Friday, August 31, 2012

More '60s and '70s Korean music

And for more music, over at the Marmot's Hole there's a link to a post about Soyol Erdene, Mongolia’s first rock band (who sound pretty cool) at Radiodiffusion Internasionaal Annexe, which looks like a place where I could spend a lot of time. Case in point: Several posts about 1960s and 1970s Korean rock music, complete with downloadable mp3s. There are songs from the Pearl Sisters, Kim Chu-ja, He5 and the Key Boys; the Key Boys Christmas songs are actually well worth listening to.

And also, just for fun, you can download the He6's 1971 nearly instrumental psychedelic double album "Go Go Sound '71 vols. 1 & 2" here. Here they are, arguably at their best, doing a cover of Rare Earth's "Get Ready," from 1972:

I just realized from the comments at Youtube that the end of DJ Shadow's 'Number Song' from his first album (from 1996) - a section I always really liked for its breakbeat - is sampled from the above He6 song. How about that.

I also just realized the wonders of the wayback machine include preserving DJ Soulscape's site, including a radio show he did in 2006 focused on 1970s Korean funk (here; right click 'save link as').

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Korean singers gain recognition in the U.S.

So, Psy's Gangnam Style has taken off like a rocket - currently the #1 music video on Youtube with 73 million hits (wasn't it just over 50 million a day or two ago?) - which has led to appearances at football games in the U.S. and interviews on U.S. television (there more links to articles at that last link) and attempts to figure out what it all means (on blogs such as here and here, or even in the Atlantic), as well as parodies (this one by foreign students in Jeonju (via Korea Beat) earned the appreciation of one Korean commenter for the 'fleshy' foreign women in it).

The song and video are huge in Korea as well, though it's not the first time Psy has scored a major hit here - in late 2002 and 2003, his song Champion was everywhere, notable for its 'Beverly Hills Cop' theme sample and catching the zeitgeist after Korea did so well in the World Cup (and perhaps after the release of the film Champion, as well).

(I bought the cd at the time and was impressed; as someone who was neither a fan of Kpop nor not much of hip-hop listener, I thought about half of the songs on the album were good, with four being great.)

To find the first Korean stars to make it big in the US, you'd have to go back over 50 years to the debut of the Kim Sisters. The trailer to an upcoming documentary about the Kim Sisters can be seen here (do go watch it). They started out performing for U.S. soldiers at U.S. bases during the Korean war and in 1959 a promoter booked them at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas, where their career took off and led to 22 performances on the Ed Sullivan Show, a story I first heard from Mark Russell.

Here's a performance from the 1960s:

As it turns out, the sisters' parents were both musicians who participated in two different variety show collectives which performed from the 1930s to the 1950s and at times entertained Japanese and U.S. troops. An in-depth look at the history of these collectives, and the early history of the Kim Sisters, can be found in Roald Maliangkay's essay "Koreans Performing for Foreign Troops: The Occidentalism of the C.P.C. and K.P.K." It also contains contemporary video of performances, and makes clear the effects of anti-communism upon the Kim Sisters' family due to their father, Kim Haesong, being made to perform for the North Koreans during the war (during which he died after having been taken north). Their mother, Lee Nan-young, is best known for the trot classic "Tears of Mokpo" (this performance by her is likely from the early 1960s):

(I first heard this song as remixed by Dalparan over the credits of the film Resurrection of the Little Match Girl, the soundtrack of which was pretty much the only good thing about the movie other than this scene))

For more information on the Kim Sisters a 1996 interview with Sook-ja Kim is here (pdf), while a more recent audio interview with her is here.

Hopefully we'll get to see the documentary about them before too long.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Game of Death at Beopjusa Temple

I was reading this list of 'top ten movies that were never made' when I came across the following video about Bruce Lee's unfinished film "Game of Death." I had no idea it was to involve Korean gangsters, feature two Korean hapkido masters (only the fight with Ji Han Jae was filmed; the fight with Hwang In-Shik was not), and be set in the five story pagoda of Beopjusa Temple. Since the video refers to Lee's drawings, I imagine the scenes we see of Beopjusa Temple were shot more recently; the temple does not appear in the 1978 version of the film which used only a few minutes of the footage Lee shot.

