Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Textbooks under scrutiny

As this September 12, 1975 Korea Times Article reveals, concern by the government about depictions of Korea in foreign textbooks (such as this) is nothing new.

Interesting that it was noted that textbooks "lacked historical and theoretical depictions of democracy in Korea." There might have been a very good reason for that...

Friday, March 25, 2011

More responses to Korea's 'Ups and Downs'

The following letter to the editor was published in the Korea Times on September 12, 1975 during the letters page brouhaha which followed an article about the "Ups and Downs" of Korea.

The letter, which did not refer to the "Ups and Downs" column, prompted several responses which touched on similar subjects of criticism and 'incorrect' portrayals - but this time they were all written by foreigners. This one was published on September 14, 1975:

Is his last name really Choson? Interesting. His response falls into the "I've never had any problems here, so I can't imagine anyone else would" category.

The mention in Dennis Swing's letter of how women seen with foreign men are subjected to a "tirade of vicious remarks" is responded to in this September 18 letter:

Mr. Craig seems to be supporting the Korean people, and criticizing the arrogance of foreigners who would dare complain about people who call their female companions whores to their faces, but he chose a rather inapt analogy. It wasn't that "only prostitutes" were accustomed to walking alongside men - something that suggests that all women seen walking with men in Korea were assumed to be prostitutes. The point was that it was assumed that only prostitutes would be seen walking with foreign men.

On September 21, the following letter was published in response - perhaps - to all of the previous letters:

One wonders how the number of letters published compared to the number of letters submitted, but the way the Times portrayed it, there were more foreigners writing letters defending Korea against foreign criticism than those writing letters pointing out its 'faults' (though it should be noted that the column that sparked the debate also contained praise for Korea as well).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ups and downs, back and forth

On August 27, 1975, the Korea Times published a piece by John G. La Bella titled "Ups and Downs" in the Thoughts of the Times opinion column.

More interesting than the piece itself was the responses that followed. On September 4, the Times published this letter to the editor:
Respect For Host

Dear Sir,
I am really disturbed by the recent series of articles written by Mr. John G. LaBella in which he is critical of Korean people. Mr. LaBella should remember that he is a guest in this country and must show more respect for his host. What right does a guest have to criticize his host in public?

Ma Tai-jin, Insa-dong, Seoul
On September 11, 1975, the Times published the following two letters - one which shared the sentiments of the above letter, and one which criticized such sentiments:

On September 20, an American resident responded to the first letter above:

Needless to say, arguments about who is qualified to comment upon or criticize Korea have been going on for a long time. It's a bit like reading some blog's comment section, except that the conversation took three weeks to unfold. Tomorrow we'll look at another critical letter related to the above kerfuffle and the responses it garnered.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Showing of "63 Years On"

I got an email from The House of Sharing asking me to mention that this Saturday there will be a screening of the Kim Dong-won documentary “63 Years On” (끝나지 않은 전쟁), which is about the Comfort women, and which will be shown with English subtitles. I haven't seen this particular film, but I've enjoyed all of the other Kim Dong-won documentaries I've seen (He's best known for "Repatriation" and "Sanggye-dong Olympics").

Date: Saturday, March 26th, 2011
Time: 3:00pm – 5:00pm
Film duration: 63 min. There will be a speaker and group discussion after the film.
Where: Dongguk University, 90th Anniversary Commemorative Munhwa Gwan (Cultural Center), Deok Am Seminar Room, 1st Floor (How to get there: Dongguk University Station (Line 3), Exit 6. Go up the escalator and follow the road until you see Lee Hae Lang Fine Arts Theater. It’s the building on the back side of the theater)

Info: www.houseofsharing.org
Email: info@houseofsharing.org

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A preferred omission?

This posting about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is also interesting:
Unlike many other bombing raids, the goal for this raid had not been a military installation but rather an entire city. The atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima killed civilian women and children in addition to soldiers. Hiroshima's population has been estimated at 350,000; approximately 70,000 died immediately from the explosion and another 70,000 died from radiation within five years.
I imagine the writer would be shocked to learn 67 cities had already gotten the same treatment.

