Friday, September 29, 2017

2006 flashback: Foreign instructors "absorbed in decadence," women and drugs

Inside Story's 2006 articles on the evils of foreign English teachers

Part 1: Foreign instructors earn money, are 'absorbed in decadence,' women and drugs
Part 2: Low-quality native speaking instructors: 'Korean women give us money and are sex partners'
Part 3: English Instructors 'Treated like kings and get full service including women’
Part 4: Affairs with high school students, spreading nude photos on the internet
Part 5: Foreign instructors ask for mothers rather than tutoring fees.
Part 6: Tracking [down] blacklisted foreign teachers suspected of having AIDS
Part 7: There is a 'killer' native speaking English instructor in Korea!

Part 1: Foreign instructors earn money, are 'absorbed in decadence,' women and drugs

On July 24, 2006, BreakNews [or in its tabloid hard copy edition, 'Inside Story'] published the first of seven articles that summer and fall about the evils of foreign English teachers, all of which were sourced by Anti English Spectrum. You might recognize many of themes, as these had been brought up during the English Spectrum Incident a year earlier, when Anti English Spectrum first formed and scored its first media exposure, particularly on SBS (parts 1, 2 ,3). The second-last article in the series was the one which first equated foreign English teachers and AIDS and was the first step in AES's campaign to impose HIV tests on foreign English teachers, which proved successful a year later and were only removed this year.

I'll admit to a certain admiration for the way in which AES quickly began rewriting their history and the history of the English Spectrum Incident to make themselves look less like bigoted misogynists and more like concerned nationalists (any desire to write 'patriots' is negated by that screenshot of their homepage circa 2006 below, with its statement written in red, "our fatherland, protected by the blood of our ancestors," which makes it clear that it is blood nationalism we are dealing with). To be sure, the incident did not occur because of concern over English Spectrum's un-taxed or "ill-gotten income" (though that's a canny tack to take, as "foreigners are taking advantage of us" never seems to get old in Korea), but because of anger at how the teachers there talked about Korean women, and particularly because of the photos of the 'sexy costume party.' When the article states, "As well, as photos of a decadent drug party involving foreign instructors and Korean women spread...," it's made to seem like it's an afterthought, when it was the main reason for the incident (and indeed, what the original 'J Ilbo' article was about). Nor is there any proof drugs were at that party, but history can be rewritten to include those as well.

Also worth noting is that the hagwon owners below blame not only parents but the desires of female students for their need to import foreign men to teach English. Can't these women control themselves? (A question asked more crudely by Hustler in 1988.) If we want a clue as to what kind of woman the AES crowd preferred, one need only (once again) look at their homepage at that time, where this image can be seen at far left, halfway down the page:

"Nongae, we miss you."

If we remember, the kisaeng Nongae threw herself - and the Japanese officer she had wooed to the edge of the cliff over the river - to their deaths after the fall of Jinju in 1593. So the kind of gal AES likes is one who not only resists having sex with foreign men (traditionally through suicide), but who kills the foreign man along with herself. Classy. Almost as classy as having kids re-enact her plunge to her death.

I started translating this a year or two ago and upon finding it today decided to finish the translation and post it. The original article is here.


Foreign instructors earn money, are "absorbed in decadence," women and drugs

[Report on social conditions] Some illegally sojourning English instructors are self indulgent and highly renowned as "crown princes of the night"

Reporter Sin Yeon-hui

[Shadows of the English craze]

Is Korea a paradise for illegal sojourner foreign instructors?

The Republic of Korea is entirely swept up in the English craze. Recently, as the number of low-grade foreign instructors who are capitalizing on this phenomenon has increased, it has created a serious social problem. As problems arise regarding these people who work as instructors or teachers in hagwons or schools, at one portal site a signature campaign to expel low-grade foreign instructors has been signed by 10,000 people.

As cases of victimization published at a cafe at N portal site, which blows the whistle on low-grade foreign instructors, spread rapidly through the internet, calls for the strengthening of screening regulations for foreign instructors are growing louder. Much of the writing at the cafe frankly shows the actual situation of low-grade foreign instructors who disparage Korea and treat Korean women as sexual playthings here.

Most of them are shocking things about Korean English hagwons which are dying to bring foreign instructors and do not properly screen instructor qualifications, and include many instances of instructors sexually toying with Korean women and denigrating them as 'fast food.' As well, they are reporting [teachers] who are treated better than their ability deserves, expensive tuition, and the problem of foreign men who do not even have moral qualifications working openly as professors at well known universities in Korea.

These things have already been reported countless times in the media but they are not being eradicated. This newspaper will make clear actual cases of some foreign instructors who sexually toyed with Korean women and the shocking truth about how they enjoy lewd parties and drugs at decadent establishments at night.

▲ The Anti-English Spectrum cafe at N site, which reports the corruption of illegal foreign instructors

Anti-English Spectrum blows the whistle on 'inferior, lascivious foreign English instructors'

What is the ‘English Spectrum’ site? Officially it is a community and job site for foreign instructors living in Korea. However, because this site was filled with posts denigrating and toying with Korean women it also led to a social scandal, the “English Spectrum Incident.”