And while I'm thinking of it, though I posted this years ago, I had to update the video link, so here's a 1971 interview with Bruce Lee by Pierre Berton.

And just for fun (though this may be NSFW in Korea), here's a celebrity tip by Berton which aired about six weeks before he died in 2004 (hint: it involves rolling something, and it's not a fajita).

Monday, August 27, 2012

KBS: Unqualified foreign teachers in Gwangju English camps

On August 18, KBS News resurrected the scourge of the 'unqualified instructor' in this report:
A good many native speaking instructors at city and province-run English camps are unqualified.

There are a good many unqualified instructors

If you are the parent of a young child, there is a concern about overseas language study.

The problem is the cost.

So, during school vacation, free English camps run by [local] governments are popular, but it has been revealed that there are a good many unqualified native speaking instructors.

Reporter Kim Hyo-sin reports from the scene.

At an English camp run by Gwangju City, elementary school students eagerly sing along to a pop song.

However, the native speaking instructor they should be learning from is busy following the instruction of the Korean teacher.

This is because, though the teacher came from America, she is a second year university student with no English instructor qualifications.

English camp official: "When it's a Korean teacher the children concentrate more..."

At other English camps the situation is the same.

It's been revealed that, of the 108 native speaking instructors working at 11 English camps run by Gwangju city and Jeollanam-do this summer vacation, more than 80% are university students who entered the country on tourist visas.

Those wanting to work as a native speaking instructor in our country must have a university degree from one of the 6 countries that use English as their mother tongue and must receive a English conversation instructor visa or short term employment visa.

Gwangju city hall official: "As it's based mostly on playing, we don't think of those people as instructors. If you changed it to graduate students who have graduated from university it wouldn't be a problem."

Unqualified native speaking instructors are taking over, as they can be hired for one third of the pay that native speakers with English conversation instructor qualifications receive.

Average native speaker pay
Qualified native speaker: 3 million won. University student/tourist: 1 million won.

There are 2,400 elementary and middle school students, which includes low income children, taking part in free summer English camps in Gwangju and Jeollanam-do.

English camp student: "The native speaking teacher only has materials, so it's not fun."

With 1.5 billion won of the city and provincial budget put into the English camps, it seems difficult to exempt them from criticism for degenerating into shoddy camps.
I love how KBS tells us that "It's been revealed that [...] more than 80% [of English camp foreign instructors] are university students who entered the country on tourist visas," but they don't say how this was found out. Perhaps a divine messenger let them know.

As for the bit about "the native speaking instructor they should be learning from is busy following the instruction of the Korean teacher," one would expect anyone, even someone with lots of qualifications and experience, to follow the lead of the Korean teacher considering that they're likely more familiar with how a Korean summer English camp is run than someone who's brought in for a month or so and who may not have any experience with Korea.

Also, I notice the report never mentions the TaLK (Teach and Learn in Korea) program which allows university students who have completed two years of school to teach in public schools for reduced pay. For more on this program, and on the issue of 'unqualified foreign instructors' in general, do read Brian's post.

On a slightly related note, the Joongang Daily recently reported on the current plight of English Villages across Korea
The first English village was established in 2004 in Ansan, Gyeonggi, by provincial Gov. Son Hak-gyu. There are currently 32 English villages across the nation.

In 2008, there were 21 English villages and 430,000 people enrolled in programs. Even back then there were concerns that the market was too saturated, but 11 more were built. Last year, enrollment dropped to 300,000, according to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
Sometimes more isn't better. Thinking of the Ansan English Village, incidents of sexual assault of students there and at Seongnam English Village in the spring of 2006 led the Gyeonggi-do branch of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union to release a statement saying some rather unkind things about foreign English instructors - such as "because the English camp sexual assaults are a structural problem brought on by unverified native speaking instructors, such incidents could potentially occur at any time," due in part to their "relatively free attitudes about sex" - despite the fact that neither of the perpetrators were native speaking instructors (see here, here, and here). Good times.

