Saturday, September 21, 2013

Job broker busted for using foreign students as native speakers in after school programs and hagwons in Busan

It took me awhile to get around to this. On September 5, Yonhap broke the following story about busts in Busan:
Unqualified foreigners active as native speaking instructors in after school classes
Job brokers interviewed them on the street and even employed someone with a sex crime on their criminal record

(Busan - Yonhap News) Unqualified foreigners have been caught for working as native speaking English instructors in Busan elementary school after-school classes and private hagwons.

It's been revealed that a job broker indiscriminately hired foreign students not from English-speaking countries after 'street interviews,' took in fees and introduced them to schools and hagwons.

The international crimes division of the Busan police announced on September 5 that 12 unqualified native speaking English instructors and the 4 managers of after school programs who hired them had been booked without detention. Eight job brokers and private hagwon owners were also booked without detention.

Six foreign students including 37-year-old Algerian Sabri had worked since February last year until recently at 11 elementary schools in Busan and Gyeongsangnam-do in the after school programs as native speaking English instructors. The other six foreign students worked at private hagwons as English instructors.

Anyone wanting to work in Korea as native speaking English instructors must be from countries where English is the mother tongue and have a bachelor's degree. These seven countries are the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, but the unqualified instructors who were caught were students from places like Russia, Iran, Kenya, Cameroon and Algeria.

The unqualified instructor from Cameroon had, in 2011, sexually assaulted a woman in a bar in Busan, but worked openly in a hagwon as a native speaking instructor.

Native speaking instructor job broker Mr. Son (43) procured foreign students without native speaking instructor qualifications via so-called 'street interviews' and then introduced them to companies that operated after school programs and English hagwons.

The foreign students were recruited by approaching them in places like coffee shops around universities or via the internet, and he did not quibble over whether or not they were qualified.

By introducing fraudulent, unqualified instructors who didn't even have English skills or, of course, correct pronunciation, and receiving 30% of the tuition fees, police found that Mr. Son made 10 million won in undeserved profit.

International crime division head Jo Jung-hyeok said, "The unqualified English instructors who were caught taught elementary school students with the English they had learned before coming to Korea to study, but their ability wasn't even at the level of everyday practical English."

As well, he added that "The Office of Education is strict about native speaking instructor qualifications but due to the small number of people overseeing this and the serious shortage of native speaking instructors in schools, unqualified instructors are able to teach."

The police together with the Busan Office of Education will begin an investigation into the operators of after school programs.
Other media outlets joined in on the fun, especially YTN, which published three different articles. Some of the titles:

YTN: Cameroon and Iran-born 'native speaking teachers' of English?';
Gukje Sinmun: 'Unqualified native speaking instructor openly teaches classes in school';
KBS: ' Unqualified instructors hired after 'interview on street';
Asia News: 'Unqualified native speaking instructor with sex crime on criminal record teaches class'

Only the Busan Ilbo and NoCut News had titles which made clear brokers or hagwon bosses had been arrested.

Here's a graphic from Asia News explaining how the money flowed (another less colourful one is here):

One wonders how the scam was discovered. Did one of the teachers' Korean coworkers finally realize that their native speaker wasn't quite up to snuff? Or was it something else?


K said...

Expel low-quality job brokers from Korea!

King Baeksu said...

The war on "illegal" and "low-quality" foreign ESL teachers in South Korea is sort of like the war on drugs. The question is, who really benefits from such never-ending, low-intensity conflict? In the case of the war on drugs, it's the well-funded state security apparatus. As for the war against native English teachers in South Korea, the Korean media appear to be the primary beneficiaries, given how relentlessly they cover the issue, although the security apparatus in South Korea also have much to gain from endless crackdowns.

The question is, just as some say that legalizing drugs would be a more efficient use of social resources, what if the war on foreign English teachers in South Korea was suddenly stopped, which is to say, radically liberalizing visa restrictions and allowing the market to decide who is or isn't a "low-quality" English teacher?

I dare say it might very well benefit the average Korean consumer, while job recruiters, dodgy hagwon owners and many opportunistic politicians would certainly lose out. At the same time, the Korean media would no longer be spoon-fed so many stories that only serve to feed local xenophobia, and might actually have to go out and do some actual work and reporting.

Obviously, tis but a pipe dream of fools and madmen!