Friday, May 31, 2013


(Via Big Hominid.)


There's some debate over what exactly happened in the comments. This capture at the moment of impact shows that there's a second person (you can see three arms, at least) on the scooter - the woman who flies over the car:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mace-spraying, pot-smoking American English teachers arrested

TV Chosun broadcast the following report yesterday morning, where you can watch the video from which the above image was taken:
Yesterday [May 28] in the middle of Gangnam police caught an American who sprayed a taxi driver with mace after not paying his taxi fare and then brandished a weapon when confronted by police. [...]

Yesterday morning in Dogok-dong in Seoul, a foreign customer refused to pay his taxi fare and fled, and after a lengthy confrontation the customer sprayed the driver with mace and escaped.

In addition to this, the foreigner, who has been identified as a 31-year-old American English instructor, also brandished a weapon in front of the 22 year old police conscript who witnessed what happened and who was taking him to the police station in a squad car. The Suseo police station has applied for an arrest warrant.
Mace? Seriously? I'd imagine between not paying fare, macing someone, and threatening a police officer that there might be some stiff consequences. Or not. One wonders if they will stop at compensation or go further.

And in other news, this morning Yonhap published the following report:
American hagwon instructor arrested for smuggling and smoking marijuana

On May 30, the Gwangju Prosecutors' Office indicted K, a 25 year-old American, for bringing into Korea and smoking marijuana (in contravention of the Marijuana Control Act).

K has been charged with smoking marijuana in his house twice in February.

The investigation found that K smuggled marijuana on two occasions (3 grams and 9.5 grams) via a friend in the US.

It was found that K's friend put a plastic bag of marijuana in a jar of peanut butter and sent it via international mail.

K works as an English instructor in a Gwangju foreign language hagwon.
Smuggling pot in peanut butter! What a brilliant idea! No one has ever thought of doing that before, right?


The Gwangju Ilbo reports, in an article titled "Foreign instructor arrested... taught English while high" (a 'fact' routinely reported, regardless of proof), the teacher was from Kentucky and, after finding success in receiving 3 grams in peanut butter on January 31, tried again with 9 grams on May 10 and was caught by customs.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Newsis says new measures are 'urgent' after foreign teachers commit less than one crime per year in Gyeongsangbuk-do

On May 27, Newsis published the following article:
Measures to manage law-breaking by native speaking teachers in Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do 'urgent'

[Daegu = Newsis] Reporter Park Jun. Due to incidents involving some foreign native speaking teachers placed in schools and places of education in Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do occurring once again, it's been pointed out that measures are urgently needed.

In particular, as there are no measures allowing for ongoing supervision of native speaking teachers outside of the training they receive before they are placed in schools and places of education, the need for management policies has been brought up yet again.

On April 21,  'A,' a 27 year old Korean American working as a native speaking teacher at an elementary school, was arrested for robbing a convenience store in Amnyeong-myeon, Gyeongsan at knife point, threatening an employee, and stealing 600,000 won and 16 packs of cigarettes.

'A' came to Korea in August 2010 and worked as an elementary school native speaking teacher in places like Yeongdeok and Gyeongsan in Gyeongsangbuk-do as part of the TaLK program organized by the Gyeongsangbuk-do Office of Education.

The police investigation found, shockingly, that after committing the crime 'A' went to school and taught children for three days before he being arrested.

Before that, in 2007, 34 year-old 'B' and two others who worked as native speaking instructors in Gyeongsangbuk-do were caught working with forged diplomas as native speaking teachers in elementary schools.

In addition to that, in July 2010, 'C', a 56 year-old native speaking teacher working at an elementary school in Daegu, used the cleaning time at his own school to molest four sixth grade male students and then fled to the US; he was arrested for violating the special law on sexual violence.

Amid such incidents by native speaking teachers hired by offices of education, it has come out that neither the Daegu or Gyeongsangbuk-do Offices of Education have implemented special measures to supervise them, leading some to say that such measures are urgently needed.

Before they are placed in schools and places of education, they receive only four weeks of online training from the National Institute for International Education and the Daegu or Gyeongsangbuk-do Offices of Education.

Furthermore, since there is no supervision of them by the education offices after they are placed in schools, there are worries that there may be other side effects, and other loopholes in the management of native speaking teachers may come to light.

As well, since there has been absolutely no survey done of native speaking teachers' teaching evaluations and communication problems with Korean teachers, doubts are being raised about the quality of native speaking teachers' classes.

Teachers in Gyeongsangbuk-do have said, "According to government guidelines, there is a trend of increasing numbers of native speaking teachers connected with the strengthening of English education, but actually, sometimes you can't understand how it should work."

Teachers in Daegu said, "Since outside of the native speakers' classes they have absolutely no desire to help other teachers, and it's difficult for teachers to speak with native speaking teachers, it's difficult to understand how they're thinking."

Regarding this, an official at the Gyeongsangbuk-do Office of Education said, "Seeing how there are too many native speaking teachers working in this province, their supervision is completely up to the school and among the teachers it is the coordinator who does the supervising."

"Since we can't know anything at all about what they do after their school classes are finished, it's not easy to supervise them."

Currently in Gyeongsangbuk-do there are 99 TaLK scholars working as native speaking teachers. As for native speaking teachers hired by the EPIK Program there are 710 in Gyeongsangbuk-do and 485 in Daegu.

Among native speaking teachers, Americans make up the greatest number, followed by Canadians, Australians, and British.

Five cases of foreign teachers in Daegu and Gyeongsangbuk-do misbehaving over six years, out of thousands of teachers who have taught there! My god, something must be done!

First of all, it should be pointed out that the last sentence is most likely wrong. I looked at immigration statistics from June 2012 and found that there were 1,571 foreigners from the 7 English speaking countries in Daegu and 1,562 in Gyeongsangbuk-do. In the case of Gyeongsangbuk-do, 710 EPIK teachers and 99 TaLK scholars make up about 50% of the total number of foreigners from those countries (and I'd imagine many of the others are hagwon instructors). Here's a breakdown by country:
As you can see, it's rather unlikely that the number of Australians would be higher than British teachers, as is stated above, and in fact there may be more South African NSETs. Since there's no breakdown by visa, however, it's difficult to know for sure.

I also like the fact that we're told that "there has been absolutely no survey done of native speaking teachers' teaching evaluations and communication problems with Korean teachers." In that case, how does he know that 'communication' is a problem? If surveys have not found anything negative, why are "doubts being raised about the quality of native speaking teachers' classes"? Could 'negative for the sake of being negative' articles like the one above be contributing to such doubts?

I also like the quotations attributed to "Teachers in Gyeongsangbuk-do." What, a group of them sat down and answered questions in unison?

As for one of the main points, we're told that "neither the Daegu or Gyeongsangbuk-do Offices of Education have implemented special measures to supervise" foreign teachers. Unfortunately for the reporter who obviously had to update the "Woe is Korea: foreign English teacher edition" for this month, it's not true.

Before getting to Daegu's efforts in this regard, it should be mentioned that the case of the American teacher who molested grade 6 boys in Daegu in 2010 led directly to the Korean Immigration Service requiring FBI background checks, new diploma checks and expanding drug testing to include marijuana for E-2 visa applicants and E-2 visa holders. (It's probably worth mentioning that the offender was also caught in the US, extradited to Korea, and sentenced to four years in prison.)

As if that's not enough to prove that there had been an official response to at least one of the cases mentioned above, here are some initiatives taken by Daegu Office of Education.