At that time, netizens said of English Spectrum “It’s an online business for foreign English instructors in Korea that gains outrageous, undeserved, ill-gotten income and pays no tax as it receives advertising fees from Koreans offering jobs (mostly English hagwon owners) and Itaewon adult entertainment establishment owners but doesn’t receive a cent for advertising fees from high-income-earning foreign instructors,” and carried out a movement to close the site.

A classmate of the Seoul National University biology major who completed the above sentence tipped off the J Ilbo and as it was reported and magnified significantly it blew up into the so-called “English Spectrum Incident.”

A sharp increase in incidents of Korean women being sexually toyed with and denigrated as ‘fast food’

As well, as photos of a decadent drug party involving foreign instructors and Korean women spread an enormous social stir was created.

At this site as well, messages with shocking content such as "How to molest Korean female children and Korean female elementary female students" and "How to borrow money from Korean women" were posted and because of this the netizens' anger exploded. Their outcry criticized the government for being overly lenient/generous towards foreign instructors.

At an online cafe called "Anti-English Spectrum" set up by an English hagwon student after this, a movement to expel low-grade foreign instructors is operated, blowing the whistle on illegal foreign language instructors who have appeared on English Spectrum for belittling Korea, illegal activity such as distributing drugs, and victimizing women.

The posts published at this cafe are spreading online rapidly. Some illegal foreign instructors live with a number of Korean women and have sex under false promises of marriage; hence there are women who have committed suicide too; some marry calculatingly in order to get a residence visa; there are cases of them being professors at famous universities and distributing drugs to university students; of foreign instructors at women's universities toying with their pupils; many illegal / unqualified foreign instructors who have faked their diplomas or educational background exist; among them spreads talk like "Let's go to Korea and make some money and also meet women"; because of excessive pay for foreign instructors by hagwons, tuition is expensive; decadent drug parties; dating Korean women, borrowing money from them, and escaping to their home countries. Such shocking cases make up most of them and forewarn of a [negative] social impact.

Enjoying drugs and lewd, decadent parties

'A,' who posted at the cafe, explained, "An Australian instructor at an English hagwon in Gangnam dated close to ten Korean women on the pretext of marriage and, in order to get a residence, married one of these women and also still continued to date one of the other women. However, after a year he divorced and two months later married another woman."

A said his interest in the realities of illegal foreign language instructors is due to a 25 year old friend who committed suicide after being toyed with by a foreign instructor.

An American professor at S University in Seoul, Mr. B, a professor at Seoul, was arrested for distributing drugs such as cocaine to college students for several years while taking his students around the Itaewon entertainment district on weekends. The professor's drug distribution case was brought out into the open by a thorough investigation by Yongsan Police at that time, but his punishment was no more than deportation.

A netizen revealed that they have seen many instances of  Korean women who have actually dated foreign English instructors and suffered mental, physical, and economic losses, and there are statistics that marriages to foreign instructors last for 2 to 3 years on average and many cases where [the instructors] divorce them without paying any alimony at all and go to their home country but after 3 to 4 months they return to Korea and live with or marry another Korean woman.

He said that not only lesser-known hagwons but also at large scale English hagwons foreign language teachers dated students and for the most part economically or sexually toyed with them. He pointed out that many of these instructors were under-qualified and illegal sojourners.

It is no wonder, then, that the owners of front line English hagwons who pay for air fare, finder's fees, and hire foreign English instructors on all manner of conditions never have even a day when when they can feel at ease. In addition to guaranteeing them a high monthly salary, these hagwons provide housing, monthly rent, utilities, and vacation expenses.

As an English instructor job advertisement in a foreign newspaper puts it, "If you want to become a Hollywood star, go to Korea ..."

Even so, if most foreign instructors hear that they can get more money elsewhere, it is common for them to do a midnight run, so English hagwon owners complain in unison, "If not for parents and female students, we would hire Koreans right now."

Among the more than 10,000 Anglo-Saxon foreign lecturers currently here, many entered the country initially on tourist visas and work as unqualified English instructors, and not a few are illegal sojourners [likely meaning visa overstayers].

Another netizen saw an ad in a newspaper in Vancouver, Canada by a Korean English hagwon recruiting an English instructor with the title, "If you want to become a Hollywood star, why not go to Korea?" and beneath an illustration of East Asian women it [offered] working hours of 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, free accommodation [including] monthly rent and utilities, and guaranteed supplementary income through private tutoring, suggesting a $6,000 monthly income, and its only qualification requirement was a "college graduate" (a junior college in Korea rather than a university) and it said one's major did not matter.

He also criticized the former mayor of Seoul, Lee Myung-bak, who announced in 2004 that he would create a "solarium for foreigners" at the Han River outdoor swimming pool to attract foreign tourists, and criticized the disorderly behavior of foreigners he assumed were English instructors at the Han River outdoor swimming pool every summer.