Also, the Wikipedia page on the bombing of Tokyo has several photographs and maps.

[Original post]

There was an interesting omission in a Yahoo News article I read today:
Nuclear radiation is an especially sensitive issue for Japanese following the country's worst human catastrophe -- the U.S. atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
I'd tend to think that attacks on two cities - even atomic attacks - paled in comparison to the firebombing of 67 Japanese cities in the spring and summer of 1945. I was out with a Canadian and an American who were both nuclear refugees from Japan on Saturday night and the topic of how the firebombing of Japan had been pretty much forgotten in the west came up. My sister taught in Oita ten years ago and wondered if the city had been bombed during the war. I was never able to find out until I watched The Fog of War, which can be seen here. The firebombing of Japan is discussed for about 8 minutes starting around the 33:00 point. At one point it lists all of the cities bombed along with the percentage of the city destroyed (Oita's figure is 28.2%). Obviously having a lot of time on my hands, (predating this blog) I decided to make a map. It came up in discussion the other night, so I'd thought I'd post it - I just didn't expect the omission mentioned above to appear as I was doing so.

I wonder to what degree the firebombing is dealt with in Japan's memory of the war. As Michael Hurt reiterated recently, the memory of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - the only time nuclear weapons have been used on civilian targets - has allowed Japan to portray itself as a victim, so I'm curious if the firebombing has been downplayed at all in Japan, or in its presentation of its history to outsiders. Certainly, when westerners think of firebombing, Dresden or Hamburg come to mind - suffering firebombing wasn't a unique experience, even if was used to far more devastating effect in Japan.

This also brings to mind how the bombing of North Korea during the Korean War has been forgotten as well, though in the North's case, as Brian Myers has argued, it has also been omitted in North Korea's portrayal of the war to its own people, as massive bombing doesn't quite gel with the concept of Kim Il-sung being a protective leader and skilled general.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Asians in the library"

A UCLA student - a self-proclaimed "nice, polite American girl" - has received threats after the ill-advised posting of this video.

Not much more to say than "Wow." Not only 'ching chong' and 'hordes of Asian people' but following up an imitation of Chinese with a reference to the tsunami that hit... Japan. Methinks the reason her 'epiphanies' never arrived had little to do with people talking on their cell phones. One wonders how long this will follow her around for.

The story is covered by the Daily Bruin and Angry Asian Man, and a comment on the response to the video is here; searches for 'Asians in the library' on Youtube will turn up lots of responses, parodies and remixes.

A Google search might also turn up the blog 'Asians Sleeping in the Library,' a Blackout Korea-esque blog consisting of photos of Asians sleeping in libraries and classes and which is "meant to celebrate, not berate, the hardest workers at our universities." It apparently welcomes submissions, and contains posts with titles like "Asians sleeping in packs."

As always, no one will ever go broke underestimating the amount of stupidity on the internet.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan's coast, before and after

[From here]

Jaw-dropping satellite photos of areas in Japan before and after the earthquake and tsunami have been published online in various places, such as here (and more can be seen here).

At their weekly protest in front of the Japanese embassy, former comfort women were photographed holding signs reading "Japanese Koreans and Japanese citizens, have heart."

[From here.]

It's certainly nice to see, though I had to wonder at the free Metro paper I was reading on the subway putting a story about a Japanese porn-inspired university freshman in Busan arrested for 10 sexual assaults over the last three years below the photo of the comfort women.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The native speakers are coming! The native speakers are coming!

[Update: As noted in the comments, Michael Hurt followed up on this with interesting results.]

On March 8, NoCut News and the Joongdo Ilbo teamed up to bring us this incoherent article:
'Fake' native speaking instructors descending upon Daejeon
After screening strengthened in capital area...
Unlicensed hagwons spreading

As screening of private hagwon native speaking instructors has been strengthened in the capital area (such as in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do), they are streaming into provincial cities such as Daejeon.

There is concern about the side effects of a good many of these hagwons, classes and private lessons which are operated as unregistered or illegal hagwons.

