Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Herald Gyeongje warns of outbreak of new hostilities in ongoing native speaker - Korean instructor war

Yesterday morning the Herald Gyeongje issued an online report titled "Doing the work of native speaking instructors, discrimination... the stress of 'Korean instructors.'" The article was then retitled and published on page 10 in hard copy yesterday:
Native speaker - Korean instructor conflict is serious

Kim Ju-won (pseudonym, 34) is an instructor at a well known language hagwon in Seoul. These days he is under severe stress due to a native speaking instructor. This is because, compared to native speaking instructors who just have class and play all the time, Mr. Kim has to do all kinds of tasks like cleaning up after/looking after the native speaker.

Korean instructors are burdened every day with taking care of tasks such as hagwon recitals, preparing materials, and counseling parents.

Mr. Kim said, "Preparing for events or counseling parents is more difficult and takes more time than teaching classes."

However, after native speaking instructors finish class, they have free time. Venting, he said, "Native speaking instructors, who earn more than Korean instructors, earn extra income outside of classes through private lessons or phone English at a rate of over 100,000 won per hour." "I was astonished how, on days of hagwon outings, they just showed up and didn't prepare anything."

At English hagwons in Korea, conflict between native speaking instructors and Korean instructors is becoming more frequent. As hagwons only care about inviting native speaking instructors, they are negligent in preparing Korean culture education, cultural understanding or exchanges between instructors.

Female Korean instructor Park Hye-ran (pseudonym, 31) said, "There are also many native speaking instructors who drink at night in places like Itaewon and come to class late or hung over." She also said, "There was a native speaking instructor who went to a law school in the US but I found out he was lying." "Among native speakers who come to Korea, the number of instructors whose resume has been recognized and their ability confirmed is half at most."

Lee Jung-gi (pseudonym, 51) the owner of a Seoul hagwon employing three native speaking instructors, pointed out that, "To hire a native speaker costs at least 3 million won a month per teacher (standard salary). Using a native speaker is hard work for everyone, the hagwon owner and Korean instructors." However, as parents and students prefer native speakers, I have no choice but to reluctantly hire them."
I seem to remember a similarly-titled report about foreign teacher crime back in 2009
(Rep. Lee Gun-hyeon: Native speaking instructor crime is 'serious'), though the statistics which accompanied it showed NSET crime to be 5 times less than the Korean crime rate. Whoops.

And of course, this comes a week or two after the Herald Gyeongje headlined a report on SMOE's foreign hagwon instructor training with "Foreign hagwon instructors: If you do drugs, it's a big deal."

As for the article, it's pretty standard, what with the references to lazy, unqualified drunkards. It's insinuated that foreign teachers are treated too well, what with the Korean teachers having to shoulder the burden of counseling parents all by themselves. Apparently the 'journalist' can't think of a good reason why that burden exists for them alone. As for foreigners making 100,000 won per hour, why would a journalist want to check that 'truth'? Someone with an axe to grind said it, so it must be true! And yes, though the article does actually criticize hagwons, saying they are "negligent" in preparing fostering "cultural understanding," the addition of a hagwon owner at the end is just icing on the cake, because its not his fault either - he's forced to grudgingly hire these foreigners! To complete the article is the requisite 'absent presence' of an interview with a foreign teacher. 

This isn't the first time foreign teachers have been portrayed as causing endless headaches for their Korean coworkers (for example, two years ago New Daily reported on drinking parties during GEPIK orientation and the 'sadaejuui' of schools that "bow down to" foreign teachers, while last year NoCut News reported that though there was 90% satisfaction with foreign teachers, there was also "an explosion of complaints from some support specialist instructors" who said that foreign teachers 'half-heartedly' prepare classes and only chat during class).

However, those articles, like most I've found over the past few years, were about foreign teachers in public schools, not in hagwons. I guess with the public school budget cuts, it's time to start complaining about foreign hagwon instructors again, especially since demand for them is about to increase.

It hasn't been all negative when it comes to foreign hagwon instructors, I should note. Last year Newsis asserted that "Measures are necessary for the protection of native speakers" working in hagwons who are taken advantage of by their employers, and gave examples of such victimization. Anyone selling parkas in Hell did well that day, I'd imagine.

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