On September 15, 2010, it was reported that foreign teachers in Daegu would receive Korean lessons (original Daegu Ilbo link dead; a similar article is here):
From the 17th the Daegu Office of Education will run an 'understanding Korean and Korean culture classroom' at the Daegu English Education Support Center every Friday afternoon from 4:30pm to 6:00pm for 134 native speaking assistant teachers.

The staff will be composed of teachers with Korean language teaching certificates and those doing a masters in Korean studies at Kiemyung university graduate school. Native speaking assistant teachers will be assigned to one of six different classes according to their level.

As of September, of 393 native speaking assistant teachers in the Daegu area, 369 teach English, 13 teach Japanese, and 11 teach Chinese.
A good idea (especially with leveled classes), but one wonders how popular the choice of a Friday evening was. On July 15, 2011, Yonhap published the following report:
Daegu Office of Education says native speaking teachers will also receive TESOL training.

On the 15th the Daegu Office of Education announced that in order to improve the quality of English instruction, TESOL training for exceptional native speaking assistant teachers will be implemented.

This summer vacation 200 elementary, middle and high school English teachers will take a TESOL course for job training, and the Office of Education will include 10 native speaking assistant teachers in this.

For 90 hours during summer vacation and 90 hours during winter vacation, these native speaking assistant teachers will learn about the latest educational theory and specialized teaching together with Korean English teachers.

According to the education office, "Native speaking teachers’ English ability is outstanding, but their teaching method can be lacking, so this TESOL training will be implemented."
So much for suggesting that "neither the Daegu or Gyeongsangbuk-do Offices of Education have implemented special measures to supervise" foreign teachers. On the other hand, maybe that's not what these people have in mind when it comes to supervision/management of foreign teachers.

Perhaps, "since [officials] can't know anything at all about what [native speakers] do after their school classes are finished," affixing the same kind of ankle bracelets that sex offenders wear might solve this problem?

Video English in the classroom

If anyone is curious what video English classes with native speakers from overseas (in this case, the US) look like, Newsis posted photos of Monday's demonstration class at Maetan Middle School in Suwon yesterday. The subject of the class, Newsis tells us, was 'doenjang jjigae.'

 From here.

  From here.

"With your neighbor make a list of your favorite kinds of Kimchi. Can you describe each one?"

  From here.

  From here.

 From here.

"What is one way that makes Doenjang Jjigae healthier? It acts as an anti-cancer agent."

One wonders how these overseas teachers are recruited and whether they even know anything about Korean food. Foreign teachers who are actually present in schools in Korea would at least be familiar with Korean food (via the school lunches, at the very least). That Korean school textbooks have lots of Korea-related content is, of course, unsurprising, but I get the feeling some of the textbooks are aimed at 'educating' the foreign teachers who might be using them. In particular the 천재교육 grade 6 English textbook has a unit titled, I kid you not, 'How do you say it in Korean?' which seems to be aimed at educating the foreign teachers about bulgogi, hanbok, yunnori, ssireum, and  gayageum. Or perhaps that's just a side perk, and the main idea is to teach students how to act as missionaries in order to effectively spread and teach Korean culture to foreigners.

At any rate, I'm just thinking out loud about how these video teachers experience their classes, and in particular what it's like teaching classes that focus on a culture they may know little to nothing about (unlike foreign teachers who are in-country, who, whether they want to or not, get a crash course in the culture). Are there any readers out there who have taught these classes? I get the feeling they're rather scripted, with little margin for improvisation or injecting their own personalities into the lessons.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Controversy over the Gwangju Uprising

Today is the 33rd anniversary of the crushing of the Gwangju Uprising. On this day in 1980, ROK special forces units retook the city from its citizens, who had held it for six days after forcing the military out on May 21.

More photos of that day can be found in this post (and film of the aftermath of the battle that day is shown in the first two minutes of the 1996 film 'A Petal,' which can be seen here. I've written quite a few posts about the uprising, including a brief timeline, the violence on the first day, the escalation of violence over the first three days, forcing the military out of the city, as well as an analysis of US news reports from May 22 and the death toll.

I've also looked at more personal stories related to the uprising, such as the memories of a nurse, the memories of a photographer, and the story of a soldier. The single post I'm happiest with is likely this one, about the death and memorialization of a high school girl named Park Geum-hui who was killed during the uprising.

A bibliography of books in English about the uprising is here, and I've also looked at the background of the situation in 1979 leading up to Park's assassination and Chun Doo-hwan's 12.12 coup, both of which, essentially, led to the uprising.

The big new this year was that two right wing TV networks interviewed North Korean defectors who claim the Gwangju Uprising was the work of North Korean special forces. This created quite a reaction, as a Joongang Ilbo article titled "TV shows tarnish Gwangju history" describes:
After the programs were broadcast, roughly 17,000 comments were posted on Ilbe, a far-right online Web site that many young people visit, denouncing the May 18 uprising. [...]
Most users ridiculed the activists and the victims of the uprising, by describing them as hongeo, or Korean name of skate, a fish and regional specialty of the South Jeolla region. The fish is red in color and is often used as a nickname for South Jeolla people when accusing them of being a “commie,” or “red.”
Politicians and civic activists protested the programs and the comments of the Ilbe Web site.

You Seung-hee, a Democratic Party lawmaker, issued a statement on Sunday saying: “The actions of the so-called general-programming cable channels, distorting the history of the protest against the military coup, which is part of the identity of South Korea, are no different than the acts of Japan that distort history [regarding their colonial rule during World War II and territorial claims].”

Kim Si-won, an 18-year-old high school student, also staged a one-man protest in central Seoul. “The Ilbe members, who deny the spirit of the May 18 Democratization Movement, are not entitled to be citizens of this country.”

Kim Seo-jung, a media studies professor at Sungkonghoe University, said “[TV Chosun and Channel A] just ran the programs to get ratings without checking the facts about the Gwangju uprising, which is an important incident in Korean society. They failed to keep their responsibility as media for uncovering the truth.”
Imagine that. The Donga Ilbo - owner of Channel A - has an editorial in English which attempts to deflect blame, saying "some TV programs and Internet sites aroused disputes by arguing that North Korean soldiers intervened the uprising [after a] North Korean defector appeared on a TV program last week". Cute. [The article is worth reading, however.] I'm not sure if this is really necessary, however:
“It is a serious misdeed that some television programs deliberately distorted the truth of the May 18 uprising,” Oh Jae-yiel, head of the May 18 Memorial Foundation, said on Sunday. “After evaluating the response from the government, we will take all available legal action.”
This Donga Ilbo article also describes battles between leftists and rightists (or 'May 18 deniers') to have the uprising memorialized by UNESCO. It also mentions that
UNESCO agreed to publish a world human rights textbook, which will feature 10 cases, including records on France`s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, Germany`s dismantlement of the Berlin Wall, Poland`s 21 Demands of Gdansk, and documentations on the May 18 incident. The first of its kind, the human rights textbook will be used as reference material for students worldwide.
The Joongang Daily describes the content of the shows, which "featured interviewees that said North Korean agents secretly penetrated into the South in 1980 and pretended to be civilians in order to cause social turmoil and the collapse of the government in the South."
TV Chosun broadcast a talk show on May 13 featuring a North Korean defector, identified as Im Cheon-yong. Im said he was a former North Korean military officer of a special force unit that was involved in the Gwangju uprising in 1980.