On the 7th, hagwons and parents of schoolchildren reported that recently some areas of Daejeon have seen the spread of hagwons set up as foreign language centers which claim to have second or third generation overseas Koreans or married native speaking couples from the US or Canada.

They run small scale-operations teaching from kindergarten to middle school with various English related educational activities such as authentic American curricula, graded English class progress, conversation-based question and answer classes, and short orientations for those preparing to study overseas currently in progress.

In particular, in areas like Seoul and Gyeonggi-do where well known hagwons are concentrated, there is concern that students and parents are victimized by PR made up of unconfirmed claims made about teaching in order to attract students.

Their form of management is similar to hagwons, but there are numerous instances where they are unregistered hagwons which have not been reported to the relevant education office.

For this reason, and to protect against the inflow of unfit native speaking conversation teachers, create a wholesome atmosphere for studying and of course to guarantee safe places of learning for youth, from the first of last month the Ministry of Justice began strengthening the screening of native speaking instructors.

It's [already] accepted that when native speaking instructors apply for alien registration, they submit an ‘employment physical exam’ issued by a medical institution designated by the Minister of Justice.

Therefore, after the screening was strengthened in the capital region, unfit native speaking instructors who had trouble earning money in some circumstances stretched out their legs and managed [private lessons] themselves in lax provincial areas.

Though screening for native speaking teachers working in places like hagwons has been strengthened, the dissatisfaction of hagwons is about to explode over the selection of teachers by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology or city and provincial education offices and the lax manner by which these public offices regulate the management of native speaking instructors.

While it's recognized that hagwon [instructors need] an employment physical exam issued by a medical institution designated by the Ministry of Justice, the selection of teachers under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology or city and provincial education offices, and native speakers working as foreign language conversation instructors in schools are exempted from medical institution [health checks].

A hagwon official said, "Already the government lashes out at hagwons as the main culprits for the ever rising private education costs, and with so many that are even unregistered and operating without permission, the market is very confused. There's concern that parents and students will suffer due to so many unverified, unfit native speaking instructors."

Jungdo Ilbo Reporter Lee Yeong-rok / In partnership with NoCut News
The first time I read the article it didn't make much sense, and re-reading it didn't improve things. A native Korean-speaker described it as "an article written by foot (발로쓴기사)," due to how sloppy, incorrect, and ungrammatical it is. It goes well beyond being poorly written, however, and into the realm of utter cluelessness. This 'reporter' has no idea what he's talking about, and seems to have scanned a few articles without reading them in order to give the appearance of substance to an otherwise weightless article.

It seems he mixed up the new nationwide drug testing regulations for E-2 visa holders (the enhanced drug test on physical exams from Ministry of Justice-designated medical facilities taking effect from February 1) and new regulations calling for Korean hagwon teachers in (apparently) only the Seoul area to submit criminal record checks (there was no information as to who made the decision or when it was being implemented). He then says that these new regulations have caused unfit native speaking instructors to head for Daejeon in droves - after only a month! The fact that he thinks that hagwon owners would criticize the "lax management" of foreign teachers hired by the Education Ministry and regional education offices speaks to his ignorance as well, considering how public schools require criminal record checks and repeat drug and HIV tests for all native speaking teachers, regardless of their visa status, while hagwon hiring standards have put three overseas Koreans wanted for murder in classrooms with children.

Of course, true threats to children's safety (like being in a classroom with a wanted murderer) pales in comparison to the perceived threat: that "parents and students will suffer due to so many unverified, unfit native speaking instructors."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A commenter here asked if I could re-upload the zip file of photos of colonial-era Korean cities - it can now be downloaded here. Actually, some of the blogs the commenter contributes to are worth checking out, especially if you're interested in urbanism.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Call for volunteers for the "Inside Canada" blog

I was asked by Joyce Cho at the Canadian Embassy if I could announce the following on my blog:

Canadian Editors Wanted for the Embassy Blog

Inside Canada, the Embassy of Canada’s Korean language blog is looking for five Canadians residing in Korea to volunteer as contributing editors. We’re looking for interesting stories about your life and your career aimed at the young generation of Korea in a section called “Korea is my second home,” to be launched in April. By publishing one story a month for a 6-month term, you will be greatly contributing to providing our readers with a positive and friendly image of Canadians residing in Korea. Your stories written in English will be translated into Korean. So if you are a student studying in Korea, in business, an English teacher or a professor and have stories to share, please email Joyce Cho (joyce.cho@international.gc.ca) at the Embassy of Canada with a brief introduction of yourself by March 20, 2011.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bits and Pieces

The Korea Herald has an article about mental health services for expats.

