 2008 there was a trend towards strengthening screening such as instituting criminal record checks, but checking for drug or alcohol addiction is a blind spot that remains neglected. Education is being crippled by native speaking instructors who are frequently absent, or who unilaterally break contracts.

Kim Jeong-suk, policy department head for the Busan branch of the National Association of Parents for True Education said, "At this time in the area of education there are many saying only that native speaking instructors are needed but there is little effort to make real teachers" and, "It's urgent a system be established in which there is a certain deferment period allowing for verification and administration instead of hiring them immediately after registration due to instructor supply and demand, which is said to be an issue."

A hagwon official explained that teachers must go through a phone or video interview, but with such a short and indirect interview the danger of potential incidents by them cannot be completely ruled out. As one hagwon official put it, "When hagwon owners gather, they all complain, "When recruiting native speaking teachers, it's the luck of the draw,"" and, "It's unreal that there are more than 12 kinds of academic and other background documents. Hagwons can take desperate measures like hiring gyopos or hiring directly without going through agencies, but there are no reliable alternatives."

Health authorities also said, "As employment health exams provided by health centers are limited to checking for contagious diseases like AIDS, TB or Hepatitis, it's not possible to determine drug or alcohol addiction."

Meanwhile, due to this incident, Busan's native speaking teacher community is not hiding its troubled mood. There's a worry that instructors who work diligently in hagwons might also be caught up in a witch hunt. On the 21st, ATEK released a statement to its members and the mood is easing. ATEK said, " whoever's fault this situation is, one can not help regret it" and "We want to help foreigners experiencing social adjustment or contractual difficulties at any time."
It's always nice to see articles that cover genuine concerns about foreigners in Korea but are written in such a mature, sensitive way so as to not cause any offense. Or it would be nice to see them, I mean. I'm also impressed by the health center that gave out information about one of its patients, and by the reporter whose English was good enough to interview the acquaintances of the deceased so as to help paint the deceased as a chronic alcoholic and have a jumping off point to criticize the foreign teacher recruitment system (a brave new topic!). Still, considering how messed up his 'quote' of the ATEK release is (compare here), I have some doubts about his English ability. I also like the bit about the foreign teacher community being worried about a backlash. No one has said a word about a backlash as far as I know, because, despite the record of the Korean press, I doubt anyone would have believed a newspaper would sink so low as to use the corpse of a suicide as a soapbox for more (and more!) xenophobia. How wonderful to be disappointed.

I'm starting to get this robot thing, though. I really am. Since it's clear that its expected for foreigners in Korea to have no failings whatsoever - ie. to not be human - robots make a lot of sense. Just think about English teacher robots: no AIDS, no 'crippling education' through absences, and they "won't complain about health insurance, sick leave and severance packages" - the benefits are endless. And why stop at English teachers? Why not make industrial robots that won't complain when they when they don't get paid or lose limbs in machines or when they go blind from being locked in tiny rooms with toxic substances? They'll be legal as well, so no more foreigners who have the nerve to fall to their deaths while running from immigration officers. And what about all these projected problems from wives imported from southeast Asia? I mean, sure, it'll push the Korean robotics industry to the limit to create a viable sexbot that can also cook Korean food correctly, but I'm sure the latter capability can be replaced with the ability to survive ten-story falls. Just imagining such a blissful future is sure to bring tears to the eyes of the editors at the Busan Ilbo. Or maybe those would be due to sandpaper-dildo sodomizing I'm wishing upon them. So hard to tell...

Oh... wait...

The Busan Ilbo has also graced us with an editorial about foreign teachers!

I'll save that for tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

"A brave new topic," I see the sarcasm. And no, I don't believe the “reporter”(cough, cough) contacted acquaintances(plural) either. That would require investigative reporting and from what I've learned about Korean reporters they don't do much of that. Like, I'm sure the acquaintances are going to tell some D-bag over the phone from god only knows about the "severe alcoholic" tendencies of thy deceased. If the reporter knows English, I'd have to assume his pronunciation would be good enough for someone in the states who may not have ever spoken to or heard a Korean language "reporter" speak English. It's too bad most Koreans will believe/buy what this "reporter" is selling.
Using the death of a person to trash thy English teacher. No class!

Anonymous said...

(sarcasm) Well, considering how rare suicide and alcohol abuse are in Korea, don't Koreans have every right to be shocked and appalled by this incident? (/sarcasm)

Seeing Seoul said...

This article you've posted here, plue the editorial that you linked to, make me sick. That these writers would stoop to using the death of a troubled individual as more "evidence" that foreign English teachers are a problem is just appalling.

Now, because of one teacher's highly unfortunate suicide, these people are going to call for those on E-2s to get 1) HIV/AIDs tests, 2) drug tests, 3) alcoholism tests... Are there even such thing as tests for alcoholism? Why must the "blame" be placed on foreign teachers' "lack of moral character"?

Teach English Abroad said...

actually you could see if a persons tryglycerides were elevated and easily check for liver damage. I believe the the Peace Corp does this.

I am totally against these biased and unsympathic news articles though. Considering the widespread alchohol abuse in Korea, the Korean news media ought not to be casting stones.

kushibo said...

It is sickening.

That at least one or two "reporters" in the Korean press might do this, sadly, is not surprising. What I found galling was that at least one foreign national joined the inappropriate bashing as well.

Anonymous said...

For my first few years in Korea, I was conflicted about how I felt about the negative media attention that ethnic minorities get in Korea. After a few years, I've simply realized that professional journalism does not exist in Korea, and that the (very) few articles that aren't plagiarized from other sources are usually filled with unsubstantiated rumor, unconfirmed facts, shoddy research, and endless uncited sources. Now I view reading Korean papers in the same light as reading a comic book. Nothing but garbage and fluff written for the ignorant masses. Nothing read in a Korean paper can be trusted.