“A battalion composed of 600 North Korean soldiers penetrated into [Gwangju],” Im said. “It was North Korean guerillas who occupied the South Jeolla Provincial Office at the time.”

Another North Korean defector then appeared on Channel A last Wednesday and made a similar claim. The defector, who used the pseudonym Kim Myeong-guk, said he was one of several North Korean soldiers sent to Gwangju during the uprising. Unlike Im, his face was blurred, apparently to protect his identity.
“On May 21, 1980, soldiers of the special forces unit arrived on shore near Gwangju by ship,” Kim said. “We pretended to be Gwangju civilian forces and even attacked the South’s government forces together.

“Among the North Korean soldiers who participated in the uprising, some were promoted to be generals in the North later,” he said.
As the Joongang mentions,
The allegation that North Korea was possibly involved in the Gwangju movement was first raised by the Chun Doo Hwan administration in 1980.

On May 21, 1980, Lee Hui-sung, then-Army Chief of Staff for the Chun administration, spread leaflets that said, “The agitation is being led by [North Korean] spy agents and rebellious gangsters.”

However, in 1995, during questioning by the prosecution, Lee reversed his words, saying, “At the time, that allegation was just a suspicion. It was a bit exaggerated.”

Many military experts also say that the possibility of North Korean agents’ involvement is highly unlikely, as Gwangju was under thorough military surveillance by martial law at the time.
If Martial Law Command believed North Koreans had organized the rebellion, they certainly didn't let on in the statement they made to citizens 33 years ago after special forces secured the city:
The military has waited patiently ever since evacuating the city on May 21. We promised the citizens' representatives not to come back in, provided certain conditions were respected. They were not respected. Coming back into the city became inevitable, because the scum of society and criminal elements organized as so-called "citizens' army". They broke the law. The army has completed its mission successfully. Citizens, come forward. Order has been restored.
As the Korean notes in his post at the Marmot's Hole, even conservative pundit Cho Gap-je called the assertions made on the program unbelievable. Apparently, Cho was there (something I didn't know) as a journalist, and he notes that no journalists, Korean or foreign, or citizens, ever spoke of North Koreans being in the city. He also notes that only 23 soldiers died during the uprising (13 of those in friendly fire incidents), and argues that, had North Korean special forces been involved, surely more soldiers would have died.

The aforementioned battle over UNESCO memorialization of 518 also mentions that
some conservative groups in South Korea suggested that “The May 18 Gwangju incident was an armed revolt triggered by some 600 special forces from North Korea. Those who massacred Gwangju citizens are North Korean soldiers, not South Korean martial troops.
So it wasn't the ROK army who killed civilians in Gwangju, it was DPRK soldiers. Welcome to cuckooland, everyone.

If we remember this -
“On May 21, 1980, soldiers of the special forces unit arrived on shore near Gwangju by ship,” Kim said. “We pretended to be Gwangju civilian forces and even attacked the South’s government forces together.
- by May 21 the die had been cast, so to speak, regarding the uprising. Arguably the one of the most radical citizen actions - mass action by taxi and bus drivers who drove downtown, occupied city space and made it much more difficult for the special forces to control the streets - took place on the evening of May 20. In fact, even before citizens armed themselves after ROK special forces opened fire on crowds in front of the Provincial Hall on May 21, a civilian rebellion was already taking place, which I looked at in detail here. In that post I quote paratrooper Kim Yong-jin:
While advancing, a major, an operations staff member of the 3rd Brigade, held up a gun shouting: "I will shoot you to death if you retreat," so that we reached the area near Kwangju Station in terror. When we arrived at Kwangju station, soldiers were standing in a single line in front of the train station building, shooting ceaselessly, and near the fountain buses and trucks carrying citizens had driven into the fountain while charging at the soldiers. One sergeant, a vehicle driver of the 3rd Airborne Brigade, died after being run over by a truck, and about 20 citizens were abandoned near the fountain, drenched in blood.
By the night of the 20th, citizens were charging at special forces lines with vehicles, and, in the case of the confrontation in front of Gwangju Station, opening fire on citizens. As I described in the aforementioned post:
Many of the demonstrators that had been arrested over the past three days were held in a gym at Chosun University, where they were being beaten regularly. Hearing of this, 3000 demonstrators headed to the university to free them, using buses to charge the gate. The soldiers successfully defended the university, but had to use hand grenades to do so. By daybreak the paratroopers could be found only on the two university campuses and at the provincial hall.
So, even before these 600 North Korean soldiers slipped past martial law command into Gwangju (perhaps on the back of the winged horse, Chollima?), Gwangju's citizens, without using guns, had forced the military into three strongholds throughout the city. The work of the liberating the city from the military had already almost been completed by May 21, and the military was set to exit the provincial hall (and the downtown area) before it opened fire on the crowds. If you look at the gradual progression of violence over the first three days, it shouldn't be surprising that once the military opened fire on crowds of civilians on the afternoon of May 21, the citizens would arm themselves to complete the task they had nearly finished. And as the military was forced out, I'm sure someone in power was thinking, 'Giving military training to every male over the age of twenty seemed like such a good idea at the time...'

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Study find that native speaking instructors are more helpful to top-ranked students

Newsis published this article this morning:
Korea University professor Choi Hyeong-je: "Native speaking instructors are more helpful to top-ranked students"

A study has found that native speaking instructors are more helpful to top-ranked students with good marks.

On May 23, the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training released through an employment skills development journal a research report titled "Native speaking assistant teachers' effect on the improvement of high school students' English ability."

According to the study, which was led by Korea University professor Choi Hyeong-je, using national-level scholastic achievement assessment criteria, analysis of native speaking instructors' contribution to academic high school students' English marks found that native speaking instructors are relatively more helpful to top-ranked students.

The difference in the effect of native speaking instructors on boys and girls' high schools was not statistically significant, but they were found to be relatively more effective in the case of co-ed schools.

In this case as well, they were more effective with top-ranked students in particular, according to the report.

Professor Choi explained: "It was found that native speaking instructors have more of an effect on middle and upper ranked students than on lower ranked students." "Relatively speaking, native speaking instructors are more helpful for students who are confident with English and prepared."

He advised, "For the native speaking instructor system to have a more positive effect on all levels of students, we should consider assistance for students with low English proficiency such as classes divided by level."
I suppose this is all of a moot point for high schools in Seoul, where foreign English teachers have been cut from almost every middle and high school. One question that might be asked is how low-ranked students perform in other subjects besides English; I'm not sure if that's dealt with in the report.

If you'd like to read the report for yourself, it's available here. Mind you, a look at the website reveals that, unlike what you might assume from reading the above article, the journal article was not released today (it was April 30), and the quotes above which appear to be from an interview with Professor Choi are actually paraphrased from the abstract. In fact, the entire article is pretty much paraphrased from the abstract! It looks like a little more work was put into writing another article published by Newsis this afternoon, though it's rather odd:
'Serious overemphasis': 99% of foreign language native speaking teachers in Gyeongsangbuk-do teach English

The selection of foreign languages for students in Gyeongsangbuk-do is limited because most of the foreign native speaking teachers placed in schools and educational institutions there are English teachers.

According to the Gyeongsangbuk-do office of education on the 23rd, out of a total of 710 foreign native speaking teachers in Gyeongsangbuk-do at the end of April, 706 were English native speaking teachers, making up more than 99% of all foreign teachers.

Meanwhile, in the case of Chinese and Japanese, the languages chosen in schools as third languages, there are only four Chinese teachers and not even a single Japanese teacher.

