Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lecture tonight on the importance of the Koryǒ Dynasty in understanding modern Korea

Tonight Edward J. Shultz, former dean of the School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii will be giving a lecture for the Royal Asiatic Society titled "Koryǒ and Korea Today":
For many the Koryǒ kingdom (918-1392) remains a somewhat mystical era in Korea’s distant past which elicits little interest other than an occasional reference to celadon vases or the famed Koreana tripitaka. This discussion will focus on Koryǒ and its significance for Korea today. Far from being a distant outpost of the 12th century world, Koryǒ was very much a part of mainstream global history. It was a society that early on embraced merit as an avenue for advancement, it led the world in printing technology, it demanded that its historians be free from outside influences, it grappled with issues of nationalism and internationalism, it pursued a foreign policy based on hard realism, it openly borrowed from other cultures, taking only what it needed. It developed a clear identity of being Korean, it produced a number of artistic masterpieces of world renown, and all this was made even richer by its embracement of a pluralist posture that allowed competing ideologies and points of view to exist side by side. In this respect Koryǒ was very modern. By not knowing, studying, or appreciating Koryǒ, one is not only missing one of the great stories of Korea’s past, but one is ill prepared to understand Korea today.
For more information see 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.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Giving a presentation on the history of English teachers in Korea this Saturday

This Saturday, October 25, at 4pm, I will be giving a presentation titled ‘From Explorers and Missionaries to Vagabonds and Potential Criminals: Two Hundred Years of Teaching English in Korea’ for the 10 Magazine Book Club at the Seoul Global Cultural Center in Myeong-dong. The hour-long presentation will be followed by a question and answer period. Admission is 5,000 won, but is free for Members of RAS-KB and KOTESOL as well as SMOE teachers. For more information see the event page on Facebook, which also includes a map.

In the presentation I'll look at the first encounters with English explorers, early attempts by the Korean government to hire English teachers in the 1880s, missionary schools, experiences of WWII Australian and British POWs held in Seoul, post Korean-war attempts by the Korean government to establish an English teaching program, the Peace Corps experience teaching English, the language boom of the 1980s and the early days of hagwon English teachers, and the expansion of this in the 1990s and 2000s, as well as the reactions against this (in 1984 and 2005) and the reasons why English teachers quickly became negatively portrayed in the media and by politicians. The cast of characters will include future independence fighters and presidents, journalists, soldiers, smugglers, a former US state senator and many others. Feel free to join us!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Walking tour of Yangcheon Hyanggyo and Gaehwasan October 26

Next Sunday, October 26, I'll be leading a walk around the area of Yangcheon Hyanggyo Station and Gaehwasan Station for the Royal Asiatic Society. The former location was the seat of Yangcheon Hyeon, or district, during the Joseon period and still sports the only remaining Hyanggyo, or Confucian Shrine, in Seoul, as well as a number of other historic landmarks. We will also visit a museum to the innovative Joseon Era landscape painter Jeong Seon (1676–1759), and look at paintings of the area that he made in the mid-1700s. I've mentioned the area before (here and here), and this post at Seoul Suburban covers many of the spots we'll visit.

(Yangcheon District in the 1870s)

From there we will take the subway to Banghwa Station to explore Mt. Gaehwasan. After passing through a park with a number of 400-year-old zelkova and gingko trees, we'll head up the mountain to see the numerous, beautifully carved tombs, flanked by stone statues, of the Pungsan Shim clan, who for several generations served the Joseon kings and were memorialized for their meritorious deeds – one of which was taking part in the overthrow of the notorious king, Yonsan-gun.

We will also go to Yaksasa Temple and see a statue of the Buddha and a three-story stone pagoda which date back to the Goryeo Era.

We'll see an even larger such statue dating from the early Joseon period outside Mitasa Temple, on the other side of the mountain. The statue was found buried in the 1930s, when the temple was rebuilt. Both temples were destroyed during the Korean War, but the pagoda and statues survived.

Next to Mitasa is the Memorial to the Loyal Dead, which was erected to remember the 1,100 soldiers of the Korean 1st Army Division who died defending Mt. Gaehwasan - which overlooks Gimpo Airport - during the opening of the Korean War, which will provide an opportunity to learn more about the fighting which took place on the mountain during the war, as well as its military importance in the present. I'll also touch on the importance of the area during the Imjin War.

Being a mountain, of course, there will be lots of opportunities to take in views of the Han River and surrounding area and enjoy what nature has to offer.

