Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Screening of Lee Man-hee's 1975 film 'Road to Sampo' this Saturday

This Saturday, October 4, at 3pm, the Royal Asiatic Society Cinema Club and Seoul Film Society will have a free screening of the 1975 Lee Man-hee film "Road to Sampo" (삼포 가는 길) with English subtitles at Seoul Global Center's Haechi Hall in Myeongdong. As it's described here,
Adapted from Hwang Seok-young's novel, A Road to Sampo is the final and posthumous work of director Lee Man-hee. Young construction worker Young-dal (Baek Il-seop) meets a middle-aged man named Jeong (Kim Jin-kyu), who is on his way back to his hometown after serving time in prison and wandering from one construction site to another. It has been ten years since Jeong has seen his hometown of Sampo. Young-dal and Jeong meet Baek-hwa (Moon Suk), a runaway bar hostess [...] and the group travels to the train station, each reminiscing about his or her past as they go.
This road movie, one of the very few in Korea's earlier film history, was the last film by Lee Man-hee, who died during its post-production. I'll be giving an introduction to the film and short story and looking at the struggles the director went through to make it, and the film will be followed by a discussion of the film for those wishing to take part.

Those wishing to read the short story the film is based on by Hwang Seok-young can download a pdf here (or if it's not cooperating, search for "The Road to Samp'o" at the Korea Journal's site.

Directions to Seoul Global Center's Haechi Hall can be found here, and more information about the film is here, and the screening, here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

RAS Lecture tomorrow night on how Japan restored Seokguram to justify colonization

Tomorrow night, Tuesday September 30, Professor Henry Em will be giving a lecture titled "Seokguram, the Guze Kannon, and the Creation of National Pasts" for the Royal Asiatic Society:

Seokguram's restoration. (From here.)
A year before Japan’s annexation of Korea, while climbing the eastern slope of Mt. Toham in Gyeongju, a Japanese mailman made a great discovery. Near the summit he chanced upon what looked to be a cave. Inside he encountered a Buddhist statue of astonishing beauty. Following this “discovery” of the Seokguram, constructed in the mid-eighth century, Japanese authorities began an extensive restoration and pedagogic effort. Today the Seokguram is a major tourist destination in South Korea, a national treasure that is also recognized by UNESO as a World Heritage Site. The restoration effort began in 1913, and it was the Japanese colonial state that first brought Seokguram to the attention of the world. Why would the Japanese colonial state spend money and resources to restore Seokguram and sing odes to the beauty of not just Seokguram but also Bulguksa and the Silla capital of Gyeongju? In contrast to the 1884 unveiling of the Guze Kannon, a seventh-century gilt-wood sculpture at Hōryūji temple in Nara Prefecture – Ernest Fenollosa’s immediate comment was, “Korean of course” – a sculpture that was said to confirm Japan’s status as “the spiritual repository of Asia,” Professor Em will explain how the restoration of Seokguram was crucial to assigning meaning and legitimacy to Japanese colonization of Korea.
I've enjoyed reading Professor Em's work, including his chapter on Shin Chae-ho's historiography in Colonial Modernity in Korea and his book The Great Enterprise: Sovereignty and Historiography in Modern Korea, where he looks at how Japan was happy to highlight Korea's brilliant ancient past so that it could make a negative comparison to its present and make a case for why Japan's tutelage was necessary to help Korea regain the civilization it once possessed. I'm certainly looking forward to this lecture.

The lecture will be held at 7:30 pm tomorrow night (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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