A recent ad by Samsung (translated here) poked fun at a white guy's Korean-language ability and perhaps displayed his "relatively free attitude about sex" by having the last channel he watched on his Samsung TV pop up (while his Korean girlfriend is over) be an adult channel. I guess that's one way to shift what could be a positive portrayal of a white guy-Korean woman couple slightly over in the direction of "the twisted values of some white men" "reportage."

Perhaps the billion dollar hit Samsung just took in the US might reduce the budget for such ads in the future, unless, of course, Samsung is feeling vindictive.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Foreign instructor at a university in Daejeon to be fired for internet postings

On August 13, the Joongdo Ilbo published the following article:

Controversy over SNS post denigrating Koreans by "University native speaking instructor"
University plans to receive resignation

[Reporter Bae Mun-suk, published on page 5]

M, a native speaking instructor at A university in Daejeon, has caused controversy by posting video and writing denigrating Koreans on his personal social network service (SNS),

Last month, M posted on his personal facebook page a group photo of students alleged to be the students he lectures, changed the expressions of those in the photo to make them look similar and posted questions belittling the faces of Korean people saying "Find the twin brothers" and "How many girls are in the picture?"

In the comments to the questions, another native speaking instructor chimed in with "Reminds me of my students in kimchiland." As well, instructor M linked to videos denigrating Koreans such as a satire about how Korean women favour western men, an episode about the normal end of a date with a Korean woman, and a satire about Koreans forcing Korean food on foreigners.

A university official said, "After finding out about instructor M, we requested that the post be deleted." "We will soon receive his resignation."

In the meantime, the university is selecting an instructor with qualifications (a degree) who must pass through an interview process and submit documents such as a criminal record check.
While posting photos of your students (at all, in fact) and making fun of them (if that is what actually happened) is probably not the best idea - especially using your real name - the description of the Korean-denigrating videos leaves out a little bit of information, as the following screen shot reveals:

What's clear is that the videos above which are marked out were not posted at his personal facebook page but at the facebook page set up to criticize the dreaded MBC video. Of course, there's no mention of the MBC video (because, it should be remembered, foreigners victimize Koreans, not vice versa). The video above labeled "video denigrating Korean women" is in fact the Shocking Truth About Foreigners, a parody of the MBC video.

The "video denigrating Korea" is Lunch in Korean Cafeterias:

And the video "denigrating Korean women" is Dating in Korea:

While the two videos above might not be 'fair' depictions of Korea, at least they weren't aired by a major television network. And as far as we know, no one was fired for the MBC report, unlike the above teacher.

The Joongdo Ilbo decided that the first article wasn't enough, however, and followed it up with another the next day:

Negligence in the management of native speaking instructors in Daejeon area universities

[Reporter Bae Mun-suk]

Amid the controversy caused by M, a native speaking instructor at A university in Daejeon who posted video and writing denigrating Koreans on his personal social network service (SNS), it is being pointed out that universities' management of foreign teachers after they are hired should be strengthened.

An investigation on August 14 found that, according to each university, there are a total of 290 foreign teachers in Daejeon area universities, with 24 at Chungnam U (10 full time, 14 NSETs), 12 at Hanbat U (all NSETs), 34 at Daejeon U (all full-time), 40 at Hannam U (30 full time, 10 NSETs), 34 at Mokwon U (26 full time, 8 NSETs), 46 at Baejae U (all full time), and 100 at Usong U (60 full time, 40 NSETs), among others.

At these universities, among foreign teachers, native speaking instructors with qualifications (bachelor's degree or higher) who pass through the interview process and submit documents like criminal record checks are are hired for a one-year contract.

However, as a good many universities do not have special programs for foreign teachers to help them adapt to life and culture after they are hired, problems are emerging.

Because of this atmosphere, universities take control of the situation too late, only after an incident has occurred.

In the case of M, who aroused criticism, the school found that in class his attitude towards Korean students was very favourable, but his true face turned out to be the exact opposite.

Before this, a native speaking instructor at B University in Daejeon made trouble when he was caught in a drug taking incident.