It's been found that this excessive emphasis on native speaking teachers teaching English is because having high English scores is very advantageous for students when enter society and find jobs after high school.
It's nice of Newsis to point out that such an overemphasis on English isn't such a good idea, but it's essentially trying to create a problem where there really isn't any - the rest of the article features teachers and education office officials all saying that parents aren't interested in any native speaking teachers other than English teachers. Large scale hiring of Chinese native speaking teachers is fairly recent. Jeollanam-do may have the most; as of March this year it had hired 63 Chinese native speaking teachers.

The article ends with some statistics: In 2011 the only native speaking instructors were 659 English teachers, while in 2012, of the 703 native speaking instructors hired, there were 701 English teachers and 2 Chinese teachers. It also says that the number of native speaking English teachers keeps increasing, while the number of Chinese and Japanese teachers stays still. According to these statistics (from this post), in 2010 there were 795 native speaking English teachers in Gyeongsangbuk-do, which means there's actually been a decrease (if the stats that have been brought up are correct). Meanwhile, I've searched Naver for other articles about Chinese native speaking teachers in Gyeongsangbuk-do and didn't find any - so there actually was an increase from 0 to 2 between 2011 and 2012.

And in other Gyeongsangbuk-do news, there were several news outlets which reported that 55 EPIK teachers from Gyeongsangbuk-do were being taken on a trip to Ulleungdo and Dokdo from Monday to Wednesday this week (out of 200 who applied to go). They've apparently been doing this every year since 2009.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Preliminary results for the HIV testing survey

Yesterday I posted a link to "HIV Testing and Retesting Survey for English Teachers in Korea" which is posted here. Here are the results so far for the question "Which best describes the frequency that you are tested for HIV in Korea?" (Click to enlarge.)

So what we see above is that out of 100 or so responses so far, 66% are being re-tested at least once a year or more, 29% have been tested once for immigration, and 5% haven't been tested.

Even more interesting is that 27% have indicated that they are re-tested for immigration or hagwons, even though this isn't law or even policy. (It should be pointed out that Education offices asking for HIV tests for public school teachers isn't based on any law, it's just their policy.)

It will be interesting to see if more results alter the pattern seen so far or support it.

Please direct any questions about the survey to .

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Teachers query EPIK's effectiveness (in 1997)

Yesterday I posted part one of a series in the Korea Herald about the EPIK program - in 1997. Here is part two, which was published on June 16, 1997.
Teachers Query EPIK's Effectiveness

This is the final article in a two-part series on the English Program in Korea. _ Ed.

By Mark Dake, Staff reporter

There are teething pains, to be sure. It can be obviously exasperating, teaching overflowing classes of 50 to 60 rambunctious kids. The textbooks are outdated, the curriculum goals, hazily defined and when East meets West, there can be wide cultural gaps.

But for many foreign teachers placed into hundreds of Korean public schools in landlocked interior towns, large bustling cities and breezy coastal villages, the government mandated English Program in Korea (EPIK) has been an intriguing experience.

"I think it's excellent," said Frank Kelly, 48, a gregarious Scotsman teaching at Keumok Girls High School near Kimpo airport.

"It's the best place I've taught English at in 24 years." Kelly doesn't naively spout platitudes. He's made a lifelong career of instructing English _ in Russia, Spain, Poland, at universities in Paris and Glasgow and now, Korea.

"All the girls are so hard working and the Korean teachers are very pleasant." EPIK began in 1995, and there are currently about 700 or so foreign instructors, mainly Americans and Canadians, in the program.

What do the teachers think of EPIK? Are Korean students picking up English efficiently? Is it worthwhile? "It's basically a very good experience," said Don, an American who has been teaching in Suwon in Kyonggi Province south of Seoul, for two years. But the 40ish American, added that he felt the program wasn't very well organized.

The American's conclusions were partly based on his first year's experiences when he was shuffled to different classes every day, seeing some "20,000 students" and never the same class twice.

Teachers said large class sizes, usually 45-55 students, with as many as l,000 weekly, meeting for 50-minutes, were difficult to organize.

"I like to think we're effective, but I'm not sure," said Canadian Sandra Korpela, 49, at Hapdock Girls' Middle School in Tangjin-gun, South Chungchong Province. "I've been here for 11 months now, and I'm finally getting some students coming up to me and initiating conversations in English. There not long conversations, but its a start."

Teachers also said that Korean students seemed to suffer from an inordinately heavy course load, leaving precious little time to make serious inroads in English.

"The kids aren't learning," stated Charlotte Landes, 57, an American teaching at Demonstration High School at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. "They're taking Korean, French or German, and English (language courses) and Chinese characters, about 15 courses. They are horribly exhausted and in a state of anxiety."

Kelly concurred and said his pupils were "snowed under with work." He recalled teaching in France and Spain, where the average course load was seven or eight subjects, and he favored that system.

When Landes first began, she taught 57 students per class and 914 students weekly. She pushed for change, and now directs class sizes of about 25, twice weekly. She felt she is more successful now.
Korpela wanted to know exactly what her EPIK mandate was.

"I asked my district supervisor 'why we are here, why is the government spending so much money to bring us over?'" said Korpela.

"He answered, 'because you are foreigners.'" Korpela took that to mean that her presence was part of a need to provide opportunities for students to gain new perspectives on other cultures, via herself, and the other foreign teachers. In her region, she said, most students had never met anyone outside of Korea.
Assisting Korean teachers certainly is a top priority.

"The greatest benefits of us being here are for the Korean teachers, not the students," said Don, the EPIK language coordinator in Kyonggi Province. "The long range benefits are greater for them, than they are for teaching students for a month or so." Most western teachers felt their Korean counterparts were a pleasure to work beside, but felt that the rigid Korean educational system wasn't conducive to optimum student performance.

Instructors told of using student-centered methods to encourage "interactive, spontaneous" learning, anything to get kids using English as much as possible, in opposition to the host country's teacher-centered lecture system, in which listening, not talking, was stressed.

Korpela said in her first semester, she spent afternoons teaching workshops to 60 Korean teachers, but discovered perhaps only three or four at most were willing to adopt new methods.

"The teachers didn't want to do new things," she said. "Change seemed to be abhorrent to them." Don said that teaching teachers new "methodology is the biggest problem. When I try to teach it to Korean teachers, they don't really seem to understand it." As Western and Korean teachers work side by side, wrestling for a balance in teaching styles and methods, and the kinks get worked out of the system, the positives nevertheless certainly seem to outweigh the negatives.

Sixty-five percent of this year's teachers wanted to renew their contracts for another stint, according to the Seoul Education Office, indicating most teachers felt comfortable in their positions.
Thankfully, since the Seoul Education Office has cut all of its secondary school positions for NSETs, the program has apparently succeeded, and the problems discussed in this sixteen year-old article no longer apply. Right?

HIV Testing & Retesting Survey for English Teachers in Korea

A survey titled "HIV Testing and Retesting Survey for English Teachers in Korea" has been posted here. It took me two minutes to fill it out. Let's just say that the results of this anonymous survey will be put to very, very good use.

Again, the survey can be found here, and if there are any questions about the survey, please direct them to .

Monday, May 20, 2013

A look at EPIK in 1997

What with EPIK going through changes and reductions in the number of teachers, it's interesting to take a look at the program's beginnings. As I've mentioned before,
In 1995, at the crest of a wave of private language institutes sweeping the country, the Korean Ministry of Education launched a pilot program called KORETTA, or Korea English Teacher Training Assistants, later renamed the English Program in Korea, or EPIK. [...]  EPIK, however, was marked from the start by disorganization, miscommunication and allegations of corruption by its foreign teachers.

