Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The decision to prolong the Korean War and revisionist history

Much of modern Korean history painted from a revisionist point of view (notably that of Bruce Cumings in English, and National Liberation (민족 해방) faction of the Korean left in Korean) have painted the US as responsible for the Korean war, or for intervening in a civil war, or just responsible for Korea's woes generally ("The U.S. has committed barbaric and unpardonable crimes against our race for over 100 years," as seen here or in WWII Japanese propaganda). The idea that the Korean War was only a civil war was undone by the scholarship of  Kathryn Weathersby who found in the Soviet archives that Stalin had given Kim Il-sung permission to attack South Korea. In a recent RAS lecture, she looked at how the Soviets and Chinese prolonged the war:
Once China entered the Korean War in October 1950 and saved the DPRK from extinction, the North Korean leadership had little say in how the war was run. The Chinese took over day-to-day management of the fighting and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had the final voice on all important decisions. As a result, when Stalin decided in January 1951 to prolong the war for two to three years to tie down American forces in Korea while the Soviets and East Europeans rearmed, the North Koreans were forced to acquiesce, even though it meant subjecting their country to complete destruction from US bombing.
It can be difficult to hear at times (turn up the volume) but here is the lecture:

If the pro-North NL leftists and revisionists were to accept the fact that it was the Soviets and Chinese who prolonged the war which left the North in ruins, it might help to lessen anti-Americanism (which, though it's not manifest at the moment, is often latent). This is also interesting:
After Stalin died in March 1953, the Communist side finally agreed to an armistice. Yet the North Koreans resented the armistice, since it left the country divided. Furthermore, the North Koreans resented the Russians and the Chinese for prolonging the war by sacrificing the Korean people. Since then, North Koreans have believed that the rest of the world owes their country ongoing reparations. Even today, they often regard foreign aid as reparations.
While I'm not very sympathetic to the North, that might actually explain the North's attitudes towards negotiations with the outside world and make them seem less 'crazy.'

Also on the topic of revisionist history is this impressive lecture by Dr. In-ho Lee, former ambassador to Russia:
In this 2006 lecture, which looks at Korean history from the late nineteenth century to the present, Dr. In-ho Lee discusses the attempts by leftist historians to re-write Korean history from their point of view, one in which the U.S. is to blame for Korea's post-liberation trials. She places much blame for this on the anti-communist education of the Park Chung-hee government and its refusal to intellectually engage with communism, which she argues made a generation of young people susceptible to romanticized views of North Korea and communism.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My, what a pointy nose you have...

Japanese airline ANA has apologized for this commercial.

 (From here.)

 Fun stuff. Big noses are a staple of depictions of westerners in Korea as well.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

DMT smuggling foreign teacher gets suspended sentence

KNN reports that, as it turns out, the Changwon District Court sentenced A, the 25-year-old British native speaking teacher who imported the raw materials to for DMT and was arrested in November (leading NoCut News to declare, "From now on the provinces are no longer a drug-safe zone"), to three years imprisonment suspended for five years. According to the article,
The court disclosed that though A should strictly be held responsible for having drugs at his house and habitually taking them, it took into consideration the fact that he did not intend to distribute them in Korea and had reflected [on his offense].
As noted in the original post, I wondered if he might be treated leniently (as did Benjamin Wagner), and it turns out he was. Somehow I doubt he still has his teaching job, however.

Bits and pieces

I saw this love letter to Lee Eung-tae, written by his wife upon his death in 1582, awhile ago, but since I saw it again the other day I'll link to it here.

As noted at Korean Literature in Translation, the Literature Translation Institute of Korea has made available translations of 20 stories from 20th century Korean literature. I'm looking forward to reading the stories by Yi Sang and Chae Man-sik

Over at the Korea Times, Robert Neff celebrates the 84th birthday of Fred Dustin, who has lived in Korea since 1955, by looking back at his life and times. I especially found the story of the Koryo Club ("a group of Koreans and foreigners with an interest in Korea and its culture") interesting.

With almost 15,000 views over almost three years, my post about black face in Korea is the most popular post I've ever written, and appears to have been - at least in part - the basis of Korea's inclusion on this list (the photo in that article is most certainly from that post). On a similar topic is this list of Kpop's 'most racist moments of 2013.'

Speaking of racism, Sam Hammington spoke out briefly about racism he has faced in Korea, as noted in this post which translated the top-rated comments upon the article.

A high-tech cheater gets caught.