You won't see me disagreeing with this.

The Joongang Ilbo had an interesting article the other day about
a Gangnam cram school, or hagwon, which has expanded into the burgeoning business of tutoring kids who want to win school elections.

“Leaving a strong impression with your performance is more important than campaign pledges or self-introductions,” lectures his teacher, who is surnamed Yang. He shows Kim how to deliver the line in the manner of Hyun Bin for the election. The two have been practicing vocalization and gesticulations for a full month.

On the same day, a student council election is taking place at another elementary school in Gangnam, and seven candidates are in the ring.

“If I become a president, I’ll make sure there’s no violence on school grounds,” promises a female sixth-grader surnamed Uhm, who has a third-degree black belt in Taekwondo. Uhm holds up a wooden board with the word “violence” painted on it. She smashes the board with a karate chop. Uhm gets the second-highest number of votes, becoming vice president.

“Being elected as either president or vice president of the student council will help me get admitted to an international middle school,” said Uhm. “My hagwon taught me how to write a speech and worked with me on my pronunciation.”

The wave of prepubescent politicians is powered by fierce competition to get into international middle schools and special-purpose high schools, where admission offices pay a lot of attention to students’ extracurricular activities.
It's always interesting seeing what niches hagwons will rush to fill.

The Chosun Ilbo reports that a great, great grandson of Ito Hirobumi has been appointed Japan's foreign minister, and notes that this could ruffle Korean feathers, adding that "Matsumoto is aware of the fact and has apparently asked whether it would be better for him to admit that he is related to Hirobumi when meeting Korean government officials."

I don't imagine the way to broach that would be to say, "Well, y'know, there is a link to Korea in my family's past - my great, great grandfather was murdered by a Korean."

The Joongang Ilbo has an article about Misari, the spot along the Han River east of Seoul where folk singers popular in the 1970s and 1980s perform. A coworker took me there in 2001 to see Song Chang-sik, but as it turned out he wasn't playing that night, and we ended up seeing a few other performers instead (including, I think, the Seoul Family). I think that was actually the first 'concert' I saw in Korea, a few weeks before the Samzzi Sound festival (which was more to my taste).

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Mercilessly smeared with foreign words"

On June 16, 1984, the Korea Times published the following article:

On the one hand, such sentiments are (were?) not only found in Korea. On the other, sentiments like these -
People appear to be indifferent at the Korea language being mercilessly smeared with foreign words. [...] The Korean language is nakedly exposed to the influx of foreign words amidst internationalization[.]
- sound quite familiar. Korea, "nakedly exposed," is weak and helpless at the hands of things (and people) foreign, which treat Korea "mercilessly." This kind of language crops up at different times and from the pens of various groups, from state actors like Park Chung-hee (who in the mid-1970s banned long hair, 'decadent' foreign pop songs, and marijuana in order to protect the youth from "degenerate foreign culture" which threatened 'healthy' traditional culture) to opposition movements (like the anti-American feminist groups who called for the government to force all visitors to the 1988 Olympics to show that they were AIDS-free).

Though the writer says that the issue should also be viewed outside a "'narrow' nationalist view," his cracks at the "'petit' intelligentsia" who hold onto foreign words, his assertion that the Korean language was "nearly wiped out" by the Japanese (two ten year periods of oppression bookending a 35 year period are enough to wipe out a language?), and his description of words of Chinese origin in the Korean language as "alien" (just like all those French words in the English language - damn the Normans!) make it pretty clear where he stands.