If you feel like joining us, please do! The cost of the tour is W20,000 for RAS members and W25,000 for non-members. The excursion will set off next Sunday, October 26, at 1:00 pm from exit 3 of Yangcheon Hyanggyo Station (양천향교) #906 (subway line number 9). For more information, see here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lecture on the history of Korea's shipbuilding industry tonight

Tonight, Tuesday September 30, Peter Bartholomew will be giving a lecture titled "How Korea became the world's most important shipbuilding .nation" for the Royal Asiatic Society:
This lecture will describe the amazing development, from almost “zero,” of Korea’s shipbuilding industry and how it developed into the most efficient, advanced and competitive shipbuilding nation in the world. This development is largely overlooked by most observers of Korean economy, but is an exceptional example of how creativity combined with government support and strong work ethic can achieve remarkable results.

Up to the mid 1970’s Korea’s shipbuilding consisted of one medium class yard in Pusan producing small ocean going cargo ships and numerous small yards building fishing boats and coastal ferries, all using techniques reliant on cheap labour and very basic equipment, ending up with ships and boats of very low quality and questionable safety!

Korean Government central planning, creativity of the corporations involved and the input of state-of-the-art European shipbuilding techniques then leap-frogged Korea’s shipbuilding forward to become the world’s leading shipbuilding country is less than 20 years in all aspects: technology, quality, reliable delivery, size / scale and price competitiveness.

The speaker, Peter Bartholomew, has lived in Korea for 47 years and starting working in shipbuilding & shipping industries from the early 1970’s. He was integrally involved with shipbuilding developments of the Hyundai~Ulsan, Daewoo~Okpo and STX~Jinhae shipyards and thus able to provide truly "insider" insights into this remarkable success story.
I'm definitely looking forward to this lecture, since I know Peter (and know him to be a great storyteller), but haven't ever heard him talk much about this aspect of his life. 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.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Being wary of foreign men - since 1876!

(Photos from here and here.)

As covered over at the Marmot's Hole, the Donga Ilbo published an article warning women to be wary of foreigners offering them drinks. As the headline and subheadline put it: "Beware of foreign men who offer you drinks in clubs," and "A rise in sex crimes abusing 'curiosity about the exotic.'" The article offers examples of what is purported to be a trend of foreigners sexually assaulting women in clubs, especially by drugging them. A favourite quote:
In Konkuk University police science professor Lee Ung-hyeok's analysis, "Women who see foreigners who appear in overseas movies and develop romantic ideas about foreigners or a curiosity about the exotic may let their guard down easily, putting them in great danger of being exposed to sex crimes."
Hmmm. It would appear, as the Donga Ilbo reported in 1984, "Koreans have a weakness for foreigners." More than the trope of the well-treated white male, this article is more the latest in a series of articles and TV programs from over the years warning Korean women about the dangers of foreign, particularly white, men. It should be noted that the photos accompanying the online article either feature file photos of drugs (scourge of the white man) or statistics showing how many repeat offenders who've committed one of the four great crimes haven't yet been found (nothing about foreigners at all). The other photos, meanwhile, are... interesting:

That's right: Little girls being victimized. Not grown women, but little girls with teddy bears who must be protected from from big bad foreign wolves. I was reminded of a display I saw at the Korean Literature Museum in Incheon back in April about the comfort women, in this case comic strips showing their victimization:

Papers can be (and have been) written about the role of the suffering, sexually exploited, female as the symbol of the nation victimized by the 20th century. While the photos in the Donga Ilbo article were likely not chosen with much care, it's still an interesting juxtaposition.

Of course, warning against the dangers posed by (male) Westerners in Korea has quite a pedigree. For example, Choe Ik-hyeon opposed King Gojong's plans to negotiate what would be known as the Ganghwa Treaty with the Japanese in early 1876 and (as translated in this book) wrote that "Although they call themselves Japanese, they are really Western bandits," and he feared that Korea would be "defiled" and "reduced to the level of wild animals" by their presence, which would be allowed by the treaty and would permit them to "build dwellings and reside within our borders." Due to the agreement, he said, the Korean government would have "no grounds to stop them," and so they would be able to "plunder our property and violate women at will, and no one will be able to restrain them.[...] There will be countless cases of this nature."

In 1946 a book written by the wife of an American officer serving in the US Military Government in Korea described the "warnings," "beatings" and "scorn" that awaited Korean women seen with foreign men, and stated that at least 52 babies were born from unions that occurred during the first 3 months of the US occupation. A look at articles from Stars and Stripes (and other sources) from 1948 and 1949 looking at relations between Korean women and US soldiers uncover a distinct dislike for these relations in some quarters. Ann Chai-hong [안재홍], a member of the government and future presidential candidate, said "the fact that there are too many Korean women married to foreigners shows their adoration of the foreigners," and that these women "had better keep their self-respect since we cannot prohibit their marriages." A secretary working for the US military received a pamphlet warning that "any one of you who shows the following scandalous actions beware that you will be insulted right in front of public."