HIV and drug testing for Korean Government Scholarship Program applicants

In 2011, the Korean Government Scholarship Program Guidelines for foreign students studying in Korea (see page 15 here (link downloads a pdf)) had to this to say health examinations for successful applicants:
Applicants have to submit the Personal Medical Assessment (included in the application form) when he/she apply for this program, and then submit an Official Medical Examination Report issued in a hospital to NIIED after passing the NIIED Selection Committee (the 2nd Selection). A serious illness reflected in the examination results will be the main cause of disqualification from the scholarship.
As to what illnesses might be considered serious, the 2012 the Korean Government Scholarship Program for Graduate Students Guideline (see page 21 here (link downloads a .doc file)) makes it much clearer. The Personal Medical Assessment asks the following questions:
② Have you ever had an infectious disease that posed a risk to public health (such as, but not limited to, tuberculosis, HIV and other STDs)?
⑤ Have you ever been addicted to alcohol?
⑥ Have you ever abused any narcotic, stimulant, hallucinogen or other substance (whether legal or prohibited)?
It also reveals a more specific medical test:
Applicants are not required to undergo an authorized medical exam before passing the 2nd Selection with NIIED; however, all successful candidates must take a comprehensive medical exam after the 2nd Selection (including an HIV and TBPE drug test**) in accordance with the requirements of the Korea Immigration Service and the KGSP. If the results show that the applicant is unfit to study and live overseas more than 3 years, he/she may be disqualified.
**The TBPE (tetrabromophenolphthalein ethyl ester) drug tests are for evaluating past usage of stimulant drugs.
The 2013 Guideline (click on '2013 KGSP Graduate Program Guideline.doc' here) and the 2014 Guideline (here, pdf) have the same wording.

The NIIED which oversees the program is the National Institute for International Education (site), which also oversees the EPIK program, so perhaps the inclusion of HIV and drug tests shouldn't be too surprising, considering that when the Korean government said it would remove restrictions for foreigners based on HIV status in early 2010 (ahead of the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific scheduled to be held in Busan in 2011, a move Benjamin Wagner described as "purely a symbolic gesture for the international community"), NIIED opposed the move in regard to the native speaking teachers working in public schools, as this Korea Herald article relates:
The MOJ’s move to ease restrictions on HIV testing is considered in-line with the government’s January pledge to remove restrictions for foreigners based on HIV status. Education officials, however, are urging the MOJ to reinstate deportation and to institute further restrictions in the form of annual re-tests for HIV.

In a reply to proposals from national, provincial and municipal Education Review Committees in February and March, the Ministry of Education agreed to petition the Ministry of Justice to revise regulations to give legally binding force to re-testing requirements already in place at some public schools.

An official with the KIS meanwhile said that as far as their regulations go, teachers on E-2 visas only need to get a HIV test upon the initial issuance of an E-2 visa, not for the renewal of a contract.

The National Institute for International Education Development, a division of the MOE, which oversees the government’s English Program in Korea, says that its rules are in accordance with the MOJ’s regulations, but not everyone at NIIED is in agreement with the new regulations.

“We actually disagree with the MOJ’s decision, because as an educational unit we listened to medical doctors and parents of students, and they obviously want re-testing legislation for HIV testing,” said an official only willing to be identified by the surname Jung.

“For the extension of visa or renewal, submitting an HIV test should be mandatory, but since we have to listen to what the MOJ is instructing, we changed our regulations.”

Jung added that negotiations with the MOJ on the matter were continuing and that as far as the NIIED was concerned, HIV test submissions, deportation, and re-testing should be enforced because of concerns expressed by parents and doctors.
At the same time, it's interesting that drug testing for Korean Government Scholarship Program applicants began in 2012, but not all that surprising; it was on August 1 of that year that the Ministry of Justice began imposing the kind of "health checks" that had previously been limited to foreign teachers on half a million foreign workers in Korea involving tests for "drug addiction, and cases of mental disorders, The process for Korean Government Scholarship Program applicants of filling out a 'self check' form and then, after entering the country, reporting to a MOJ-designated hospital for health, HIV and drug tests is similar to that for E-2 visa holders, as it is for non-professional Employment (E-9), ship crew employment (E-10), or Working Visit (H-2) visa-holders (minus the HIV test).

All of this does raise a question: are these HIV and drug tests limited to Korean Government Scholarship Program applicants or do other foreign students receive such tests?

(Hat tip to Benjamin Wagner.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Uncovering the truth about "The Korean Seductress Who Betrayed America"

This AP article was pointed out to me the other day:
Back in the days of "Commies" and "pinkos," of Red scares, black lists, suspicion and smear, Kim Soo-im stood out as a one-woman axis of evil, a villainess without peer.

"The Korean Seductress Who Betrayed America," as the U.S. magazine Coronet labeled her, was a Seoul socialite said to have charmed secret information out of one lover, an American colonel, and passed it to another, a top communist in North Korea.

