The 2005 English Spectrum Incident
Part 1: English Spectrum and 'Ask The Playboy'
Part 2: The Kimchiland where it’s easy to sleep with women and make money
Part 3: English Spectrum shuts down as Anti-English Spectrum is created
Part 4: How to hunt foreign women
Part 5: Did the foreigners who denigrated Korean women throw a secret party?
Part 6: The 'Ask The Playboy' sexy costume party
Part 7: Stir over ‘lewd party’ involving foreigners and Korean women
Part 8: The 2003 post that tarred foreign English teachers as child molesters
Part 9: Netizens shocked by foreign instructor site introducing how to harass Korean children
Part 10: 'Recruit a Yankee strike force!'
Part 11: The Daum signature campaign: 'Let's kick out low quality foreign instructors!'
Part 12: Movement to expel foreign teachers who denigrated Korean women
Part 13: "Middle school girls will do anything"
Part 14: Netizens propose 'Yankee counter strike force'
Part 15: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 1
Part 16: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 2
Part 17: Web messages draw Koreans’ wrath
Part 18: Thai female laborers and white English instructors
Part 19: KBS Morning Newstime: 'I can also suffer from the two faces of the internet'
Part 20: AES: Grandfather Dangun is wailing in his grave!
Part 21: 'Regret' over the scandal caused by confessions of foreign instructors
Part 22: "Korean men have no excuse"
Part 23: "Unfit foreign instructors should be a 'social issue'"
Part 24: Growing dispute over foreign English instructor qualifications
Part 25: 'Clamor' at foreigner English education site
Part 26: Foreign instructor: "I want to apologize"
Part 27: No putting brakes on 'Internet human rights violations'
Part 28: "They branded us as whores, yanggongju and pimps," part 1
Part 29: "They branded us as whores, yanggongju and pimps," part 2
Part 30: Don't Imagine
Part 31: Anti-English Spectrum founder's statement
Part 32: 'Foreign instructor' takes third place
Part 33: Art From Outsider's Point of View
Part 34: U.S. Embassy warns Americans of threats near colleges
Part 35: Internet real name system debated
Part 36: Dirty Korean women who have brought shame to the country?
Part 37: Invasion of Privacy Degrades Korean Women Twice Over
Part 38: 60 unqualified native speaking instructors hired for English instruction
Part 39: The rising tide of unqualified foreign instructors
Part 40: Warrant for Canadian English instructor who molested hagwon owner
Part 41: MBC Sisa Magazine 2580: "Korea is a paradise"
Part 42: Foreign instructor: "In two years I slept with 20 Korean women."
Part 43: Viewers shocked by shameless acts of unqualified foreign instructors.
Part 44: Warrant for the arrest of a man in his 30s for breaking into home of foreign instructors
Part 45: [Cultural criticism] Hongdae club day lewd party incident
Part 46: Unqualified English instructors seen as major problem here
Part 47: Investigation of the realities of 'foreign instructors' methods for luring Korean women'
Part 48: Broadcast announcement: 'For foreign instructors, is Korea a paradise for women?'
Part 49: To white English instructors, the Republic of Korea is a paradise
Part 50: "If they're white, it's okay?" Lots of English instructor frauds...
Part 51: A new message from Anti English Spectrum
Part 52: SBS, 'Is Korea their paradise? Blond hair blue eyes' part 1
Part 53: SBS, 'Is Korea their paradise? Blond hair blue eyes' part 2
Part 54: SBS, 'Is Korea their paradise? Blond hair blue eyes' part 3
In the last two
posts, I looked at the first two thirds of the February 19, 2005 broadcast of the SBS 'investigative news program' 그것이 알고싶다 (I want to know that)'s episode
about English Teachers, titled "Is Korea their Paradise? Report on the Real Conditions of Blond-haired, Blue-eyed Teachers." The show can be downloaded in a rar archive here (in four parts - 1
- download them all and click on the first part to extract the file).
In the first third, we were shown how white English teachers are unqualified and only interested in partying with alcohol or drugs and having sex with Korean women, including their underage students. Next we were told more negative stories about white, male English teachers, how they can cheat the system with fake diplomas, and how the hagwon industry, education office, and immigration office overlook this.