Moving ahead a few decades (past a catastrophic war which led to bases and camp towns filled with prostitutes dotted across the peninsula, most obviously in Itaewon), in July of 1984, a lengthy Kyunghyang Sinmun article on foreigners in Itaewon looks at shopping, nightlife, foreigner only clubs, population stats, illegal overstayers, foreign crime, vagabonds who teach English, and shook its finger at girls who pay for everything for foreign men and who have 'no self respect.' The next year, after a Le Monde article on young French men teaching languages in Seoul - one of whom married a Korean women (gasp!) - led to a media uproar and new visa regulations for foreign teachers (as well as a TV show in which a French teacher  is beaten in an alley), the film Queen Bee depicted foreigners in Itaewon as rapists...

...who force others to watch...

... but one of the foreigners is murdered in revenge, so it all works out well enough.

In 1988 fear of contact between foreigners and Korean women during the Olympics led to a great deal of hand wringing and calls for HIV testing all visitors; unable to do this, as this post explains,
the government focused its efforts on discouraging sex between Koreans and foreigners. A special police force was to be set up to stand guard at tourist hotels throughout the city in order to prevent foreign guests from entering with Korean sex workers, and even pornographic magazines were removed from hotel bookstores. Olympic hostesses acting as interpreters and assistants for foreign delegates were warned not to have sex with them or risk contracting AIDS. On the eve of the Olympics, the city of Seoul distributed pamphlets to “all households in the city” which stated that "It's a horrible disease that cannot be stopped by any method except preventative measures," warned citizens to take every precaution against it, mentioned that the first diagnosed AIDS case in Korea was an American, and stressed the high number of AIDS cases overseas. 
Another result of the Olympics was heightened anti-Americanism due to US media coverage and highlighted cases of disrespectful male athletes (particularly in Itaewon). Soon the media began to focus on GI crime, with the 1995 subway incident - caused by a young Korean man taking offense at a GI touching his wife's behind on the subway - becoming one focal point of anti-US protests and calls for SOFA to be changed. The incident was reported with headlines like "Sexual harassment by drunken U.S. soldiers on subway; group assault of passenger who protested," and "U.S. army molesters are barbarians," an early example of an article based entirely on netizen opinion, Below is part of a now-faded anti-American mural painted onto the pavement of a traffic roundabout at Chung-ang University in 1999. Note that the woman being dragged by her hair by the GI is wearing a hanbok, pointing to it likely being somewhat symbolic as well of America dominating Korea geopolitically, in addition to it depicting sexual victimization:

Moving into the late 1990s and early 2000s, foreign English teachers began to appear in Korea in greater numbers, and their dalliances with the local ladies were not always appreciated, as the New York Times noted. Rep. Kim Han-gil (very recently leader of the opposition) wrote in a column in 1997 (after discussing a Korean American Playboy model who was "proud of herself for being found sexy by tall white men who speak English well") that it was a 'big deal' that foreign teachers were "personally penetrating each home of our society's middle class under the pretext of English conversation study," especially since "the reason white men really like Korea is to chase after Korean women."

The rest of the media, and society, caught up with Rep. Kim in 2005 during the English Spectrum Incident, after photos of a 'sexy costume party' involving foreign teachers and Korean women became the focus of netizen and media attention (and resulted in the founding of Anti-English Spectrum), causing enough of a furor that the US embassy warned its citizens of "potential threats" in the Hongdae area, and an SBS report made foreign teachers look like drug-using child molesters.

Hongdae was soon painted as a 'haven of desire,' full of temptation for one night stands with foreigners, with the Herald Gyeongje lamenting that "The clubs in front of the Hongik University, known as the birthplace of Korea’s indie culture, are transforming in a foreigner's 'paradise for hunting women.'" The Chosun Ilbo complained about "Rumors about Hongdae by Foreigners [as a] 'Street of pleasures,'" calling it "a bitter distortion" (and featuring one of my favourite cartoons).

"The Girls of Hongdae..."

Anti-English Spectrum teamed up with several media outlets to smear foreign teachers, such as Break News in 2006 (resulting in articles such as "Affairs with High School Students, Spreading Nude Photos on the Internet", as well as another titled "Tracking [down] blacklisted foreign teachers suspected of having AIDS," which links foreign teachers to AIDS for the first time, calls for HIV tests for E-2 visa holders, and is cited in petitions to the Ministry of Justice by AES members. Following up on the AIDS link, they would get the Chosun Ilbo in mid-2007 to publish articles such as "From molestation to AIDS threats - Shocking perversion of some English teachers; Beware the 'Ugly White Teacher.'" [in the Sports Chosun] and "White English Teacher Threatens Korean Woman with AIDS."[in Korean and English].

On TV, a 2007 episode of Pandora's Box (which thanks AES for providing tips) made some fun claims:

"Illegal foreign instructors are violating Korean women!!!"