An official at a university explained that "Among native speaking instructors, there are cases in which some cultural differences cannot be overcome." "However, on the school's side, it's difficult to manage dozens of native speaking instructors one by one, and this opportunity should be taken to develop a methodical management system."
Oh no, a single teacher posting stuff on the internet! We must control all of the foreign teachers lest they write bad things about Korea! Teaching them about Korea's four seasons and how kimchi prevents H1N1 should do the trick! (Note the name of the uploader who posted the Dating in Korea video - 4distinctseasons). Also, searches on Naver for the foreign university instructor caught for drugs turn up nothing. I have to wonder if reporter Bae pulled that story out of his/her rectum, which would be a pretty safe thing to do - who's going to question a story about a foreign teacher being arrested for drugs?

At any rate, at 10:00 that night a slightly edited version of the article stating that it had been published on page 6 of the hard copy went up with the subtitle "At Chungnam U, etc, a total of 293... there are no cultural adaptation programs" and with the last paragraph missing. On the bright side, the Jungdo Ilbo apparently decided not to do a 10 part series on the evils of white men. So that's a bonus.

In related news, the other day Newsis (and several other local outlets) published an article titled "Daejeon has 481 foreign hagwon instructors... a large increase from last year" about how the number of foreign English instructors working in Daejeon area hagwons has increased since the end of last year, from 290 instructors working at 171 hagwons at the end of December to 481 instructors working at 239 hagwons as of the 22nd. Daejeon is apparently divided into east and west education offices, and there are 97 teachers at 102 hagwons in the eastern district (up from 59 at 64 hagwons in December), and 384 instructors at 137 hagwons in the western district (up from 231 at 107 hagwons in December). The final paragraph:
An official at the Education Support Office said, "With interest in foreign language education growing and hagwons meeting the demands of parents who prefer foreign instructors, it's expected that the number of foreign instructors will continue to increase." "Through continuous instruction and inspection and verification of such things as sex crime background checks, educational background and health checks, we will thoroughly supervise them."
That final sentence reveals that the prediction that "the number of foreign instructors will continue to increase" is, in fact, threatening, but not to fear: they will be continuously inspected, verified and supervised via health checks (read: for drugs and AIDS) and we'll make sure they aren't child molesters. It's all well and good to say that you want to make sure you've hired good teachers, but I doubt you'd see that statement made, or see it chosen for publication, in a story about Korean teachers.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Volunteer Positions to Teach English to North Korean Defectors

I was away from the internet last week and didn't get a chance to post this:
Applications for Volunteer Positions to Teach English to North Korean Defectors

The Embassy of Canada in Seoul, in cooperation with Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, will continue our program whereby Canadian English teachers would volunteer to teach North Korean defectors English here at the Embassy.

We would like to offer those interested the opportunity to apply for this program. Our program has received rave reviews from the Korean government, NGOs and most importantly, the defectors themselves. This program aims not only to teach the young North Koreans English, but also to help expose them to Western culture, including Canadian values and global perspectives. The time commitment will involve teaching one two-hour class per week, held weekdays during business hours, for twelve weeks from September through December.

If you are interested in participating in the program, please forward your CV and a cover letter, which explains why you would be an ideal candidate, to by Friday August 31.
I taught for the pilot program (there's a little more on that here), and it was certainly worthwhile. The students came from varied backgrounds (some came from the northeast, others from Pyongyang) and were at different levels (from one student who just received a scholarship to study in the U.S. to another who had only arrived in South Korea 2 months earlier and had no English background at all), but the progress made by those who attended regularly was pretty impressive. It's well worth looking into if you have the time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some reading on Korean attitudes towards AIDS

A news report last week by Peter Schurmann at New America Media titled Talk of HIV/AIDS Still Taboo for Koreans, Here and Abroad looks at HIV infection rates of Korean Americans and the taboo against discussing it in the US (as well as the negative effects of beliefs such as "Asians don’t have HIV") and links it to such attitudes in Korea. It also brings up an editorial about MBC video (mentioned here) and the CERD case.