With the influx of so much English and the changes wrought by the internet, it's hard not to read the following sentence without wondering if he's kept his sanity in the 25 years since:
"It is shuddering to think what would become of the Korean language if such a trend is carried on for several decades down the road."

A little more than a decade later, an opposing view would cause great debate. I'll save that for tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Double take

"Take cover! It's about to blow!"

Is it just me, or is the positioning of the rice puffing machine in front of the man a little... off?

On the bright side, it's not as off as this banner in front of a church in Mok-dong:

I'm not sure who they're trying to attract...

Monday, March 07, 2011

Troublemaking vagabond foreigner story finally airs

The French foreign language teacher scandal of 1984

[Update at bottom]

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 16: Troublemaking vagabond foreigner story finally airs

As noted in part 15, On September 27, 1984, MBC was to air an episode of Susa Banjang titled "Seoul Wind" about a young French vagabond who cons his way into teaching in Korea and ends up beaten in an alley. After protests by the French Cultural Center , however, the episode was postponed, to "be released after a preview." On October 11, 1984, the Joongang Ilbo published the following article:
Troublemaking vagabond foreigner story

The episode "Seoul Wind," which dealt with the vagabond foreigner problem and was abruptly canceled on the day of its broadcast on September 27 after pressure and complaints by the French Alliance, is coming out.

The French youth 'Pierre' enters the country on a tourist visa and uses fake documents to con his way into working as an instructor at a private school. One night he suffers an attack in an alley...
Unfortunately, it seems only a handful of Susa Banjang episodes have survived, and this (as well as the December 1983 episode where an American teacher was beaten to death in an alley) was not one of them.


In answer to a question below, here is the TV listing on page twelve of the Maeil Gyeongje the same day. At 10:15 is the listing for Susa Banjang:

It reads, "The drama which recently brought on criticism for its subject material, about a foreigner living in Korea who finds work illegally."

Friday, March 04, 2011

An accurate, reliable, impartial news report

As noted in the NHRCK report, "The Korea Broadcasting System (KBS) is a government owned television network [and] the largest television network in Korea." It also links to their website, where we are told the following:
KBS regards it a core duty to reflect the diverse voices of Korea through the distinctiveness of its programs, while bringing the world home to its audience through speedy and impartial news reports.

In today's environment of multi-faceted communication and media with a flood of information and sensationalized commercialism, KBS strives to fully satisfy the people's right to know and quality programming through honest and transparent management. By airing accurate and reliable news as well as high quality programs, KBS leads the way in setting the standard for Koreas journalism and broadcasting culture.

A public opinion poll conducted in 2002 showed KBS to be the most influential among the domestic press and electronic media circles. [...] The Korean people have come to trust in KBS to consistently deliver reliable and straightforward programs.[...]

KBS fully embraces the diversity as well as the cohesion of the various cultures of the world.
It may be worth keeping all of that in mind while watching and reading this KBS report from July 3, 2009 (found through a link on Anti-English Spectrum's site; the video of this 6 minute news report can be watched at the KBS link):
'Out of Control Foreign English Teacher' Molests [someone] while High during Lesson
"Is that my child's native speaking teacher?"

The number of native speaking English instructors working in Korea is increasing, and so are their crimes.

At school they are sincere teachers, but outside class they constantly go off the rails. We have the story of their two faces.

Choi Seo-hui - have foreign instructors also been caught for habitual gambling and drugs?


Yes. Yesterday more than ten English instructors were uncovered. During the day they taught students and at night they lived lives stained by drugs and gambling.

Incidents in which students have been molested have also occurred one after the other. We've covered the truth about how some native speaking instructors go off the rails, making one uncomfortable about entrusting their child's education to them.

[Shot of web profile; under 'Most precious thing' is [untranslated], "Seeing the light glisten off the sweat on the curve of a woman's breast, thigh, back, butt, or almost anywhere on a woman's body."]

This was written on the internet by a foreign English instructor living in Korea. He said he came to Korea for money and the pleasure of women and boldly put up photos of himself.