Anti-English Spectrum's success in getting HIV and drug testing included in new E-2 visa regulations in late 2007 led to a year of relative quiet, but in the summer of 2009 things really began to pick up again, with five negative articles about foreign teachers published at Chosun.com with some help from AES (Korea Beat translated them all: 1 2 3 4 5 ) which featured this lovely quote from AES leader Lee Eun-ung:

"Foreign instructors of low character frequently toss women away without compunction after attaining their goal of meeting them for money and sexual relations, so many of the women have their lives ruined by abortion or, of course, sexually transmitted diseases."

KBS followed up with lengthy news report titled "'Out of Control Foreign English Teacher' Teaches Class while High and Commits Sexual Molestation," another AES-influenced report (which truly is awesome!). By 2010 a former member of AES would contribute to a New Daily article which painted Itaewon as a 'Paradise for losers', but by early 2011 AES would cease to exist following the exit of its leader, Lee Eun-ung, making it clear he'd pretty much single-handedly run a campaign in the media and through petitioning lawmakers to get articles demonizing (white, male) foreign teachers published and get E-2 regulations passed, That he was so successful probably says a lot of unpleasant things about how acceptable such demonization of westerners is, to say noting of the acceptability of misogyny directed toward their Korean partners.

That AES wasn't needed for this was made clear by MBC's May, 2012 broadcast of a xenophobic "news" report warning Korean women of the dangers of relationships with white males. When confronted about anger among foreigners about this, MBC retorted by suggesting that these people have a guilty conscience, among other things. (On the other hand, the responses of some foreigners weren't exactly helpful either.)

Not to be outdone by this, in July 2012 NoCut News published 12 articles criticizing first a foreign instructor who allegedly secretly videoed sex with Korean women, and then, with its series, "The Reality and Twisted Values of Some White Men," white men and foreign instructors in general:

Part A: Foreign instructor lives a double life… Caught red-handed with dozens of ‘Hidden Camera Sex’ tapes
Part B: Yongsan police begin investigation of 'Foreign instructor who secretly filmed sex'
Part C: 'Foreign instructor who secretly filmed sex' 'expelled' from his university

"The Reality and Twisted Values of Some White Men" Series:
Part 1: 'Chris who appeared on Superstar K'... inquiring into what happened [Korean]
Part 2: Internet awash with 'ways to seduce Korean women'
Part 3: What is the reason elementary school native speaking instructors get their hands on drugs?
Part 4: 'Korean women are beautiful, have a drink with me" - the night streets of Itaewon (scroll down)
Part 5: 'Unqualified foreign instructors' can't help but abound.
Part 6: "Charged with a crime, but whatever"... If they look white, it's OK?
Part 7: A foreign English instructor: "Secretly recorded sex? That's really disgusting."
Part 8: After the 'hidden camera sex' report... victim hurt again through 'comment terror'
Part 9: The 'Hidden camera sex video' could spread... anxious police, idle university

A month or so later Ilyo Sisa published a report titled "'Tips for targeting Korean women' spread by foreign English instructor spreads quickly." It featured the helpful subtitle "Treat them as 'sex toys' and throw them away when they're finished," and rehashes (or 'reinvents') scandals going all they way back to 2005 as if they happened yesterday.

Last year, after the Korean Institute of Criminology incorrectly calculated crime statistics, JTBC looked at foreign crime on one of its TV shows:

Part 1: Incorrect statistics portray Americans and Canadians as more prone to criminality
Part 2: Yonhap reports on the KIC foreign crime study
Part 3: Joongang Ilbo: "Get a Korean woman pregnant": Shock over manual for foreign men
Part 4: JTBC's "We are Detectives" looks at foreign crime using the KIC report

Part 5: JTBC's "We are Detectives" looks at xenophobia and foreign crime
Part 6: For JTBC, consensual sex between white men and Korean women is a "sex crime"

That last link features this clip from Youtube:

And this pretty much brings us up to date. It's nice to see the Donga Ilbo has contributed to the greater good of keeping the race pure this season, and we probably won't have to wait long to see the next installment.

(Thanks to Ben and Ami.)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Seoul Station Overpass to be opened to pedestrians Sunday afternoon

It was reported a few weeks ago that Seoul is planning to close the Seoul Station Overpass and turn it into a park, influenced by High Line Park in New York City (itself influenced by Promenade plantée in Paris). The Wall Street Journal Blog compares it to Lee Myung-bak's Cheonggyecheon Restoration as a possible 'pre-run-for-the-presidency project' by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.

According to Kojects and Korea Bizwire, this Sunday, October 12, the overpass will be closed to traffic and opened to pedestrians from 12pm to 4pm, much as Ahyeon Overpass was back in February before it was torn down.

As well, the Westin Chosun Hotel is celebrating its 100th anniversary with an exhibition titled 'Memory, History & Heritage' in the Presidential Suite (room 1808) until Sunday October 12, and is open from 10am to 5pm. (Hat tip to Hamel.)