In 1996, a summer intake that consisted of several orientation sessions, run by Korea University, brought in more than 860 teachers, but by the third week of October, fewer than 500 remained [468, according to the Korea Times on Oct. 23]. Those who quit cited reasons such as inadequate housing, late salary payments and refusal of severance pay.
A June 12, 1997 Korea Herald article delved into the "refusal of severance pay" aspect of that last sentence:
EPIK Contract Dispute Creates Dissent

This is the first of two articles about the English Program in Korea, a government organization of foreign teachers instructing English in the public school system. _ Ed.

____ By Mark Dake Staff reporter

Severance Pay. It's a term that English Program in Korea (EPIK) officials are likely wishing they'd never heard of and one that has resulted in a public relations nightmare.EPIK is an organization that was installed by the Korean Ministry of Education (MOE) in 1995, placing foreign teachers into the public school system to instruct English.

Approximately 600 teachers, mainly from America and Canada, but also from other English speaking countries, were hired last year. The first division employed in June, July and August 1996, signed 52-week contracts and should receive 30 days severance pay if they terminate their employment this summer.

But the EPIK suddenly did an about face during last summer's hiring process, creating new 50-week contracts. That two week difference was a huge factor. Severance pay, something the EPIK hadn't counted on doling out at all, could thus be avoided by reducing the employment term to less than 52-weeks, the minimum term required to work in Korea before being eligible for the benefit.

So, approximately 280 teachers hired last August and September who signed the 50-week contracts, are thus ineligible for the benefits.

All future EPIK contracts are now for 48-50 weeks, eliminating severance pay.
It was a move that caused resentment among teachers. Complaints have flooded into the Seoul MOE office, to teacher's respective national embassies, and to lawyer's offices and legal centers.

For example, one Canadian teacher signed a Sept. 2, 1996 to Aug. 17, 1997 contract, ineligible for severance pay, while an Australian teacher's contract from June 21, 1996 to June 21, 1997, allows him to collect the approximately 1.6 million won severance payment.

"I went to a Legal Aid center, and they told me I was entitled to the money," said the Canadian teacher, who for fear of retribution from EPIK, didn't want her name used. "What can I do now? I'll look for employment elsewhere." The U.S. Embassy has also been attempting to remedy the situation.

"We're well aware of the complaints from teachers regarding severance pay," said an Embassy official. "We met with the EPIK director last week, but he was vague when we asked the question about severance." A MOE employee who works closely with the EPIK, admitted the contract changes have caused problems. "It (severance pay) wasn't included in the budget," said the employee, not wanting to be named. "We're trying to make an effort to satisfy about 80 percent of the teachers. But we have to come with a lot more money. It's expensive." Severance pay, also known as retirement pay, (vacation pay in Canada), is mandatory for all workers in Korea, regardless of nationality, after working the minimum 52-weeks.

According to Article 34 in the "New Labor-related Laws" booklet published March 1997 by the Labor Ministry, "An average wage of more than 30 days shall be paid for each year of consecutive years employed... However, if the worker was employed for less than one year, this shall not apply." The monthly wage for EPIK teachers ranges from 1.2 to 2 million won, and an average severance package would be about 1.6 million won.
That figure, multiplied by 600 EPIK teachers, adds up to about 960 million won annually, or $1.1 million.

That sum is obviously one that the MOE doesn't want to part with.

The method they've undertaken to save the money, creating a 50-week work year, is legal.

"It's not illegal for employers to hire employees for less than one year," stated Kim Chong-yun, an official of the Labor Standards Division with the Labor Ministry. "It's the employer's decision." "Some employers are taking advantage of this provision to avoid paying the severance pay," said Kim. "They usually like to make a contract with employers for less than one-year." The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) oversees the EPIK in Seoul schools. An SMOE employee, who didn't want her name used, said that foreign teachers receive generous benefits while working with EPIK, and that severance pay was not necessary.

"In Seoul, we (SMOE) pay a 35 million won apartment key deposit, fully covered medical insurance, air fare, a settlement allowance of 250,000 won, good salaries and Korean holidays," she said. "And foreign teachers work far less than a 40-hour week. They don't work during mid-term and final exams." These exam periods in Korean public schools can last for weeks.

The SMOE employee said teachers can renew their contracts for up to three years, and that many teacher are satisfied with EPIK, citing a 65 percent renewal rate for this year.
One of the complaints from teachers regarding the severance issue though, was that both the SMOE and MOE offices have not been forthcoming about the contracts and severance pay, which they said has led to distrust.

"It's impossible to get straight answers, no matter how high up the chain of command you go," said Rod Rothwell, an Australian teaching in the EPIK in Seoul, after inquiring at the SMOE.

An employee with the EPIK Office at the Korea National University of Education in Chongwon, said that it is up to the 15 Korean regional MOE offices to decide individual cases.

The American Embassy listens to problems from U.S. workers in Korea, but it will not intervene on an individual basis. The embassy official said the severance issue probably seems unfair to individual teachers, and that it did create a bad image for the program. But she did issue a warning to instructors.

"Both parties have signed and agreed to a contract, and each party must live up to that contract," she advised. "You can't change contracts retroactively. You need to know what you're signing, before you sign." Teachers who do renew for a second year will receive some severance pay after the second year, but at this time, that amount is unknown.

Kim said that workers unhappy with a contract can negotiate with the employer to change it. But altering the EPIK contracts doesn't seem like a probable scenario.

It appears as if EPIK will save a substantial amount of money by eliminating severance pay for the hundreds of teachers annually who stay for just one year. One can only wait and see though, if the obvious fallout will have made the move worthwhile.
The old 'fire the teacher just before they finish their contract so you don't have to pay them severance pay' is a much spoken of hagwon trick; it's interesting to see that back in the day the public school system undertook to do that legally. One wonders when the change came that led to 12 month contracts in public schools.

SMOE's purported "65 percent renewal rate" is interesting; I doubt that many renewed the next year, and the way in which the 1997 financial crisis derailed the EPIK program is made clear by this chart published by the Seoul Sinmun three years ago showing the number of native speaking teachers placed in public schools between 1995 and 2010:

(At top are the number of teachers by year, followed by a breakdown by nationality of teachers currently working, and at bottom are the percentages of teachers with qualifications.) As can be seen above, the number of teachers would not reach 1997 levels until 2004, seven years later.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Random photos

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday.

I was at a training session at a school in Mok-dong the other day and saw this view out the window and was compelled to photograph it.

As for this, I'm not sure if it's accidental or a joke. I'd imagine it's the latter. (Taken on an apartment rooftop in Magok-dong.)


Thursday, May 16, 2013

25,000 kids studied English in hagwons in Seoul in 1997?

On October 13, 1997, the Korea Herald published the following article:
25,000 Youngsters Learn English at Private Institutes

About 25,000 pre-school and primary level school kids take English lessons at private language institutes in Seoul, according to a report released yesterday. The report, submitted by the Seoul Office of Education to the National Assembly, indicated 146 English language institutes, including three foreign-owned ones, had enrollment of 24,928 kids under the age of 12 as of the end of August.

About 1,200 children under six-years-old were registered at private institutes in three affluent wards in Kangnam-gu, Soch-gu and Kangdong-gu.