From there, host Jang Jin-yeong introduces the next section, in which we will be shown how lightly white foreign teachers get off in comparison to how southeast Asians are treated in regard to enforcement of immigration law. Thanks to Ami for help with transcription and translation.
In Incheon's southeast factory district, immigration police arrest a foreign worker.
The camera then records an altercation in which workers complain that a worker was hit; police say they had to grab him since he ran away, that he wasn't hurt, they just grabbed his clothes. The arrested worker is then shown without his face being masked and when asked says he's Filipino [I guess Filipinos have no right to privacy, SBS?] It's pointed out that he's bleeding, as can be seen below:
Police say he tried to escape and take him away. We see what seem to be immigration police say angrily that they didn't slap handcuffs on a person with proper ID, nor that they hurt his arm.
The worker asks if anyone can speak English and says he wasn't trying to escape, he just didn't have his ID with him. They argue about this, and people we assume to be migrant workers say police put people in handcuffs even if they do have proper ID. When asked if they're put in handcuffs even if they don't resist, they answer, yes. Police say it's for the safety of the arrested person and their own safety.
The worker says, "I was running from immigration because they came in my factory, because I was scared."
A witness, a middle-aged woman, says the police were swearing and were saying 'you bastard, what country are you from?'
A few more quick interviews make clear the point that police are unnecessarily rough with foreign workers who they arrest.
Pyo Chang-won, former Gyeonggi Police foreign affairs chief, now Police academy professor, is interviewed and says that equipment like handcuffs and batons should only be used on important criminals sentenced to death or life imprisonment, or criminals caught in the act. If a foreigner in our country who has legal sojourner status is slapped in handcuffs for no reason it is a violation of the foreigner's human rights as well as a clear violation of the law.
We met someone else who has suffered this, a Pakistani worker named Mari.
In the late morning he was driving down the street with a friend to meet another friend when there was a crackdown. He was confined for ten days in a center. According to the Korean translation, "There were only Indonesians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis in the center. There were no Americans or Canadians." [He doesn't appear to actually say that last sentence, but SBS needs to beat the audience over the head.]
We then return to Pyo Chang-won, the Police academy professor, who talks about the true threat to Korea:
"In fact, if we're concerned about national evils, foreigners who work illegally in hagwons teaching foreign languages are more harmful. Because they have no qualifications, they can't properly educate [their students]. Because of them the outflow of foreign currency is far greater. Foreigners come in on tourist visas and work in hagwons, but these foreigners are almost never caught or cracked down on. If there is a problem, hagwon students can make a report and they can be caught, but I've never seen one put in handcuffs or forcefully taken to the police station before. We can expect that their embassies would immediately issue a protest to our government and make diplomatic waves and create difficulties for our trade goods entering that country."
Next the camera crew visits the house of a foreign couple - 'Jane,' a Canadian English instructor, and 'Igor,' an illegal factory worker. The interview begins with Jane offering some tea and saying, "I think our skin actually looks really nice together." Introduced as an English instructor and factory worker, mentions are made of the "very different set of standards for English teachers" Koreans have compared to migrant workers. Jane relates the following story:
The immigration officers busted into my classroom and I'm standing there with some chalk, and the students are like, "Ahhhh!" My boss ended up cutting a deal with immigration and we were allowed to teach again. [Cut] I have good friends who have gotten in trouble with immigration before and generally what they do is just leave the country and come back the next day - no problem.
The narrator then tells us, "But it's different for her husband."
Every day I feel scared and I don’t know if today when the factory finishes or at dinner time I might not come home. If I’m really scared I don’t ride the bus, I take a taxi. When I’ll be caught we don’t know.
Why [Koreans] think like this, I don't know. When I talk with friends, they say we have bad luck because we come from poor countries.
Their story ends with them walking down the street in Itaewon and this comment by Jane:
In Korea there’s kind of a hierarchy of value, that the white, English speaking foreigner has the highest value, and then the white, non-English speaking foreigner has a lesser value, and so on and so on, until you get to the developing countries with people with brown skin and they’re at the bottom of the list.
