Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Unfilterable, never-ending defilers

Regarding the former Korean American gangsters deported to Korea who taught English using forged degrees arrested three weeks ago, the Joongang Daily offers this information:
A 38-year-old Korean-American surnamed Kim, one of three arrested for forgery, found employment in a reputable English language academy in Korea as a native foreign language instructor.

According to the police, Kim, who was adopted by a family in America as a child, was a member of an Arizona gang and shot and killed a member of a rival gang in 2000. He was charged with second-degree murder and sentenced to ten years in prison. After receiving parole after eight years, Kim was deported to Korea in October 2007.
Interestingly enough, this man was actually arrested four months before the arrests of the others were announced, as a summary of this article at the Marmot's Hole in August relates:
This guy, identified as Mr. Kim (38), was adopted at 18 months old by an American couple. He left home as a teen, however, and ended up running with a Mexican gang in Arizona. In 2000, he earned himself a 10-year sentence for 2nd degree attempted murder; he was released after seven and deported in Korea in 2007. Prosecutors believe after Kim arrived in Korea, he got a fake degree and taught English at four famous English academies in Gangnam, Goyang and Anyang.
Odd that it took them so long to arrest the others. I imagine that's his diploma in the foreground here.

As for this case, on the day the arrests were announced, the Kookmin Ilbo published this "article":
American native speaking instructors who were gangsters and committed rape and murder... why were they not filtered out?

As the number of native speaking teachers significantly increases, the improper confirmation of such things as their criminal backgrounds is becoming a social problem. The native speaking teacher crime rate increased from 0% in 2008 to 1.6% last year, so there is an urgent need for thorough management and supervision. [...]

[It then retells the story of the Korean Americans who served time in the US for gang related murder, rape and drug crimes before being deported to Korea where they faked their backgrounds to work as instructors in hagwons.]

The government strengthened regulations for native speaking instructors, but they have not been very effective. In July the government amended the "Act related to hagwon establishment and operation and private tutoring" (the hagwon act) making it mandatory to submit a
criminal record check, health certificate (including drug screening), and a diploma when hiring native speaking instructors. However the government's measure is only effective for native speaking instructors who are registered with city offices of education. Unregistered instructors, who work for small hagwons which have not registered their instructors with the office of education, are in an enforcement 'blind spot' and can operate freely.

Hagwon owners who do not report to the office of education when hiring a native speaker are fined a mere 500,000 won to 1.5 million won, and in fact hagwons which hire unqualified instructors will bear this fine. [...]

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education revealed that it has difficulty enforcing laws regarding native speaking instructors. An SMOE official said, "Seoul's 11 educational support offices have only 70 to 80 people in their enforcement squads, but in Gangnam alone there are more than 3000 hagwons. "Due to things like lack of manpower and difficulty working with the Ministry of Justice, it's actually impossible to enforce the laws."

Police notified the relevant office of education regarding hagwon owner Ms. Lee, who hired unqualified English instructors without verification or notification, and seven others, and conducted further investigation into Gangnam and Seoul area hagwons which hire instructors illegally.

To answer the question in title as to why American native speaking instructors were not filtered out, the answer is because the weren't American, they were Korean, and no one asks Korean teachers for overseas criminal record checks. Also, the lack of due diligence on the part of the hagwon owners played a part in their diplomas not being found out.

As for this - "As the number of native speaking teachers significantly increases..." - I fail to see a significant increase occurring (presently) in the number of E-2 visa holders (stats can be found here):

2000 - 6,414
2002 - 10,864
2004 - 11,344
2005 - 12,439
2006 - 15,001
2007 - 17,721
2008 - 19,771
2009 - 22,642
2010 - 23,314
2011.11 - 22,895

The cuts to the GEPIK program (and future cuts to SMOE) will see these numbers fall even further (they've been fluctuating over the last year already), as the massive expansion (of around 2000 per year) since 2005 was due mostly to public school hiring.

As for this - "the native speaking teacher crime rate increased from 0% in 2008 to 1.6% last year" - I will go out on a limb and guess that these figures were pulled from some remote recess of the reporter's rectum. Either that or the reporter managed to track down statistics not yet published in the media or by Anti English Spectrum.

We're also told that there is an "urgent need for thorough management and supervision" of native speaking teachers, something that appears to be a required phrase for such articles. They are, however correct that better management is needed, but not of E-2s. All of the wanted murderers (or attempted murderers) and former gangsters/criminals caught teaching English here since 2006 (various Korean American former gangsters deported from the US caught teaching illegally in 2006, wanted murderers David Nam (caught in 2008) and Ronald Rhee (caught in 2010), another gangster deported for attempted murder arrested with Rhee, and the former gangsters arrested this month) have been Korean citizens, while wanted murderer Sang-woo Ye (caught in 2010) was presumably on an F-4 and the Korean American gangster turned hagwon owner wanted for attempted murder caught this summer used identity theft to pose as a Korean citizen. (There may even be one more wanted murderer hiding out here.)

The article then brings up the revisions to the hagwon law passed in the summer and asserts that the law won't have any effect on those teachers not registered with city offices of education. Such "unregistered instructors, [who] are in an enforcement 'blind spot' and can operate freely," seem to exist only in the columns of the Kookmin Ilbo, as we saw here (the only other article that describes the threat of "unregistered native speaking instructors" (who, by the way, commit "never ending" "drugs and molestation... in hagwons")).