And this article about the Park Geun-hye government's moves to control the content of history textbooks deserves more attention than I can give it right now, but is well worth reading.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Criminal record checks mandated by the 2011 Hagwon Law revision dropped for those with E-2 Visas

I missed this story when KBS reported it on December 17:
Government simplifies the criminal background check process for foreign instructors

The criminal background check process for foreign instructors wanting to work in our country's hagwons is being simplified.

Today during a cabinet meeting the government deliberated over and decided upon the "Bill to Revise the Act on the Establishment and Operation of Private Teaching Institutes and Extracurricular Lesson."

According to this bill, foreign instructors who have submitted criminal record checks to places like overseas embassies or consulates do not have to submit criminal record checks once again to the managers of hagwons.
The amendment described above can be found here, and it mentions that civil petitioners (most likely hagwon owners or the hagwon owners' association) were considered when drafting the revised bill. If we remember, in 2011 an amendment was made to the 'Act on the Establishment and Operation of Private Teaching Institutes and Extracurricular Lessons' calling for all foreigners working for hagwons to submit criminal record checks, proof of educational background and drug tests (with the partial aim of making sure non-E-2 visa holders were verified). Instead of taking into account that E-2s were already receiving these checks, it turned into a ridiculous requirement for submitting documents to both the MOJ and MEST, and even of the need to re-submit documents for those who are already here. Exemplary news outlets like NoCut News reported that drug tests weren't being implemented for foreign hagwon teachers (see the article "A stoned native speaking instructor and my child...?!"), and, along with other media outlets like Newsis (which reported "Only 1 out of 10 foreign instructors in Seoul hagwons are verified"), ignored the fact that all foreign hagwon teachers on E-2 visas had already submitted these documents. In fact, during its racist fair and even-handed series July 2012 nine-part series "The Reality and Twisted Values of Some White Men," NoCut News reported upon and castigated the proposed revision which was passed a month ago, based entirely on flawed 'reasoning.'

It's nice to see this passed at a cabinet meeting (and a better result than the last time the government dealt with a bill at year's end regarding foreign teachers), though nothing was mentioned about the possible duplication of drug testing or diploma submitting.

RAS lecture on the mountains of North and South Korea

Tonight Roger Shepherd will be giving a lecture titled "The Baekdu Daegan as One Mountain System" for the Royal Asiatic Society:

The Baekdu Daegan is the biosphere of the entire Korean peninsula. After completing the first-ever photographic documentation of the Baekdu Daegan in both Koreas, Roger Shepherd now ponders whether the Baekdu Daegan has any hope of being shared by both Koreas as a national symbol of homogeneous identity. Further to that; with South Korea vying for the Baekdu Daegan to be a UNESCO world heritage site, what obstacles and opportunities will this submission face in regards to getting the North Koreans on board? Can it be done? His talk will be followed by a slide show featuring his explorative work from DPRK.
Roger Shepherd's previous lecture for the RAS was well worth attending; the results of his trips to photograph the mountains of North Korea can be seen here, and his website is here. Copies of his new 160 page photo book, 'Mountains of the Baekdu Daegan from North and South Korea' will be available; a preview is here.

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. More information can be found here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Parents can't help but be shocked when it turns out drug criminals are teaching their kids

As I mentioned previously, the arrest of foreign English teachers in Daegu for smuggling, taking and selling drugs like Spice and DMT led local papers to write editorials calling for stricter management of the teachers. On January 8, the Yeongnam Ilbo published the following editorial:
[Editorial] The selection process for foreign instructors should be strict

It is shocking that a good many native speaking instructors who teach students in Daegu area schools and hagwons turned out to be drug criminals. The day before yesterday the Violent Crime Bureau of the Daegu Prosecutor's Office arrested six foreign instructors including British native speaking teacher A and American English hagwon instructor B for smuggling, taking and distributing new kinds of drugs. As well, nine others were booked without detention for the same crime, including USFK civilian C and Canadian university instructor D.

Among those arrested for these drug crimes were 14 foreigners, eight of whom were middle school teachers or hagwon instructors. They are charged with smuggling synthetic marijuana such as Spice from China or the Netherlands and taking it themselves or selling it to foreigners in the Daegu area.

One can only guess at how shocked parents must have been to hear the news that foreign teachers who teach their children were involved in drug crimes. In particular, a native speaking teacher working at a middle school in Daegu tested negative for drugs when taking a drug test for contract renewal last August. During the process of hiring native speaking teachers, drug offenders are to be filtered out, but this is not working.

As we well know, these days the craze for early foreign language education is raging and there are many children who are taught by native speaking instructors from a very young age. In particular, in the case of elementary and middle school students, there are almost none who don't have one or two classes with native speaking teachers in schools or hagwons.