An English instructor at a hagwon in Seoul who had been in the US army posted nude photos of women on the internet which he said were of his students.

It was revealed he posted nude photos he'd taken of his coworkers and racing models he'd picked up and even posted photos of his students. The deviation of native speaking instructors like this is becoming more serious by the day.

Yesterday in the Itaewon area police caught 13 foreign instructors for habitually smoking hashish (a kind of drug) and gambling.

It's come out that since January they've met 113 times to gamble and smoked hashish 100 times. Most of the suspects work in Seoul or Gyeonggi-do as public school teachers, with some working as instructors at well known English hagwons in Gangnam.

Kim Gi-yong (Detective, Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency Foreign Affairs): "The group was made up of language hagwon instructors, and at home they wagered millions of won habitually gambling and taking drugs. They currently maintain that they are completely innocent."

They put up the gambling time and place on a well known overseas website to recruit accomplices and avoid being caught.
[The only reason foreigners use Facebook is to avoid detection.]
Also, it was revealed that at an ordinary house in Itaewon, they went so far as to set up a poker table and habitually gambled. Every month, a picture of the winner and the amount they won was put on the wall of the gambling house and on the internet site.

We visited the English hagwon in Gangnam where a teacher who was caught works.

Hagwon official: "Our hagwon? This is the first we've heard of this. Please speak clearly. Who is this?"

The hagwon declared there was no such teacher.

We also visited the elementary school in Gyeonggi-do where another teacher worked as an English teacher for the after school program. At the school they were completely unaware of the same facts.

School official: "We confirmed this properly through the embassy and later the visa was issued but it was checked to see if crimes had been committed in New Zealand, and only people with no crimes were given permission to work by the embassy so we know that there was absolutely no problem.

When parents heard the news, they were also shocked.

Parent: Are you serious? That happened? How could it be - really? Your teacher is ____ [the teacher's name], isn't that right?

Child: "Today the English teacher was sick and didn't come to school."

Parent: "I went to an observation class but even then there was nothing that stood out, and it was fine."

However the reaction of people who have encountered native speaking instructors close up is that this kind of thing is nothing new.

English hagwon operator: "When socializing with the teacher, I've heard him talk freely about doing drugs many times. (Do they do drugs and come to class?) He looked spaced out and taught very simple, basic things, which is why I thought he was on drugs while teaching class."

There are also endless sex crimes by foreign instructors.

Recently there was an incident at a well known hagwon in Seoul where parents complained after two native speaking teachers molested female elementary students.

The 'Citizen’s movement to expel illegal foreign language teachers' cafe manager: "At the hagwon that received the complaint, the hagwon and the native speaking teachers said, "It was just a simple misunderstanding due to cultural differences and we did nothing wrong."

Also, in Seoul a native speaking teacher working for a district office-run foreign language program was charged for molesting a grade one elementary school student under his care last December, but last week was cleared for lack of evidence.

Crime by foreign instructors like these is never ending but the fact is that the number of native speaking instructors in Korea is continuously growing.

A parent: "Korean teachers have some limits. There are many cases where they do not know real life vocabulary. This is because they simply learn language in a technical sense, without an appreciation for the connection between language and culture."

Due to the perception that native speaking instructors are unconditionally better, even hagwon owners break rules and are trying as hard as they can to hire native speaking instructors.

English hagwon operator: "Our hagwon instructors said native speakers are 'decorations,' as the saying goes. Because of the strong preference for native speakers by the mothers and parents of students at most hagwons, most have native speakers."

However, in truth, background checks for these native speaking instructors are not being properly carried out.

The 'Citizen's movement to expel illegal foreign language teachers' cafe manager: "A foreign instructor responsible for sex related crimes against children and minors and assault against police in Canada was stripped of his teaching qualification there. This person is now in Korea working as an English instructor at a county office in Gyeongsangsnam-do and participating in a summer camp by teaching young students.

Native speaking instructors themselves say that the native speaking teacher qualification check should be strengthened.