Data also showed the 146 institutes employed 429 English-speaking instructors, 33 percent of the total 1,300 foreigners hired by foreign language institutes in Seoul. The fees range from 40,000 won ($44) to 390,000 won ($433) monthly for classes lasting from 45 minutes to five hours daily.

The Seoul Office of Education also issued warnings to 19 private institutes for enrolling third-grade primary school students. The Ministry of Education in March banned language institutes from admitting such students because English instruction was included in third-grade school curriculum this year for the first time.
 That figure of 25,000 seems rather low, but I wasn't here at the time, so who knows? Any ideas?

To be sure, the figure of "1,300 foreigners hired by foreign language institutes in Seoul" must be too low - I mean, Rep. Kim Han-gil said a few months earlier that there were 70,000 unqualified foreigners teaching in Korea! Surely someone as unbiased as he was couldn't be wrong, could he?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chosun Ilbo provides an update about Sarah Graydon for teachers' day

In a happier and more inspiring story than the previous one, a few weeks ago I mentioned fundraising efforts for Gwangju-based teacher Sarah Graydon, who is in the hospital suffering from ulcerative colitis. The Chosun Ilbo published an article about her today which features video of her and tells us that yesterday, on the eve of Teacher's Day, her former students from Geumho Middle School visited her in Chonnam National University Hospital in Gwangju. It notes that when she worked at the school she volunteered to teach extra classes for eager students and conversation classes for parents as well. Educators from her school and the district education office helped to raise money for her, and students alone raised 2.6 million won.
Again, there's a Facebook page here and more information about her here.

American English teacher robs convenience store, heads to a casino

One public school foreign English teacher won't be getting any letters for teachers' day today. From Yonhap:
American English teacher robs convenience store... blows the money at a casino

Taught openly for three days before he was arrested

(Daegu - Yonhap News) An elementary school native speaking English teacher robbed a convenience store but the fact he was arrested was belatedly confirmed.

For three days after committing the crime the currently employed native speaking English teacher openly went to school and taught children until he was arrested.

Gyeongsangbuk-do Police Agency revealed that they arrested American native speaking teacher A (27) for going into a convenience store with a weapon, threatening a female clerk and stealing 600,000 won and cigarettes

Teacher A is suspected of entering a convenience store in Gyeongsan at 10:20 pm on April 21 wearing a hat, sunglasses and a hood to cover his face. He threatened a female clerk with a weapon he'd prepared and stole 600,000 won and ten packs of cigarettes.

The investigation found that the day after the robbery, he went to the casino at the Hotel Inter-Burgo in Daegu and bought 200,000 won worth of casino chips and exchanged 50,000 won notes to use.

An official from the Gyeongsangbuk-do Police Agency said that "Teacher A was drunk when he committed the crime." "CCTV cameras in the area of the convenience store revealed that teacher A carefully committed the crime, changing his clothes after leaving the store and returning home."

The arrested teacher, A, came to Korea in August 2010 and worked as a native speaking teacher in places like Yeongdeok and Gyeongsan in Gyeongsangbuk-do.

He taught elementary school students 15 hours a week in after school English classes.

A school official said, "Until we were notified by police, we knew absolutely nothing about the crime." "Teacher A was stripped of his qualifications on May 1."
If the accusations are true, there's not much more to say than "Nicely done, douchebag."

I do find the whole "he taught openly" part to be odd (was he going to teach secretly?), though that's more a journalistic convention than anything else. Stranger still is the idea that the school - or anyone - could have known what he'd done prior to his arrest. "Until we were notified by police, we knew absolutely nothing about the crime." Well, duh.

I'd be curious to see how long he's put in jail for - I imagine armed robbery prior to a trip to a casino won't go over very well in court.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kim Han-gil: "Elementary school students are defenseless before things like AIDS"

On July 10, 1997, two months after Rep. Kim Han-gil's column about "white good-for-nothings" flocking to Korea to teach English (but in reality to chase Korean women), the Kukmin Ilbo published the following article (and was the only newspaper to give space to Rep. Kim's views):
Rep. Kim Han-gil reveals there are 70,000 unqualified English teachers

Saying "Elementary school students are defenseless before things like AIDS," on the morning of the 10th Rep. Kim Han-gil, from his place on the Ministry of Education's National Assembly activity report, claimed that, with the implementation of elementary school English education and with English hagwons also springing up everywhere, many unqualified native speaking instructors have entered the country this year, with their number currently reaching 70,000.

Rep. Kim said, "This figure for the number of unqualified foreign instructors is an estimate based on things like Ministry of Justice statistics on the number of foreigners and English hagwons." "That they don't even have to take drug or AIDS tests in particular and are entering the country and teaching children in hagwons or homes is a serious problem."

Rep. Kim also said that of the 660 native speaking teachers invited by the Ministry of Education for elementary and Middle school English classes, 60 did not fulfill their contracts and returned home halfway through, due to their being ill, unable to adjust, or were absent without permission, revealing a weak point in the recruiting and management of native speaking teachers.

In addition, Rep Kim revealed that, riding the early English boom, there are 20 companies, each charging 3,000,000 won, that arrange overseas English language training for Korean children during summer vacation. The programs that these companies organize, however, are mostly filled with tourist and sports activities [as opposed to actual language study], which encourages excessive consumption.
To help put this in context, this Hankyoreh article from February 1997 reveals Rep. Kim to be an opponent of early English education in elementary schools, saying that Korean language learning needs to be strengthened first. As mentioned above, by 1997, elementary school English education had been implemented, and his assertion that there were many "unqualified native speaking instructors" was one way to question the legitimacy of the system.

As well, we see his ridiculous assertion that there are 70,000 unqualified native speaking instructors. I guess "This figure for the number of unqualified foreign instructors is an estimate based on things like Ministry of Justice statistics on the number of foreigners and English hagwons" sounds better than "I pulled this number out of my ass." At the height of placing foreign teachers in public schools (2010-2011), the number of E-2 visa holders barely topped 24,000 (and that includes over 1,000 Chinese and Japanese teachers); it's been estimated that F-visa holders make up perhaps 10% of that figure, making perhaps 30,000 foreign teachers a high estimate. 70,000 is simply unbelievable. Not that anyone would ever question a national assembly representative, even though several have so completely gotten statistics about foreign teachers wrong in the past (such as saying that 22,000 E-2 visa holders were missing due to use of the wrong statistics, or that foreign teacher crime was "serious" while providing statistics which showed the opposite).

Rep.Kim's assertion that "of the 660 native speaking teachers invited by the Ministry of Education for elementary and Middle school English classes, 60 did not fulfill their contracts and returned home halfway through" is reminiscent of many articles which have declared the system flawed because some teachers break their contracts, with the most notorious being in September 2010 when either National Assembly representatives or Yonhap used incorrect statistics (again!) to paint more than 50% of foreign teachers in public schools as breaking contracts and disrupting English education. (These stats were never corrected and were used as the basis of this article six months ago.)

Rep.Kim also failed to mention the possibility that it wasn't the teachers who were breaking the contracts:
In 1995, at the crest of a wave of private language institutes sweeping the country, the Korean Ministry of Education launched a pilot program called KORETTA, or Korea English Teacher Training Assistants, later renamed the English Program in Korea, or EPIK. It was the first and only nationwide government-initiated program to address the demand for English education in Korea, designed to place native English speakers in public school classrooms to co-teach alongside Korean English teachers. EPIK, however, was marked from the start by disorganization, miscommunication and allegations of corruption by its foreign teachers.