In schools it's the same, but most parents who send their children to hagwons have no idea about the native speaking instructor's experience or by what process he was hired, and can only believe the hagwon's promotional material when entrusting the hagwon with their children's care. Even though it is just a few [teachers who are drug criminals], parents can't help but be shocked when a foreign instructor who teachers their children is found to be a criminal involved with drugs.

Currently there are 485 native speaking instructors working in the elementary, middle and high schools in the Daegu area. There are also 489 hagwons which have hired [629] foreign instructors. Experts have diagnosed that there are many cases of foreign instructors getting their hands on drugs due to loneliness and stress, but ongoing verification is absolutely necessary. The verification process is most important during the hiring process, but during the rehiring period there must also be continuous management of those currently working.
The fact that the foreign teacher working in the middle school passed his drug test at renewal time would help push the case for random testing, but neither this editorial or another by the Gyeongbuk Ilbo (where the number of foreign hagwon instructors in Daegu, 629, comes from) mentions it. The Gyeongbuk Ilbo editorial, published the same day, is titled "The shocking involvement of Daegu native speaking teachers in drug crimes," and after mentioning the arrests, opens with:
Parents are anxious after hearing that foreigners stoned on drugs were in classrooms teaching their children. It is urgent that drug testing for foreign teachers (instructors) who teach young children be strengthened, and of course that there be strict drug control measures for foreigners staying for long periods in Korea. Last December the government put forward the "2014 drug management integrated plan," but many are of the opinion that it is not substantial enough. This plan essentially strengthens the normal monitoring of narcotics for medical use and international cooperation, as well as strengthening education to promote the prevention of the abuse of narcotics and hallucinogens. Actual, concrete measures to crack down on drug users, for example, are missing.
Yes, rather than attempting to prevent drug abuse, it would be better to toss users in jail. After describing the arrests and listing the number of foreign teachers and instructors in Daegu, it reads, "The strengthening of the management of native speaking teachers and hagwon instructors across the country is urgent." It continues:
Recently there has been an increase in new kinds of drugs such as synthetic marijuana. As well, there has been drug incident after drug incident due to things like the increase in smuggling via new routes such as international mail, and the great increase in illegal use of medicinal drugs such as propofol. Yesterday as well, the Violent Crimes Unit of the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office announced that it had arrested a Korean American drug dealer linked to an overseas ring. He was arrested for smuggling and selling 5 billion won worth of methamphetamine, enough to get 51,440 people high at the same time. Drug related incidents like these have been increasing recently. In particular, since drug crimes by foreign English instructors living in Korea and US soldiers have been increasing, a continuous crackdown is needed.
 Have drug crimes by US soldiers and foreign teachers been increasing? It's rather hard to tell from the statistics the editorial doesn't provide. What's funny is that when drug crimes by foreigners increase, there are always articles about the increase. The year it decreased (2011; more on that here)? Not so much. Because there's only one story to tell, and decreasing crimes by foreigners is not that story. This story is so true, one doesn't need niggling things like statistics to prove it.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Daegu office of education responds to drug bust

Unsurprisingly, the drug bust announced Monday is leading to 'new policies' by the local education office. Newsis published the following report on Monday.
Daegu Office of Education reexamining the management of native speaking assistant teachers

On January 7 the Daegu Office of Education disclosed a plan to reexamine the management of native speaking assistant teachers within its jurisdiction.

Native speaking assistant teachers working for the Daegu Office of Education are all hired by the Ministry of Education-affiliated National Institute for International Education's EPIK program. When being newly hired, native speaking assistant teachers turn in apostilled criminal record checks and Ministry of Justice-mandated physical examinations which include HIV and drug tests.

In particular, during the hiring of new teachers, the Daegu Office of Education is implementing drug education and training to improve teaching ability, as well as having the vice principal of each school head a native speaking assistant teacher management board for consistent overseeing of the teachers.

From 2014 the plan is to further enhance each school's training of and consulting for native speaking assistant teachers.

Regarding this, a midterm evaluation system will be constructed to strengthen feedback regarding attitude towards work and teaching ability, and the office of education will operate a native speaking assistant teacher management inspection team.

The Daegu Office of Education also plans to request that the National Institute for International Education, which oversees hiring, strengthen native speaking assistant teacher hiring standards.