On a related topic, at the Korea Herald a few weeks ago Daniel Fiedler discussed AIDS testing policy and beliefs about HIV/AIDS in Korea:
Recent surveys by the Korean CDC show that over 50 percent of the population still believes kissing can transmit the virus and almost eighty percent still believe that mosquitoes can transmit the virus. Of greater concern is the erroneous belief that the virus is primarily a “foreign” disease which leads to unsafe sex practices in domestic relations.
He goes on to say that Korea's "initial reasoned response [to AIDS in the 1980s] has mutated into a policy based on racism and misinformation." I'm not sure if I'd describe all of the Korean government's response during Korea's first AIDS scare in February 1987 as 'reasoned' (though parts of it certainly were, and the plans set forth to designate certain hospitals as testing centers, to set up hotlines and test donated blood seemed well thought out, though I don't know how the implementation of these plans turned out). Some planned policies (such as requiring all tourists arriving for the Olympics to be tested) were rather over the top, and were abandoned as soon as the government realized a Korean-language report on its intentions had been translated and reported around the world. A Health Ministry spokesman even went so far as to describe as "groundless" the Joongang Ilbo article which directly quoted Health and Social Affairs Minister Rhee Hai-won saying that, due to 300,000 tourists visiting during the Olympics, "there are concerns that after the Olympics there will be a sudden spread of AIDS domestically," and that he would press the WHO to require Olympic tourists to carry AIDS free certificates at an upcoming meeting in Sydney. Clearly, "groundless" in this case translates as "that was in Korean and meant for Korean eyes only," a defense/denial which came up again recently.

Fiedler goes on to say in closing that
This change has resulted in a growing international perception of South Koreans as ignorant and xenophobic.
In 1987 Korea obviously cared more about what the outside world thought, and immediately changed its planned policy when it 'leaked' out to the rest of the world. I'm not sure that there's such concern now, especially considering the fact that Korea (officially) lifted HIV testing for migrant workers and entertainers, but left it in place for often young, university educated westerners. Mind you, it's easy enough to do that when you've convinced yourself that this group is the latest incarnation of the 'western bandits', "half-barbarians who only thought of doing harm to [t]his country" (as George Foulk put it in 1884) that have plagued Korea's modern history by doing dastardly things like educating women, building hospitals and schools, and supporting orphans 'branding' children's faces with acid or tarring them, violating women, and molesting children. Hence the ability of the Korean media to simply ignore the CERD case. However, in the long run, the involvement of foreign English teachers in Korea-related endeavours is likely to be more similar to the Peace Corps Volunteers of the 1960s and 1970s (think former US Ambassador to Korea Kathleen Stephens, who taught English as a PCV in the 1970s, and numerous Korea studies academics) than the GIs they're often compared to, and in the future some will turn up in positions that will have the ability to have an impact upon Korea. While the media and politicians gain points domestically by claiming to protect the Korean race from foreign cultural and (on really bad days) racial contamination (think MBC and and its intent to warn "Korean women who are out of their sense and get involved in these kinds of affairs" with western men. "We need to be awakened and try to change this culture."), in the end this trend may come back to bite Korea in the ass at some point. Of course, it would then just become more grist for the 'Korea is victimized by foreigners' mill and likely retroactively justify these policies.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Press release regarding the CERD case

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Korea had been accused at the international level of racial discrimination regarding HIV testing. Here is a press release with more information released more than two weeks ago in both English and Korean (click to enlarge):

Below is a Korean translation of the above press release. Oddly enough, not a single Korean news source thought this was worthy of reporting on.

2012 년 7 월 26 일

한국, 외국인 대상 의무 에이즈 검사 국제사회 비난 사
유엔 인종차별철폐위원회 한국 정부에 인종차별 사례 공식 해명 요구

국가인권위원회가 한 외국인 교사가 제출한 강제 에이즈 검사에 대한 탄원서를 일방적으로 심의 거절한 것에 대해 유엔 인종차별철폐위원회가 한국 정부에 공식 해명을 요구했다.

스위스 제네바에 있는 유엔 인종차별철폐위원회(Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD)는 뉴질랜드 출신 영어 교사 리사 그리핀(Lisa Griffin, 43)씨가 9 달 동안 두 차례에 걸쳐 에이즈 검사 결과를 제출하도록 강요 받은 것과 관련 한국 국가인권위원회에 낸 탄원서가 왜 심의 거절 당했는지에 대해 한국 정부에 해명을 요구했다. 또한, 그리핀씨가 이 같이 에이즈 검사를 강요당한 시기에 함께 일하던 한국인 동료들은 에이즈 검사 의무에서 면제되었던 것도 관건이었다.