In 1996, a summer intake that consisted of several orientation sessions, run by Korea University, brought in more than 860 teachers, but by the third week of October, fewer than 500 remained [468, according to the Times on Oct. 23]. Those who quit cited reasons such as inadequate housing, late salary payments and refusal of severance pay.
As mentioned yesterday, Rep. Kim was also ahead of his time by declaring of foreign teachers, "That they don't even have to take drug or AIDS tests in particular and are entering the country and teaching children in hagwons or homes is a serious problem." To highlight the 'threat' posted by these white teachers, Rep. Kim states that "Elementary school students are defenseless before things like AIDS."

As I've mentioned before, media discourse has often portrayed Korea has as being '무방비 (defenseless)' regarding AIDS. Here are the title of some articles published just prior to the 1988 Olympics:

Our country is indeed a zone defenseless before AIDS (Joongang Ilbo, September 8 1988)
The highs and lows of a festive atmosphere welcoming the Olympics -' defenseless' before AIDS (Joongang Ilbo September 10,1988)
The 'defenseless before AIDS' Olympics (Hankyoreh, September 2, 1988)

That Rep. Kim would use it in 1997, and that Anti English Spectrum would use it in 2006 (saying that Korean "women are being defenselessly exposed to AIDS" by untested foreign English teachers) shouldn't be surprising.

Lastly, Rep. Kim's criticism of "excessive consumption" reflects a concern of the time (prior to the 1997 monetary crisis), one documented in Laura C. Nelson's book "Measured Excess: status, gender, and consumer nationalism in South Korea."

Lecture on Korean-Japanese Relations from 1392 to 1592 tonight

Tonight Kenneth Robinson will be giving a lecture titled "Pirates and Traders, and Fake Japanese, too: Korean-Japanese Relations from 1392 to 1592" for the Royal Asiatic Society:
Pirate raids prompted the Choson Korea government to encourage trade by other Japanese in the early fifteenth century, and Japanese soon were sending dozens of trade missions each year. The Choson government gradually established detailed regulations for managing that trade, even dividing Japanese traders into a hierarchy. From the 1460s, those regulations and the hierarchy became tools by which Japanese traded through imposter identities, that is, people that did not exist or people who did not know that their identities were being used. Why did the Choson government not always stop imposter trade and what importance did imposter trade have in the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592?
I'm looking forward to this lecture, especially because I just finished Frontier Contact Between Choson Korea and Tokugawa Japan, by James B. Lewis, which deals with this subject in detail in the post-Imjin War era. Many of the issues the book deals with which I found interesting relate to the battle by Koreans to gain sovereignty over foreigners (Japanese, in this case) in their land, cultural differences which caused problems near the Japanese trading post, and issues of prostitution, miscegenation, and the problem caused historically by mixed race Koreans during the Imjin War. Much of this can be applied to current SOFA issues, perceptions of foreign male-Korean female couples, and the debate over multiculturalism. In other words, topics that are obviously right up my alley.

The lecture will be held at 7:30 pm tonight (Tuesday) in the Residents' Lounge on the 2nd floor of the Somerset Palace in Seoul, which is behind Jogyesa Temple, and is 7,000 won for non-members and free for members.

Canadian - Korean child given a windpipe made from her own stem cells

[Update - Below, Kushibo links to a site for raising money for the girl's care.]

Here's a more upbeat story about a foreign English teacher than a lot of the stuff I've been posting recently:
A 2-year-old girl born without a windpipe now has a new one grown from her own stem cells, the youngest patient in the world to benefit from the experimental treatment.

Canadian-South Korean Hannah Warren has been unable to breathe, eat, drink or swallow on her own since she was born in South Korea in 2010. Until the operation at a central Illinois hospital, she had spent her entire life in a hospital in Seoul. Doctors there told her parents there was no hope and they expected her to die.

The stem cells came from Hannah’s bone marrow, extracted with a special needle inserted into her hip bone. They were seeded in a lab onto a plastic scaffold, where it took less than a week for them to multiply and create a new windpipe.

About the size of a 3-inch tube of penne pasta, it was implanted April 9 in a nine-hour procedure.[...]

Only about one in 50,000 children worldwide are born with the same defect. The stem-cell technique has been used to make other body parts besides windpipes and holds promise for treating other birth defects and childhood diseases, her doctors said.

The operation brought together an Italian surgeon based in Sweden who pioneered the technique, a pediatric surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria who met Hannah’s family while on a business trip to South Korea, and Hannah — born to a Newfoundland man and Korean woman who married after he moved to that country to teach English.

Hannah’s parents had read about Dr. Paolo Macchiarini’s success using stem-cell based tracheas but couldn’t afford to pay for the operation at his centre, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. So Dr. Mark Holterman helped the family arrange to have the procedure at his Peoria hospital, bringing in Macchiarini to lead the operation. Children’s Hospital waived the cost, likely hundreds of thousands of dollars, Holterman said.
There's more background on this story here. She seems like quite the little trouper in the photos in the articles (or these ones), and what science has been able to accomplish in this case is pretty amazing.

Monday, May 13, 2013

One politician's take on foreign English teachers in 1997

On May 21, 1997, the Kookmin Ilbo (which recently published this editorial about foreign English teachers) published the following column:
Nude model and white men

A young Korean-American woman famous for appearing as a nude model in the American magazine Playboy returned to her homeland yesterday and received 'red carpet' treatment. [Yet] when global artists visit our country, there isn't this kind of fuss. From the time when she entered the country at the airport a desperate spectacle broke out as hundreds of reporters scuffled over who would be able negotiate television appearances [with the woman].

The realities of this country [which is highly conservative] is such that when an actress [recently] took off her clothes on stage she was arrested; and there is a talented author named Jang Jeong-il* who was nevertheless punished by the court [for his writing] because it was considered pornographic - neither of them profited from their works [in contrast to this woman, the nude model].

At any rate, this woman proudly said, "I'm proud that men see me as sexy." And likewise our society - especially the women - also feels proud of her.

Was she proud of herself for being found sexy by tall white men who speak English well even though she is a Korean with short legs? On a TV show she said that when she was 21 she was frugal with living expenses and saved up money for breast implants. She also said, "To tell you the truth, I also wanted to get a nose job, but I didn't want to change the face my parents gave me."

These days, meanwhile, unemployed people in English speaking countries are flocking to Korea. It's similar to how throngs of unemployed people throughout the US headed west after rumors spread that gold had been discovered in San Francisco in 1849. This land is being targeted as a paradise for white good-for-nothings according to newspapers like the Washington Post.**

The number of white English instructors is increasing because 'listening and speaking' has come into fashion when studying English. Currently there are 7,800 foreigners with formal English instructor qualifications, a number that has doubled in the last two years. Among them are a good many with things like fake diplomas, and the discovery of the truth about their qualifications has stirred up public criticism. Moreover, the number of foreigners who have entered the country on tourist visas and teach English illegally is estimated to be 40,000-80,000. Among white instructors who are charged with training our elementary school English teachers there are also those who are unqualified; at one school 7 unqualified white instructors were uncovered all at once.