As I've mentioned before
, despite disguising their faces and voices, I immediately recognized them to be my friends Nancy and Kabir
, who were involved in the migrant workers' movement at the time. As Nancy told me,
Kabir and I were sort of "tricked" into doing that show. According to Kabir, he was approached by SBS, who said they were doing a show about migrant workers in Korea, and Kabir, being at that time being a bit of a media hound trying to get more exposure on the issue of migrant worker rights, readily said yes, without asking me. When he did ask me (after he had said yes to SBS), I looked into the program and based on what people told me about it, I said no. By that time we had found out that they would be interviewing English teachers, which made me even more nervous as the English Spectrum fallout was then in full swing.
Kabir still thought that it was going to be about migrant workers, and didn't understand that the show was likely going to be a big fat sensationalistic crappy yellow dump on English teachers, which was my fear. Soon after, I arrived home from work one night to find an SBS crew in my apartment. Reluctantly, I agreed to do the show and offered the crew some tea.
I didn't like the reporter. Some of the questions she asked: "How do you feel when you are with a brown man and people stare at you on the subway?" "How does your family feel about you being married to a poor brown man?"
I remember talking a lot about how the illegality of doing privates outside of one's contract encourages the "unqualified" teacher market and that Korea being so rabidly "English crazy" made it next to impossible to ensure that foreign teachers met minimal standards. Not sure if that made the final cut. All I really knew at the time was that I didn't trust the producer/journalist one little bit as they seemed opportunistic, insincere, and slimy.
The part about Korea being rabidly "English crazy" did not make the final cut, though part of the conversation about their different coloured skin did, and is mentioned at the beginning of the interview.
After the interview with Jane and Igor, and her description of the 'hierarchy of value,' the host then shows us what is meant to be a disturbing statistic – of 22,826 'illegal' foreigners arrested in 2004, only 123, or 0.5%, were foreign instructors.
Lee Min-hui, the immigration chief, is interviewed next, and relates that last year , among 400,000 foreigners, were 180,000 illegal foreigners, and it is those foreigners that they intensively focus on catching. In January and February of 2005 they caught 61 illegal foreigners - the same number they caught over a six month period in 2004. He then says they are focusing on foreign instructors who are teaching illegally.
The host stresses the need for strengthened enforcement of laws for illegal native speaking instructors, and spends four minutes telling the story of a woman who met her foreign instructor husband at a hagwon eight years earlier.
In an interview, she says that when he first came he was on a tourist visa, had no money, and just came to travel. He heard from other foreign instructors that it was easy to become an English teacher and began working illegally. He taught at universities and large companies and earned lots of money. He had no university degree. They married, and for eight years she gave him emotional and material support but he wondered how he should live in Korea. She knew all of this but felt really settled down with him.
Host: However, once their lives stabilized, he started to cheat on her.
Woman: "It's upsetting, very upsetting."
Host: She was regretting her past choices. The groundless admiration she held for white people had kept her from seeing things clearly.
Woman: I can’t deny that at first, I had a favorable impression of him – he was a white person who was from a different culture [from mine]. But now I really feel that I was used as a stepping stone to his success for 10 years, and once he reached a place where he didn’t need me, I was abandoned.
Host: She eventually sued him for adultery, but expressed dejection because she felt her husband would not be punished.
Woman: The ambassador came.
SBS: The ambassador came?
Woman: He personally came and basically said that this law doesn’t exist anymore, so I should just let him go, and this was his way of protecting their citizens. They let him go without detention even though he’s a foreigner and can leave the country any time, and he goes to work every day as if nothing’s happened...
Host: With memories of her painful experience fresh on her mind, she insists that the culture of treating people well just because they are white and can speak English needs to be changed.
Woman: "Now it's like our society has become a place where white people can come and earn money so easily and enjoy pleasures. Korean society in itself... Those people all know. If they go to Korea, it’s a paradise where they can have anything. It's something to look down on Korean society for."
The host then states that "We also met a person who has suffered from racial discrimination in Korea."
Peter Park: 'I'm an American – a Korean American. I went there when I was six. I've lived there for almost twenty years. [He came to Korea five years ago, but did not find it easy to become an English instructor.] They needed an instructor urgently, but I didn’t meet them in an office, but on the subway. I got a phone number, they said, hurry and come soon, it’s urgent. As soon as they saw me they said no. It was like I just deflated.'