And, of course, the article mentions the other never-ending problem with USFK members foreign teachers, that due to SOFA institutional hurdles, "it's actually impossible to enforce the laws." This, of course, is a great problem, one which was, in fact, predicted by Choe Ik-hyeon when he opposed King Gojong's plans to negotiate what would be known as the Ganghwa Treaty with the Japanese in early 1876 (as translated in this book). Choe wrote that "Although they call themselves Japanese, they are really Western bandits," and he feared that Korea would be "defiled" and "reduced to the level of wild animals" by their presence, which would be allowed by the treaty and would permit them to "build dwellings and reside within our borders." Due to the agreement, he said, the Korean government would have "no grounds to stop them," and so they would be able to "plunder our property and violate women at will, and no one will be able to restrain them.[...] There will be countless cases of this nature."

"Countless." "Endless." "Never-ending." As we can see, Choe's Confucian-inspired feeling of moral supremacy over the barbarians tinged with fears of Korea being defenseless before them as they committed never-ending outrages against women and property (was there really a distinction then?) still holds sway over some people (especially in the news media) 135 years later.

Clearly, this xenophobia coloured by moral superiority felt by the upper/educated class predates modern nationalism, but the degree to which the the former influences the latter (or how they inform each other) is not something that has been much explored, as far as I know.

I couldn't help but think about this when I read this Donga Ilbo editorial (as translated by the Korea Herald on September 24, 1988) published during the 88 Olympics:
One of the reasons we decided to host the event despite its staggering burden was to show the world the true picture of Korea. We wanted to show our friends from abroad our moral and ethical supremacy that far transcends our political and economic potentials.
Articles from the Korea Times and the Korea Herald (which were aimed at foreign tourists!) during the Olympics make quite clear this feeling of 'ethical supremacy.' This is revealed by even a quick glance at the titles of articles about, for example, foreign athletes' 'drug use' (steroids) detected by superior Korean technology, or those that highlighted every after-hours mishap involving American athletes or complained about 'biased' coverage by NBC. This page of photos of foreign spectators in the Donga Ilbo certainly doesn't put them in a very good light either (girl in hot pants with legs spread, foreign men with their shirts off). Taking that into consideration with the fact that the government (and later civil society groups) wanted to test all foreign visitors to Korea for AIDS, and, well, you start to see patterns. Not for nothing did the Joongang Ilbo editorialize thusly in 1984:
The true educational effect of foreign language learning is that when learning to speak and write a foreign country’s language, to some degree one learns its culture and ‘spirit’ as well. Attaching importance to conversation, [learners] can’t distinguish a teacher’s or instructor’s standard of refinement and mistake them for nothing but a 'tape recorder.' Ultimately there’s a worry that when learning conversation students will imitate that country’s vulgar culture, vulgar living language, and vulgar values. [...] Also, for this reason it could come to pass that our citizens' image of their level of culture will fall and will offset the effectiveness of gaining foreign language learning.[Emphasis added]
Interestingly enough, in describing how learning a "foreign country’s language" causes one to learn "its culture and ‘spirit’ as well," this also echoes Choe Ik-hyeon's 1876 memorial, in which he also warned that "books of their wicked religion...will be mixed in with other trading goods and...will be all over the country before long." Some, including King Gojong, thought "Eastern ways/ethics" could be used together with (and temper) "Western learning" (dongdo seogi), but fears of unwanted, decadent western "culture and 'spirit'" piggybacking on western technology have been a perennial worry, and was explicitly referred to by Park Chung-hee when he cracked down on marijuana and rock and folk music (and youth culture in general) in 1975-76 and called for "selective adoption" of foreign culture. Needless to say, such fears of foreigners bringing unwanted culture with them are alive and well today, (with even one reporter (out to "correct biased views on Korea") writing an article for ABC news titled "Drug Toting Teachers Defiling South Korea"), as are assertions that westerners in Korea can't be controlled and commit endless crimes (the former turning up today in the first article described here).

Choe, it should be mentioned, died of self-imposed hunger in a Japanese prison after leading an uprising against the Japanese in 1906 at the age of 76, so you certainly can't say he didn't follow through on his beliefs. One wonders if there is a statue of him somewhere.


Anonymous said...

"I fail to see a significant increase occurring"

That was my first thought as well. Haven't the triumphant politicians in Seoul managed to transmute foreign English teachers into free lunches for the kids whose Dads are middle-mangers and higher-up execs at Samsung? Aren't Koreans supposed to be so very pleased about themselves for this? They slew the dragon!

But when it comes to memes surrounding western NET's facts don't seem to matter much.

I'm glad that at least one journolist acknowledged the fact that fewer foreign public school teachers = a greater reliance of hagwon instructors, and that hagwon have a terrible track record of quality control compared to the public schools.

My guess? In five years or so as a mini-hagwon boom ensues, parents will be screaming at the politicians to bring over more NET's into the public school system.

Just a hunch. This is the land of unintended consequences.

Anonymous said...

A true gem to end 2011. Happy New Year Matt!

Anonymous said...

I think the link to that first Kookmin article you mentioned is missing?

matt said...


We'll have to see what happens. There's no guarantee that other provinces/cities will follow suit - Daegu increased its hiring of NSETs by quite a bit just last year, so we'll have to see if it will start cutting them after only a year.


Thanks - happy new years to you as well - funny how quickly it's upon us again. Nice catch with that missing link, too - it's fixed now.