It's normal for white people to make a fortune teaching private lessons in Korea, earning around 50 million to 80 million won a year. There are signs for lectures at places like hagwons, but the real money is in visiting homes to teach groups. Not only that, the reason white men really like Korea is to chase after Korean women. Not long ago, it came out that an unqualified English instructor who was arrested had fooled around with around 20 women, angering the sincere men of this land. To be frank, most unqualified native speaking English instructors are people who had not found a place in their own country and felt left out. As they enter the country on tourist visas, they do not have to take AIDS or drug tests. A famous entertainer caught for a drug offense confessed that he obtained the drugs through a white English conversation teacher. If you go to yogwans in Gwanghwamun where white English instructors live together, the smell of marijuana is not hard to find. While there are also lots of workers from Southeast Asia here, they have a lot less impact upon our society. The seriousness of the problem with unqualified white English instructors, however, is that they are personally penetrating each home of our society's middle class under the pretext of English conversation study. The thought that the low quality culture of English speaking countries is penetrating into living rooms is very serious. This is a big deal. (The author is a national assembly member).
I omitted part of the title of this column; the full title was "Nude model and white men (Kim Han-gil's column)." For those who don't know, Rep. Kim Han-gil was elected head of the Democratic Party last weekend:
A high-profile former aide to President Kim Dae-jung became the chairman of the nation’s largest opposition party and he promised reform to restore luster to the party after last year’s defeat in the presidential election.

Kim Han-gill, a writer-turned-politician and four-term lawmaker, won the chairmanship election Saturday by a large margin. [...]

Kim, 60, is a well-known novelist and was a reporter for the Hankook Ilbo and also San Francisco bureau chief for the JoongAng Ilbo.

He became famous in 1991 when he released a romance novel titled “The Woman’s Man,” a story of a romance between a daughter of a president and an ordinary man. It became a best seller. He became more popular in 1995 as he married Choi Myoung-gill, a top actress at the time.
Kim entered the political arena in 1996 with the support of then-presidential candidate Kim Dae-jung. He took a variety of high-ranking posts in the Kim administration. He was the youngest presidential secretary for policy-making ever and also culture minister.

Perhaps, if we want to get a better grasp of what he wrote back in 1997, his first marriage, to Lee Min-ah, first daughter of former Culture Minster Lee O-young - which is not mentioned above - should be noted. As is described here,
After graduating from Ewha Womans University’s English Literature Department, Lee married [...] Kim Han-gil and moved to the United States. She graduated from law school there and served as the California state public prosecutor in Los Angeles [from 1989 to 2002].
From what I have heard elsewhere, despite his becoming San Francisco bureau chief for the JoongAng Ilbo, he wasn't as successful as his wife, who became a public prosecutor. It should also be noted that after they divorced she married someone named Jeff Spencer Buchanan (she unfortunately died of cancer last year). Perhaps I'm making too much out of this information, but it's hard for me to read some of the what he wrote in the column above - where he constantly harps on about 'white men' - and not wonder if the former influenced the latter.

As for his column, what a tour de force it is. Starting off by talking about a Korean American nude model (clearly Sung-hi Lee) who was "found sexy by tall white men who speak English well," he suddenly segues into talking about foreign English teachers, a correlation that seems rather similar to how the 2005 English Spectrum Incident unfolded (in which the ire of netizens was raised by photos of a 'sexy costume' party involving underdressed Korean women and foreign English teachers).

Much of what Rep. Kim writes about, however, harkens back to the French foreign language teacher scandal of 1984. Referring to Korea as being seen as "a paradise for white good-for-nothing" recalls the Joongang Ilbo article "Korea is "Ali Baba's" Cave," while "unemployed people in English speaking countries are flocking to Korea" sounds rather similar to the article "'I Want to Strike it Rich in Seoul Too' - Continuous Job Inquiries by the French," or this article, in which it's said "Parisians are flocking" to Korea. This Joongang Ilbo editorial from that time lays out a blueprint for much of Rep. Kim would write 13 years later:
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. 
Rep. Kim's comment, "The thought that the low quality culture of English speaking countries is penetrating into living rooms is very serious" echoes the editorial above, though he makes a valid point when he notes that "unqualified white English instructors [...] personally penetrat[e] each home of our society's middle class under the pretext of English conversation study."[And yes, while other words could have been used, I thought 'penetrate' an apt translation.]

Other sections of Rep. Kim's column, however, point toward the future. "Among them are a good many with things like fake diplomas, and the discovery of the truth about their qualifications has stirred up public criticism." That certainly sounds familiar, as does the term "unqualified native speaking English instructors." He also says that "the number of foreigners who have entered the country on tourist visas and teach English illegally is estimated to be 40,000-80,000," showing that reports like this one from a month ago overestimating the number of foreign teachers on tourist visas have something of a pedigree. He also states that "there are 7,800 foreigners with formal English instructor qualifications, a number that has doubled in the last two years." Looking at the statistics of E-2s here (which only go back to 2,000, mind you), makes me very skeptical of that statistic. He also ridiculously overestimates the amount of money being made by foreign teachers ("50 million to 80 million won a year"). While there was a lot of money being spent on English lessons prior to the 1997 monetary crisis, one of the reasons teaching in Korea was popular with foreigners was the favourable exchange rate (800 won to the dollar or so), not the high salaries.

As we near the end of his column, then we start to see attitudes that become mainstream in the media after the English Spectrum Incident in 2005. We're told
the reason white men really like Korea is to chase after Korean women. Not long ago, it came out that an unqualified English instructor who was arrested had fooled around with around 20 women, angering the sincere men of this land.
This is reminiscent of the message on the front page of Anti-English Spectrum's site between 2007 and 2009:
One day, our anger overflowed, as we felt unendurable humiliation through reading of the debasement of Korean women by the arrogant, infamous English Spectrum.
Rep. Kim also makes the foreign teacher - drug connection:
A famous entertainer caught for a drug offense confessed that he obtained the drugs through a white English conversation teacher. If you go to yogwans in Gwanghwamun where white English instructors live together, the smell of marijuana is not hard to find.
I'm kind of curious about how Rep. Kim knew what marijuana smells like. On the other hand, he did live in San Francisco for quite a while. Perhaps the most notable part of Rep. Kim's column is when he states this:
As they enter the country on tourist visas, they do not have to take AIDS or drug tests.
Actually, even if the foreign teachers had entered the country on E-2 visas, they would not have had to take AIDS or drug tests (only entertainers and migrant workers had to take HIV tests, and no one took drug tests). Rep. Kim's spiritual heirs in this regard, Anti-English Spectrum, would take up this cause and find success ten years later, in 2007. This would be after Rep. Kim tried to bring attention to this 'problem' within the national assembly himself, however. I'll (hopefully) post an article about that tomorrow.

* Jang Jeong-il's fourth novel 'Lies' "was banned, recalled and pulped less than a month after it was published in 1996, and the author subsequently had to serve two months in jail as a "pornographer." Jang was the first Korean writer to be so convicted. More about this book and the movie based on it can be read here.

**I've searched for this supposed Washington Post article in its archives but can't find any such article.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fundraising for teacher who fell to his death in Incheon

Last week I posted about two foreign teachers who died in separate accidents in Incheon last weekend. There is a fundraising site here for Kevin Andresen, the teacher who fell to his death:
His family and friends are now trying to meet the extraordinary costs of organising an international cremation and then bringing him home for a service in the UK. Unfortunately these costs are rising everyday.

We want to organise the cremation in Korea as he loved it there so much, and for all of his friends there to be able to pay their respects. We then want to transport him home so that his family and UK friends can say goodbye.
 His friends were hoping to raise 5,000 pounds, but, incredibly, more than that was raised in a single day. One marvels at the good the internet can facilitate.