지난 3 년 동안 국가인권위원회와 교육과학기술부는 이 탄원서에 대한 논의를 거절했고, 대한상사중재원 역시 “가치가 없다”는 이유로 논의를 거부했다. 국가인권위원회는 이 기간 동안 총 50 건의 유사 사례에 대해서도 심의를 거절했다.

그리핀씨의 탄원서 심의 거부는 유엔 인종차별철폐위원회 감시하에 있는 국제조약인 모든 형태의 인종차별 철폐에 관한 국제협약에 위배될 수 있다. 한국은 1978 년에 모든 형태의 인종차별 철폐에 관한 국제협약 당사국 일원이 됐다.

유엔 인종차별철폐위원회는 7 달 동안의 심의 절차를 거쳐 지난 7 월 10 일 이번 사례를 받아들이겠다고 결정했다. 이에 따라 정부는 4 달 내 유엔 인종차별철폐위원회의 해명 요구에 응해야 한다.

이는 한국 내 인종차별 문제 해결을 위해 모든 형태의 인종차별 철폐에 관한 국제협약이 처음으로 사용된 사례다.

그리핀씨의 법무 대리인이자 경희대 법학과 교수인 벤자민 와그너(Benjamin Wagner)씨는 “한국 정부는 외국인 교사가 한국인 교사만큼이나 에이즈 바이러스에 감염되었을 확률이 적다는 것을 알고 있다. 또한, 교사들이 학생들에게 에이즈를 옮기지 않을 것이라는 사실도 알고 있다.”라고 말했다.

와그너 교수는 “외국인 교사들에 대한 의무적 에이즈 검사는 단순히 학부모들에게 국가 보건을 위해 정부가 무엇인가를 하고 있다는 것을 보이기 위한 상징적인 절차에 지나지 않는다. 정부 주도의 이런 의무적 검사 같은 접근 방법은 에이즈 확산을 막으려는 노력에 역효과의 결과를 초래할 뿐이며, 한국에 거주하는 외국인들에게 낙인을 찍는 것 밖에는 안된다. 이 사례를 공공보건 대 인권 문제로 간주하는 사람들이 있는데 이는 잘못된 이분법이다. 한국인과 외국인의 인권을 둘 다 보호하는 것이 에이즈 확산과 싸우는 최선의 방법이다.” 라고 말했다.

그는 “한국에서 에이즈는 나쁜 사람들이 걸린다는 인식이 있다. 에이즈가 종종 동성애에 대한 적대감을 표현하기 위한 방법 중 하나로 쓰이는 경우가 있다. 하지만, 이번 사건은 에이즈가 한국 내 타인종끼리의 결혼에 대한 적대감 및 한국에 거주하는 외국인들을 한국 민족, 한국의 도덕성, 그리고 한국 문화 등을 오염시키는 원인으로 묘사하는데 동원된 것이라고 볼 수 있다. 외국인을 대상으로 한 한국 정부의 강제 HIV 검사 프로그램은 인종차별을 위한 도구일 뿐이다.” 라고 덧붙였다.

2010 년 반기문 유엔사무총장은 한국 정부에 외국인 교사를 대상으로 한 강제 HIV 검사를 폐지하라고 요구한 바 있다.

그리핀씨는 법무부의 요구에 따라 한 차례 에이즈 검사를 했고, 그 결과 에이즈에 감염되지 않은 것으로 판명됐다. 그리핀씨가 교육부의 두 번째 검사 요구에 불응하자 그녀가 근무하던 울산시의 한 초등학교는 계약 연장을 거부했다. 일자리를 잃은 그리핀씨는 비자가 무효화 되어 한국을 떠날 수 밖에 없었다. 그리핀씨는 현재 미국에서 근무하고 있다.

이번 사례는 한국에 있는 200,000 여 명의 다민족 시민들에게 큰 도움이 될 수도 있으며, 또 국회에서 수 차례 기각되었던 인종차별금지법 제정 문제에 여세를 가하는 계기가 될 지도 모른다.

한국 정부가 유엔 인종차별철폐위원회의 해명 요구에 응한 후, 청원자인 그리핀씨는 이에 대해 반박할 수 있는 2 달의 기간이 주어질 것이며, 마지막으로 유엔 인종차별철폐위원회에서 최종 결정이 내려질 예정이다.