In late June 1950, as North Korean invaders closed in on this teeming, panicked city, Kim was hastily executed by the South Korean military, shot as a "very malicious international spy." Her deeds, thereafter, only grew in infamy. [...]

The record of a confidential 1950 U.S. inquiry and other declassified files, obtained by The Associated Press at the U.S. National Archives, tell a different Kim Soo-im story:

Col. John E. Baird had no access to the supposed sensitive information. Kim had no secrets to pass on. And her Korean lover, Lee Gang-kook, later executed by North Korea, may actually have been an American agent.

The petite woman smiling out from faded photographs, in silken "hanbuk" gown, may have been guilty of indiscretions. But the espionage case against her looks in retrospect -- from what can be pieced together today -- like little more than a frame-up.

Baird and fellow Army officers could have defended her, but instead the colonel was rushed out of Korea to "avoid further embarrassment," the record shows. She was left to her fate -- almost certainly, the Americans concluded, to be tortured by South Korean police into confessing to things she hadn't done.
I'd heard this story before - of the Korean mistress of an American officer passing on military secrets to a North Korean lover, but missed this uncovering of the truth of the story when it came out in 2008. It's well worth reading the entire article.

An example of the smearing that Kim Soo-im received is further illustrated by the cover of the February 1961 issue of Men (posted at this blog), which advertises a sensationalized version of the story with the headline "Miss Kim: The Streetwalker Who Tipped Our Battle Plans In Korea," and contains this image of her in 'seduction class' learning that 'Yankees like to be caressed.'

The version of the above-linked AP story I first read was on Fox News, but as this blog points out, that version leaves out a few things, such as the claim that most Koreans after liberation desired a socialist or communist government, as well as an illustration of torture methods used by Korean police as described by an American officer: "Electric shock and the use of pliers is frequent."

Reading that brought to mind the chapter about Korea in Mark Gayn's Japan Diary (and looking at his Wikipedia entry, I had no idea he moved to Canada and became a top editor at the Toronto Star - how about that).

Gayn's must-read chapter about his several-weeks-long visit to Korea in the fall of 1946 portrays the American Military Government and its ties with rightist Koreans in a very negative light. For example:
"The Koreans in the Military Government," one official told me today, "represent a conspiracy of insufferable corruption. People we now use to govern Korea are rightists who happily did Japan’s dirty work. There are now men in the Korean police force who actually were decorated by the Japanese for their cruelty and efficacy in suppressing Korean nationalism."

We did, I was told, issue a stern order for the purge of collaborators. This was mistranslated so skillfully by our Korean interpreters in the Military Government that when the hour of purge came, it was discovered that in all of our zone the order could be applied to only one official.

I was also told this: One day early last spring, it dawned on our policy-makers on the Potomac that our Korean allies – and our own blunders – were losing us Korean good will at a catastrophic rate. If on September 7, 1945, our men landing in Korea were greeted with hosannas, now a Military Government poll of public opinion showed that the Koreans in our zone preferred the Japanese to us.
Ouch. Gayn's book can be found in pdf form in the Royal Asiatic Society's online library, specifically in the collection of almost 400 scanned books about Korea which belong to former British Ambassador Martin Uden. Gayn's book is here, and the chapter on Korea (covering his visit between October 15 and November 8, 1946) can be found between pages 358 and 452 of the pdf (or pages 349 and 443 of the book).

(Hat tip to Hamel.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kukmin Ilbo editorial on foreign teacher drug bust

Three weeks ago, a large number of native speaking teachers were busted for selling and buying marijuana. The almost 50 articles about this bust mostly had headlines focusing on the fact that a Nigerian English instructor taught kindergarten students while high, with police even releasing a video of him teaching (as posted to Youtube by NoCut News)

Concerned over the highlighting of an African teacher, Korea Observer asked the police some questions about the video and the case. His post is well worth reading.

SBS published a fairly typical article on August 20 titled "Native speaking teachers addicted to marijuana... even taught class while high."

The article reports that, according to police, the dealers brought two kilograms of marijuana from the US for two months starting in February, selling it for 100,000 won a gram to 33 people. They also said that amount was enough for 4000 people to smoke it once. The people involved were a Korean citizen English instructor, Mr. Shin, who (according to this EBN article) was living in the US but in 1995 was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for counterfeiting and deported to Korea, and a Mr. Kim, an American Engish instructor. They thought they could make money easily and used the US military postal service to secretly bring in the marijuana. Two middlemen included 24 year old Mr. Jung (presumably Korean) and a Nigerian who made 110 million won selling it.