The email he got reads: "I think your teaching experience is good and you're a qualified teacher, but you are so familiar because your appearance is similar with us, Korean. They want a teacher who looks like a Caucasian. So I think we have to send a teacher like that."
They then show his degree in business administration from the University of Guam and his transcripts.
Over the phone they say, okay, looks good, but then they ask if he's a Korean American and he says yes, they say, "Sorry, we’re looking for a white person." And that's it. They hired an illegal teacher from New Zealand. White kids used to call me 'chink.' [Visibly moved, he recalls and imitates what they said to him] "Hey, you fricken' chink! You motherfucking chink!"
He explains that in the US, if they really belittle people with contempt, it’s good. Over there, if you immigrated later, they can be very mean. Then to come to Korea and face the same treatment even though he’s not different, he’s Korean - it’s frustrating and upsetting and has brought him to tears.
They go to his house to talk more. He's been teaching English over the phone, and says students mistake him for a white person. He feels bad – he says he's never done anything wrong, but has to lie, and feels bad for this. Isn’t someone who reveals it confidently and honestly a better person?
He’s on the phone for 12 to 20 hours (a week, presumably). He earns 300,000 to 500,000 a month.
The narrator then reiterates his story – a Korean who faced discrimination in the US now faces it in Korea, and though he’s American he can’t get a good job like white people can. We’re then shown photos of this good, proper Korean’s home life – his graduation and wedding photos, his wife and child as they play together wholesomely. This is no one night stand with a misguided Korean harlot or a marriage that ends with the money grubbing white man cheating and leaving her – this is a wholesome Korean family – and just to make that point clear, the final shot of the report is a freeze frame of the family walking hand in hand in the park.
This helps to reiterate the assault upon the wholesome Korean family unit - and the national 'family' - that these white foreigners represent.
The host then reiterates the main points of the show ("White teacher... bad") and it ends with the phone number to report foreigners illegally working (or illegally being hired) and the phone number of the National Intelligence Service (which would likely welcome a break from investigating the current administration’s political opponents).
And so it ends.
To summarize its message, white male English teachers think that Korean women are easy and even try to sleep with their underage students, which is dramatized to help enrage viewers. Stories are presented which show that many work illegally in Korea, don’t work hard, and just want to party and go to Hongdae to pick up girls or try to sleep with university students. Interviews paint a picture of unqualified teachers who have criminal records and do drugs, and another dramatization depicts a foreign teacher doing drugs and drinking with underage students, and even sleeping with one; he’s eventually arrested. It's suggested that many teachers use fake diplomas to con their way into jobs, but it’s too difficult for Koreans to verify these diplomas, so many ignorant people teach English. As well, education offices don’t have the manpower to crack down on foreign teachers, and an immigration office tells us that in the previous year, "There really weren't many white people caught." This stands in opposition to how non-white foreign workers are treated, with tens of thousands of them arrested every year, often roughly. While white teachers are paid well, foreign workers are not, and while illegal foreign workers live in fear of the police, illegal teachers do not. The inclusion of the white male teacher who married a Korean woman, used her as "a stepping stone to success" and then cheated on her and abandoned her mystified at least one blogger when the show was broadcast, but this story is meant to stand in comparison to the Korean American teacher who was discriminated against in the US for being Korean, and who is now discriminated against in his mother country because he isn’t white. While he is portrayed as a good family man, he can barely make ends meet, while the bad white teacher who was also married cheated on his wife while he raked in the cash. Both the abandoned wife and Korean American are symbols of Koreans victimized by a preference for English and white people, for whom Korea is "a paradise where they can have anything.: And the abandoned wife makes clear one of the main points of this episode: "It's something to look down on Korean society for," a point hammered home by the host, who says "the culture of treating people well just because they are white and can speak English needs to be changed."
While the show makes valid points about the lack of a qualification screening system for foreign teachers and the unconditional preference for white teachers, the sensational way in which it went about it – constantly couching it in racial terms, portraying (literally, by dramatizing it) white males as evil child molesters, rapists, and adulterers, leaves something to be desired. Mind you, as a piece of propaganda, it did its job skilfully, and resulted in a huge, angry response online, which will make up the final portion of this series.
[Unfortunately, the final posts might take awhile...]