언론 문의:
벤자민 와그너 법학조교수/변호사

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Unqualified English instructors seen as major problem here

The 2005 English Spectrum Incident

Part 1: English Spectrum and 'Ask The Playboy'
Part 2: The Kimchiland where it’s easy to sleep with women and make money
Part 3: English Spectrum shuts down as Anti-English Spectrum is created
Part 4: How to hunt foreign women

Part 5: Did the foreigners who denigrated Korean women throw a secret party?
Part 6: The 'Ask The Playboy' sexy costume party
Part 7: Stir over ‘lewd party’ involving foreigners and Korean women
Part 8: The 2003 post that tarred foreign English teachers as child molesters
Part 9: Netizens shocked by foreign instructor site introducing how to harass Korean children
Part 10: Movement to expel foreign teachers who denigrated Korean women
Part 11: "Middle school girls will do anything"
Part 12: Netizens propose 'Yankee counter strike force'
Part 13: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 1

Part 14: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 2
Part 15: Web messages draw Koreans’ wrath
Part 16: Thai female laborers and white English instructors
Part 17: 'Regret' over t
he scandal caused by confessions of foreign instructors
Part 18: "Korean men have no excuse"
Part 19: "Unfit foreign instructo
rs should be a 'social issue'"
Part 20: 'Clamor' at foreigner English education site
Part 21: Foreign instructor: "I want to apologize"
Part 22: No putting brakes on 'Internet human rights violations'
Part 23: "They branded us as whores, yanggongju and pimps," part 1
Part 24: "They branded us as whores, yanggongju and pimps," part 2
Part 25: Don't Imagine
Part 26: 'Foreign instructor' takes third place
Part 27: Art From Outsider's Point of View
Part 28: U.S. Embassy warns Americans of threats near colleges
Part 29: Internet real name system debated
Part 30: Dirty Korean women who have brought shame to the country?
Part 31: Foreign instructor: "In two years I slept with 20 Korean women."
Part 32: Invasion of Privacy Degrades Korean Women Twice Over
Part 33: 60 unqualified native speaking instructors hired for English instruction
Part 34: The rising tide of unqualified foreign instructors
Part 35: Warrant for Canadian English instructor who molested hagwon owner
Part 36: Viewers shocked by shameless acts of unqualified foreign instructors.
Part 37: Warrant for the arrest of a man in his 30s for breaking into home of foreign instructors
Part 38: Unqualified English instructors seen as major problem here

On February 7, 2005, the Korea Herald published the following article:
[NEWS FOCUS]Unqualified English instructors seen as major problem here

Some foreigners boasted of their sexual experiences with Korean women and made fun of Korean culture on the message board of a job-recruiting Web site called English Spectrum last month, and a group of angry Korean netizens launched an online campaign to "expel low-quality foreign teachers." Then, Gyeonggi police caught 47 foreigners who were illegally teaching English since all they had were tourist visas and no permission to work. In addition, some were only high-school graduates who language institute directors had passed off as having university degrees. Both incidents highlighted flaws in the hiring of English teachers - mainly a lack of reference checks and any laws to enforce regulations.

"Most teachers are surprised that there are no background checks - that you're not a pedophile or have a criminal record," said British instructor Keith Masey, who works for an English-language institute in Seoul. "A letter of relief is needed to move from one institute to another before a contract expires, but most hagwons do not check," an official of the foreign language institutes' council, which has 215 member institutes, said on condition of anonymity.

The law says that hagwons can be fined at least 100,000 won if they do not do the necessary paper work reporting a change of employment to the immigration authorities. A former recruiter who identified herself only by her first name, Jennifer, said, "Although instructors may have been sacked for some reason, they can work for another institute without a reference check." Jennifer taught English to elementary school children at high-profile English institutes - YBM and ECC - for five years and did recruiting of English instructors for two years in the Gangnam area.

She said some foreigners come back to South Korea a few weeks after breaking contracts and start working again. "It isn't like crimes that are left as a record," she commented.