The people they sold it to include three private university English professors, two elementary school English teachers from Suwon and Cheonan, and 22 English hagwon instructors from the capital area, with native speaking English teachers making up most of them. While there are often reports of drug arrests in which a single (or small number of) native speaking teacher in a group of Koreans or other foreigners gets all the attention, it would appear in this case that most are foreign teachers, though little information is given about them. It is said that Mr. Shin feared being caught so he mostly sold to foreigners he met in a foreigner club in Suwon.

More of the story will be told below, but the police end by saying that distribution of drugs in places of education is a serious problem and that they plan to strengthen the gathering of information about drug distribution is hagwon workplaces.

The only editorial I could find about this case was this one by the Kukmin Ilbo:
[Editorial] Native speaking teachers who teach students while high 
Thirty-two-year-old J, an English instructor at a kindergarten in Yongin, openly taught dozens of children while in a state of hallucination after smoking marijuana. In the car he took to work at the kindergarten, he had marijuana, scales for measuring marijuana, and zip lock bags used for selling it. Thirty-one-year-old W, an American English instructor, had learned techniques to prepare himself for being caught by police for smoking marijuana and shaved all of his hair, including his body hair, and after told his friends, "If you have no hair you can't be caught by a drug test." However his marijuana use was detected by a urine test and he was arrested.

Police caught a ton of native speaking teachers and instructors like this, who had bought and smoked marijuana that had come from the US. A portion of these even carried out class in a kindergarten in a state of hallucination. It's shocking that university English professors were included. It was announced on the 20th that the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency drug investigation division arrested five people, including a Mr. Shin, who was in charge of selling, on charges of contravening the drug control law, and booked without detention 32 people, including Canadian K, who purchased marijuana from those arrested.

These days, due to the trend of early English education, there are many children who take classes with native speaking English teachers from a very young age. In particular, most elementary, middle, and high school students learn English from native speakers at school or in hagwons. In this situation, instances of native speaking English teachers and instructors taking drugs and teaching classes are occurring endlessly. Parents' hearts sink every time they hear news of a foreign teacher who teaches their children being involved in drugs.

To ensure this unfortunate incident does not occur again, drug testing for foreign teachers and instructors must be strengthened. In particular, it must be exhaustively confirmed beforehand that foreign teachers employed at schools do not have criminal backgrounds involving drugs. During the hiring process and, of course, at rehiring time and while they are employed continuous management is needed. It is also worth reviewing the policies for selecting and verifying native speaking teachers not at the level of individual schools, but by the responsible education offices or the ministry of education.
I just have to say I find the story of the hair shaver caught by a urine test to be hilarious. Less hilarious is the call, once again, for "continuous management" of foreign teachers, which I take to mean drug testing throughout a teacher's contract, though I might be more willing to agree with such tests if the Kukmin Ilbo agreed to pay for them all.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Screening of 'The Aimless Bullet' (1961) with subtitles this Saturday

This Saturday, September 6, at 3pm, the Royal Asiatic Society Cinema Club and Seoul Film Society will have a free screening of the 1961 Yu Hyeon-mok film 'Aimless Bullet' (오발탄) with English subtitles at Seoul Global Center's Haechi Hall in Myeongdong. Based on Lee Beom-seon's 1958 short story of the same name (which can also be translated as 'the misfire' or, 'stray bullet'), which can be downloaded in translation here, 'Aimless Bullet' has been regarded as the 'best Korean film ever made' in numerous critics' polls over the past few decades. Influenced by Italian neo-realism and concentrating on using montage and sound to communicate, Yu tells the story of a family trying to get by in post-war Seoul, which the short story's translator, Marshal Pihl, described in 1967 as "a degraded society where only the mad, corrupt, or infantile seem to survive, where traditional values have given place to money as the only standard." I'll give a brief introduction to the film, which will be followed by a discussion of the film for those wishing to take part.

Directions to Seoul Global Center's Haechi Hall can be found here, and more information about the film is here, and the screening, here.