Alex (23, American native speaking instructor): "There are a lot of people who are either not qualified or who, in a sense that they have no teaching experience only a bachelors degree or are not qualified in the sense that this is not something they enjoy doing. Not necessarily ESL but teaching English – teaching in general rather – is not something that they enjoy doing. They're here just sort of passing time."

[Translated as: "There are many cases where native speaking teachers have only a university diploma or are inexperienced. They have no interest in teaching, let alone English education. There are also people who just want to kill some time."]

Under the English education craze, an increasing number of native speaking instructors, who are treated like VIPs, act abnormally and without scruples, and there is an urgent need for strict qualification checks in order to prevent our children from being exposed to this.

The title is a bit misleading, with "환각 수업에 성추행" sounding more like "molestation during stoned lesson," or that the teachers molested students while high.

The personal website shown at the beginning of the report was linked to here and the subject of an AES-aided Breaknews article in August 2006, which shows just how far back KBS was reaching to construct their narrative. As can be seen from the screen shot above, they mistranslated the part about racing models.

The 'poker ring' bust was the subject of several KBS reports at the time of this report, and is covered in more detail here and here.

The Anti English Spectrum-based story about the molestation taking place at a hagwon was never reported as having been investigated by the police and was the subject of this Chosun.com report posted three days before this KBS report (and was the first of five negative articles about foreign English teachers by Chosun.com intern Choi Hui-seon: 1 2 3 4 5 ).

More about the "native speaking teacher working for a district office-run foreign language program" who was charged with molestation can be read here and here (from January and February 2009). This KBS report actually confirms that the charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Between this story and an unconfirmed tip from AES, it seems hard for KBS to justify the statement that "There are also endless sex crimes by foreign instructors."

KBS obviously decided the 'AES manager's story about the Canadian teacher stripped of his credentials back home warranted further scrutiny, as it was the subject of another KBS report less than two months later.

As for this:
By airing accurate and reliable news as well as high quality programs, KBS leads the way in setting the standard for Koreas journalism and broadcasting culture.
If this report is considered "accurate and reliable," then one certainly hopes that KBS is not "setting the standard for Koreas journalism and broadcasting culture."

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Keeping Korea Clean

The Chronicle of Higher Education posted an interesting article Sunday titled "South Korea Brings in Foreign Professors by the Thousands, but Is It Ready for Them?" The article looks at Korea's globalization push, noting that
4,957, or about 7 percent, of South Korea's 77,697 full-time faculty members are foreign, the figure is up threefold in less than a decade, according to the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. That already puts it well ahead of neighboring Japan's 5 percent (out of 353,000 full-time professors), despite a much longer history of foreign hires there.
It also notes that "an Education Ministry survey of 288 foreign academics last year found [that foreign professors' stays] averaged just four months." Despite some negatives, the article notes that foreigners are very willing to come to Korea to work due to the job situation in their home countries. It also looks at another familiar topic:
One indication of South Korea's lingering fears about an influx of foreigners can be found at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, where $100-million in government money has been spent developing robot English teachers. Prototypes of the robot are operated remotely from the Philippines, keeping the "moral problems" associated with non-Koreans at arm's length, says Mun Sang Kim, director of the institute's Advanced Robotics Research Center.

"There are some problems and some accidents in hiring native speakers at the schools right now," he says. "For example, the immigration system in Korea is not good enough to examine whether the foreign visitors are clean or not, or they did some crime," he adds. "That's the reason why the government thinks about such robot systems. They don't have any such social problems, they don't do the drugs."
While I and others have made this point before, I believe this is the first time I've seen someone connected with the robots actually openly state that the "moral problems" of foreign teachers is the reason for the robots (and here I thought it was to "reduce discrimination suffered by the underprivileged [...i]n rural areas or remote islands" by giving them access to 'foreign' English teachers). The government connection - as a source of funding - is also made clear. This shouldn't be surprising, especially considering Lee Myung-bak's cabinet and its concern about the 'cleanliness' of foreign teachers.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The first night of freedom

The scene above may seem unremarkable, but a 1982 Stars and Stripes article I came across reminds us that for more than half of South Korea's post-WWII history, a midnight to 4am curfew confined people to their homes.
South Korean curfew passes away, quietly

Thursday, January 7, 1982
By SSgt. Steve Davis
PS&S Korea Bureau Chief

SEOUL — South Korea's 36-year-old curfew passed away unceremoniously Tuesday night. Except along coastal regions and security-sensitive areas along the demilitarized zone, the nightly four-hour custom slipped quietly away with few mourners.