Unknown said...

Anyway journalists are known to have crazy drinking habits...maybe they should also be tested on their alcoholism before they are allowed to write information in newspapers that are supposed to inform millions...
Seriously, RIP, this guy was obviously depressed...THAT'S the issue

busanhaps said...

Should just be honest about it and start running all the stories "We Don't Want You. Please Leave."

Anonymous said...

My concern isn't that negative articles are written about minority groups on a consistent basis. My concern is that foreigners, the vast majority of whom come from vastly more developed countries, actually get upset about these articles.

The Korean media is like the Ku Klux Klan. They exist, and they publish silly articles frequently but anyone with anything beyond a 5th grade education simply ignores their non-sense.

kushibo said...

busanhaps and jakeinkorea, what are the Korean-language media sources you regularly read? What English-language sources do you regularly read?

Chris said...

This quote caught my attention: "Hagwons can take [may resort to taking?] desperate measures like hiring gyopos ..."

Darth Babaganoosh said...

This quote caught my attention: "Hagwons can take [may resort to taking?] desperate measures like hiring gyopos ..."

They already do, but they are not subject to any checks like the E2s, and when they get caught doing stupid shit like sexual assault or smuggling drugs or running from a murder rap in the States... they stop being gyopo and once again become American so that they can be used to justify more stringent checks on "E2 degenerates", even though E2 teachers had nothing to do with whatever shit they were caught doing.

kushibo said...

Darth, not all kyopos are eligible for the F4 visa which allows them to bypass the E2 regulations in order to become a teacher.

They already do, but they are not subject to any checks like the E2s

While globally, most ethnic Koreans abroad get no special visa, among English-speaking countries the percentage runs to about one in five or six or so.

I have no idea about this case, but it's not that safe to assume a kyopo is on an F-series visa, just as it's not that safe to assume a non-kyopo English teacher is on an E-series visa (i.e., since F-series visas are available to them).

Just sayin', is all.

Chris said...

interesting remarks, although my point was that the writer apparently considered that hiring a kyopo would be an act of desparation.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

I have no idea about this case, but it's not that safe to assume a kyopo is on an F-series visa, just as it's not that safe to assume a non-kyopo English teacher is on an E-series visa (i.e., since F-series visas are available to them).

True. But my point was that any time a gyopo (or Korean who spent some time abroad) is caught being a "typical" foreign degenerate, he's not on an E2, yet he's used as further proof that more E2 checks are necessary.

kushibo said...

Darth, maybe I'm not seeing it even though it's right in front of me (I read through these the other day and don't feel like poring over them again), but where do these articles call for background checks that are just for E2s and not teachers in general?

Darth Babaganoosh said...

Let throw it back to you: show me where they ask for checks on foreign teachers who are not E2s. Their focus on E2s seems to overlook others who also teach, namely the F2s, F4s, and E7s.

Out of the hundreds of scathing anti-E2 articles, there must me SOME calls for checks for teachers in general. I'm talking about hagwons; we already know PS asks for checks from everyone involved.

kushibo said...

Well, this article seems to be talking about English teachers in general, with no mention of visa type.

As for other articles that do in fact focus on E2s, there is a clear structural reason why: the E2 visa is specifically a teaching-related visa, where the primary purpose of getting it is to teach, so it may seem logical to the powers-that-be to start there with tests and background checks. (Do E7s teach?)

f I had more time I'd go back and look through various Korean-language articles, but a cursory word search finds far fewer articles when I look up 신원 조사+외국인+E2 than without the E2, and nearly as many when I look it up with F4 instead.

Frankly, to me this is a bit of a moot point. Like HIV testing, I think that criminal background checks and whatever should be for everyone teaching, whether on an E2 visa or not, whether with children or not. In 2009, I have talked to government officials about this, some in Immigration and some not, and they don't like the idea of testing only E2 people either.

Anonymous said...

"Should just be honest about it and start running all the stories "We Don't Want You. Please Leave.""


Darth Babaganoosh said...

(Do E7s teach?)

If you wish to teach something other than your native language, that's the visa you'd be on (teaching science, or American history, or whatever); for example "foreign language" high schools, or some of the private boarding high schools in Kangwon-do

to me this is a bit of a moot point. Like HIV testing, I think that criminal background checks and whatever should be for everyone teaching, whether on an E2 visa or not, whether with children or not.

I've been saying this for the last 6 years. Checks for teachers are a Ministry/Board of Education issue, since they know where each and every single teacher in the country is located (regardless of their visa status or nationality); it is NOT an Immigration issue.

PS already did it as a matter of course, but clearly the hagwons can't be trusted to do it of their own accord, so it should be mandated for them.

Although I do disagree with you on checks for teachers who do not teach children. My uni has required background checks as a condition of employment LONG before Immigration came along and made them mandatory for visas, so it's not like I'm saying we shouldn't be checked out. But I just feel it should be up to each uni to check out their staff as it sees fit, just as they choose (or not) to check out their Korean staff.

Anonymous said...

Are you playing dumb or what, don't you know that the Kyopo(F-4) is the Korean "brethren" by blood and to check them like "foreigners" would be "unreasonable." The F-2's get by on default, they are caught in between and simply lucky hence their upheavel when E-2's complain about anything. Why on earth would any kind of checks be needed for any of those people?

Anonymous said...

Kushibe says..."In a relatively tight labor market, people who look Korean or East Asian are hired only reluctantly."

Simply not true, there is a niche market, one that E-2's cannot or easily penetrate.

TG said...

This is saddening and disgusting at the same time.