These measures were prepared after a native speaking assistant teacher working for the Daegu Office of Education was involved in the drug incident announced on January 6. That native speaking assistant teacher was dismissed on December 3 after notification was received of the incident.
While the arrest of so many foreign teachers for drugs was sure to have consequences, the fact that the Daegu Office of Education is announcing so many measures all because one of their teachers was arrested is amusing. Of course, you really can't trust westerners, with their 'relatively free attitudes' towards sex and drugs, so more measures to 'manage' them must be announced or the education office will look like it's not doing anything to 'protect the children.' Most of these measures sound administrative and ineffectual, other than to cause headaches for both the foreign teachers and those tasked with carrying out the measures (who already have enough on their plates, to be sure). These measures aren't enough for local papers, mind you, who have penned a couple editorials about the need for ongoing verification of foreign teachers, which I'll translate before long.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Ten foreign teachers busted for spice and DMT in Daegu

Yonhap published this report this morning:
Daegu prosecutors office catches 18, including native speaking teachers, for taking new kind of drug

Native speaking teachers, university lecturers, civilans attached to the U.S. military included.

A good many people including native speaking middle school teacher and foreign language hagwon instructors and civilans attached to the U.S. military have been caught by prosecutors for smuggling and taking new kinds of drugs such as the synthetic marijuana, 'Spice.'

On January 6, the serious crime division of the Daegu Prosecutor's Office arrested six people including A, a British middle school native speaking teacher, and B, an American English hagwon instructor, for smuggling and taking a new kind of drug, in contravention of the Narcotics Control Law.

Prosecutors also booked without detention 12 people including C, a civilan attached to the U.S. military, and D, a Canadian University English instructor, for the same crime.

They are charged with smuggling drugs like spice or DMT (dimethyl tryptamine) from places like China and the Netherlands using international mail and taking the drugs themselves or selling them to other foreigners.

Of the foreigners who were caught, nine were American (including three civilians attached to the U.S. military), making up the most, while four were Korean, two were Canadian, and there was one each from Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.

As well, among those arrested, two are currently employed as elementary or middle school native speaking teachers, two as University English instructors, and six as private hagwon instructors.l

Prosecutors said that they confirmed that they got their hands on new kinds of drugs to relieve the stress and loneliness of their lives in Korea.

Department head Kim Ok-hwan said, "Because drugs like synthetic marijuana are easy to buy, drug smuggling is increasing every year." "The prosecution will use this investigation as an opportunity to severely punish the distribution of new kinds of drugs and follow a policy of harshly punishing drug crimes to prevent the spread of these drugs."
Good to know that the prosecutors confirmed that the teachers "got their hands on new kinds of drugs to relieve the stress and loneliness of their lives in Korea." Seriously? I also like the paragraph that reads "Of the foreigners who were caught [...] four were Korean" - do drugs and you become foreign, I guess (that certainly works for Korean American teachers, who are often seen as 'Korean,' especially in regards to pay, unless they commit a crime and then become seen as 'foreigners').

So basically, of the 18 people arrested, ten were foreign English teachers, and subtracting the three three civilians attached to the U.S. military and four Koreans leaves eleven, so one of the foreigners wasn't an English teacher.

Mind you, a Newsis article states that only eight of the arrested for teachers (and states their ages), and also adds the following:
Seeing as most of the suspects are foreigners, prosecutors contacted embassies and announced to US military officials that they are investigating people who are subject to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

2nd Deputy Chief Prosecutor Yang Bunam disclosed that "Because new types of drugs such as synthetic marijuana have not been through proper clinical tests, there is no clinical information available on their medical effects or toxicity, so they could be highly toxic if abused. Nevertheless, there has been an increase in smuggling because of the ease of purchase of such drugs."
KBS adds that they'd been smuggling the stuff in since September 2012.

In 2012, perhaps 25 foreign teachers were reported to have been arrested for drugs (the number may be less, since this story is rather unclear about the number of foreign instructors who were arrested). Last year, only two people - an American teacher arrested in May for smuggling pot and a Brit caught in November with the precursor to DMT and other drugs - were arrested, so ten being caught all in one go the first of January isn't the best of signs. At least they aren't calling for random drug testing this time.

Also, Arirang - via the Chosun Ilbo - reported on the legalization of pot in Colorado and then pooped on the party by warning Korean nationals to 'be wary.'
In Korea, it is illegal to smoke marijuana and users can face up to 30 years behind bars for the offense, even if they consumed it in other countries where doing so is legal.

The Korean Association Against Drug Abuse said those who consume the drug can be charged with criminal offenses upon returning to Korea.
That's one of the things you have to love about the Republic of Korea. While in Canada or the US laws have to be passed to allow prosecution at home for crimes committed overseas (sex crimes against minors being one such crime), the paternal Korean state claims jurisdiction over its citizens worldwide. Oh, and 'thirty years'? Yushin ended awhile ago - it might be time to think about more sane sentences (if such a lengthy sentence is in fact true, which I don't doubt).

[Hat tip to reader, and thanks to Ami for help with the translation.]