It passed simply and as suddenly as President Chun Doo Hwan's New Year's resolutions which promise a year of sweeping changes in South Korea.

Chun not only abolished the curfew declared by the U.S. military government on Sept. 8, 1945, in Seoul and the port city of Inchon, he followed that New Year's edict with a proposed liberalization on Jan. 2 of the hair and dress codes that gave South Korean secondary schools a military flair.

Then came a major Cabinet reshuffle on Sunday to add what a presidential spokesman termed "new vigor and vitality" to the fifth five year economic and social development plan which gets under way in South Korea this year. Six high level officials were replaced.

The presidential pronouncements took most South Koreans and foreigners by surprise.[...]

Some gates at Yongsan Army Installation in Seoul remained open as USFK personnel ventured out on the first official night without curfew. Col. Robert C. Lewis, the Yongsan Garrison and Area III commander, said the installation will comply with the ROK government directives on the curfew.[...]

He said he will make decisions on such matters as shuttle bus schedule and club operation changes after the community expresses their preferences.

Basically, he said, it's a wait-and-see situation.

Many off-post businesses were taking the same tack as Maj. Michael J. Amidei, the deputy area clubs general manager for Yongsan and Area III.

"We are evaluating now the potential impact on the club system and will follow the directives of the installation commander," Amidei said when asked about schedule changes.

Tom Casey, the owner of the Sportsman's Club in the popular Itaewon-Hannamdong club district near Yongsan, predicted a gradual adjustment to the curfew ease.

"I don't even know if anyone will even be here at 11:30," Casey said early in the evening. "Basically, I feel that most people have adapted to the curfew and that they will leave early."

Casey was right. Around 1 a.m. most of the district's clubs had closed. A few customers continued to dance at the Sportsman's Club. Other club owners said they expected more activity on the weekend, but none expected an immediate business boom.

Intracity bus and subway schedules were extended an extra 30 minutes for late homegoers and taxis continued throughout the night. Gas station hours were lengthened and flight schedules amended. Warnings went out to potential night prowlers, and the possibility of night tours in Seoul were contemplated.
As it turns out, however, the curfew was still in effect in coastal areas.
At Kunsan AB, the curfew lift was not so simple. Though a base spokesman announced that "effective midnight tonight the curfew in Kunsan City is lifted," the air base, some ll/2 miles away, is in the coastal restricted zone.

The spokesman added: "We're talking about Kunsan City as determined by the Korea National Government," which exempted the city as one of 14 specially exempted from the remaining curfew of coastal areas.

"Areas around the base," the spokesman said, "still require clarification."

Easier lifestyle

According to some, the curfew lift entails the change to an easier lifestyle.

"I always got nervous around midnight," said Kim Shin Hea, a 28-year-old Seoul resident. "I'm glad it's over. It's fantastic."

Army Staff Sgt. Jim Coughlin, a 27-year-old infantryman from Everett, Wash., agreed. "I think it will cut down on tension," Coughlin said. "Police won't have to rush people off the streets now. It will just be a more relaxed atmosphere."
South Korea's 36-year-old curfew was quietly lifted at midnight Tuesday and, while some ventured out into the streets of Seoul (below) after midnight, a more typical scene was a lone pedestrian (above) strolling along an empty sidewalk. ' (AP)

The Donga Ilbo had numerous photos on pages 1, 10 and 11 on January 6:

The photo above shows cars, buses and taxis out near city hall; below the gas stations are open late.

For the first time in a long time, people were able to enjoy haejangguk after midnight. I find it interesting that there seemed to be so many digital clocks in public, but then Seoul's city hall used to have a digital clock on it, as the last photo on this page about the 1988 Olympics reveals.