Under the immigration law, a person can start over with a new E-2 visa in another workplace after the previous work visa becomes null. "Some instructors do not have English as their mother tongue," Jennifer said. "I had a colleague who was from Quebec, Canada, and his English was too bad to be true." But the Education Ministry does not have much control over the quality of foreign instructors. It said that the law does not require institute directors to check the background of instructors.

"It is up to hagwon directors to decide whom to employ," ministry official Kim Young-joonn said. "If foreign instructors cause big social problems, we may consider taking action, but there haven`t been any such issue." An English education boom in 1997 caused a sudden influx of foreigners eager to teach, and at one time there were an estimated 20,000 unqualified foreign instructors. Now, according to the Education Ministry, there are about 7,000 foreign instructors in Korea.

In 1997, many hundreds of foreigners holding only tourist visas were found to be teaching English illegally, highlighting the problem of unqualified English instructors. The Education Ministry hurriedly revised the law to require language institutes to employ only college graduates. Prior to that, any foreigner who had taken an English-related course at a college was able to find a job as an English instructor. Despite the law, however, some foreigners still find work as instructors even though they may not meet even the minimum qualifications. Jennifer said it is "an open secret" that many foreign tourists make as much as 40,000 to 50,000 won an hour by doing illegal private tutoring.

"The problem lies not in that they have illegal status but that they are not responsible." she said.

Another Korean-American English instructor, who asked to be identified only as M and teaches English at an institute in Gangnam, voiced concern about fake degrees. "My close friend told me her roommate (who teaches) is only a high school graduate," she said.

Last November, Hector Manuel Ramos, Jr., a former professor of Konkuk University was arrested by police on charges of using forged documents. Ramos worked as a bellhop in a New York hotel before he bought fake degrees in Thailand - one purporting to be from Columbia University in New York and the other from Central Michigan University, according to police. "You can tell (whether he is a college graduate) by listening to him talk. A university graduate is different in behavior, talking, and teaching," said M.

It is not hard to get away with fake degrees because government authorities do not usually check the authenticity of papers.

To close the loophole, major institutes like Pagoda give written tests and interviews to job applicants, but M believes some offenders may have slipped through the cracks into even large-scale institutes. Many English-language institute owners also welcome foreigners, regardless of qualifications, in order to attract students and high fees.

"The problem is with the people, Koreans, who run the industry. It`s pathetic to blame the foreigners," said Masey. "Institute directors like to recruit a person who is young and handsome," said M.

"Even a small institute tries to have at least one foreigner because it has great publicity effects," Jennifer said. "Korean parents are crazy about English. They often offer home-stay positions. They will plead with a foreigner to 'just stay at my home for free.'" M said, "My Canadian friend told me that even a person who is nothing in his country can be treated like a king in Korea as a foreign instructor. The government seems to have no idea of how to import (good teachers) and to control their quality." She suggested background checks, as is required in the United States, to ensure teachers are qualified. "It just costs 100 dollars in the U.S." to do a check, she noted.

One former instructor of the Samyook Language School said, "Many teachers are impeccable in their personality and enthusiasm, but I think students suffer as long as there are no firm standards." And, as Masey said, "The whole industry needs tightening up."
Other than requiring transcripts for E-2 visas - a measure added in the aftermath of the English Spectrum incident - there would be no tightening up until two and a half years later. This was also interesting:
An English education boom in 1997 caused a sudden influx of foreigners eager to teach, and at one time there were an estimated 20,000 unqualified foreign instructors. Now, according to the Education Ministry, there are about 7,000 foreign instructors in Korea.
The boom and influx predated 1997, and by the end of that year, when the economic crisis hit, hundreds of teachers would leave, with levels picking up again only a few years later. It's also amusing that the Education Ministry was answering questions that should have been answered by the Ministry of Justice.

There are a few more articles to post in this series before its climax with the broadcast of the SBS 'news' piece on the evils of blue-eyed, blonde haired foreign teachers.

I won't be getting to those this week, but hopefully before too long.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Olympics, coast to coast

I'm back in Canada at the moment and it's interesting watching the Olympics from a non-Korean point of view. I just saw this ad on TV:

Mind you, it's also nice that the time difference is more favourable here, making the soccer semi finals easier to watch.