Excessive treatment, students' harm

Actually, what he pointed out does not only occur at the Han River outdoor swimming pool. Every summer at beaches, outdoor events like the mud festival are promoted to attract foreign tourists, but according to the testimony of local concerned parties, among the foreigners at these places, rather than tourists, there are more foreign instructors or foreigners whose jobs aren't clear who drink alcohol and cause disturbances.

There is an urgent need for fundamental measures to stop the harm to students caused by some illegal or unqualified foreign instructors who toy with and denigrate Korean women and foster drug and decadent culture, as well as the harm caused by their excessive treatment by hagwons which have no qualification screenings. In particular, it is urgent to adjust the gender ratio [which at the moment] puts foreign men first to increase the number of female students, as well as to adjust the role of the authorities' measures and of media.

Anti-English Spectrum points out that the Immigration Office, which manages illegal sojourners, is suffering from a significant shortage of personnel and that the Ministry of Education should cooperate with the police and relevant agencies to crack down on illegal foreign instructors.

"A university in Gangbuk, Seoul, hired an unqualified native speaker as a professor and when problems arose dismissed him. The university itself needs to make efforts to verify [teachers]," a netizen emphasized.

In the reader's page of a certain newspaper on the 9th, a housewife, Mrs. Kang, said, "At the English hagwon my children go to the native speaking instructor often changes, and it's because at the hagwon they hired illegal sojourners and when trouble arises they send them back," while others do the same but don't send them away, which is disquieting, she said.

As well, "Those illegal sojourners who lack qualifications receive a salary of 4 ~ 5 million won a month, but when we look at our serious unemployment situation this is a problem, and what are the government's measures regarding harm to students?"

Meanwhile, the 'Anti-English Spectrum' cafe is constantly carrying out campaigns in various quarters to report on the realities of such low-grade foreign instructors and expel them from the country.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Does anyone remember Watch Your Head?

Over at the Korea Times, Jon Dunbar wrote about the changes to the Hongdae Playground and his memories of it over the years (it's officially known as the 홍익 어린이 공원 or Hongik Children's Park). I imagine I would have visited it back in 2001, though my earliest definite memory of it was in the summer of 2002, a month or so after the World Cup. I didn't take any photos of it, but did capture this closer to Hapjeong Station:

Apparently it was in June that year that the first "HongDaeAp Artmarket Freemarket" (as their site refers to it in English) appeared. I remember its quick growth, and according to their site it was "newly renovated into its current form in 2003" (though that form is no longer current since a more recent renovation, as Jon points out). I remember more trees and benches in 2002, and when the construction fences went up for the renovation later that year or in early 2003.

I can't say I spent much time there, though. I can remember hanging out at club Issey (with its cheap bottles of local beer and 1500 won tequila shots) and in the little places with "soju beer hof" written simply on the wall next to the door in the buildings that now house all the little clothing shops (on the 'parking lot street') - that entire area gentrified during 2003, and I remember my shock at the difference upon returning to Korea after 6 months away in October that year. It was while going through old Korea Herald articles that I clipped during my first two years in Korea that I found an article on my favourite place from that time - "Watch Your Head":

I can't help but wonder if the Canadians he speaks of included myself and my friends. Besides its small size (particularly in the owner's 'personal room,' which had a section raised a foot or more off the floor), it stood out for being a makgeolli jip in Hongdae, which was not so common then in that part of the neighbourhood. If I remember correctly it closed in 2003.

Of course, when it comes to makgeolli in Hongdae, my biggest association will always be the 'makgeolli man,' who Jon also wrote about a few months ago.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Blocking educational access to stigmatized children in 1969... and today

This week the Joongang Daily and Korea Expose reported on a September 5 meeting where residents in Gangseo-gu clashed over the conversion of a closed school into a school for the disabled, with some residents opposing it because they claimed having such a school nearby would bring down housing prices. The Joongang Daily also posted this video:

I couldn't help but note the location, since it is near where I lived for years. The closed school is Gongjin Elementary School, which appears on the map below as 'B,' where it stands beside the Home Plus near Exit 1 of Gayang Station on Line 9. A new iteration of the school has recently been built in the Magok-dong development (marked as 'A' on the map).

Beyond my dismay at such views being voiced just down the road from my old neighbourhood, this brings to light the way in which certain groups are discriminated against and the stigma that is to be found at the heart of this. While, as reported here, a few were blunt about their bigotry, such as the resident who shouted "The disabled should all be boxed into one place," I get the feeling that some might feel that it is acceptable to blame housing prices, because then they can claim the source of their concern is not discrimination, but a desire for economic well-being, something which exists an intermediary between their bigotry and their actions. They can claim property prices are the reason to reject the presence of the stigmatized group, but a fall in housing prices due to the presence of a certain group is little more than discrimination crystalized into an economic manifestation.

Discrimination in the past in Korea was more likely to be based on status distinctions, particularly focused on the baekjeong, but it also revolved around disease and hereditary conditions that could be passed on to the next generation. Hansen's disease, or leprosy, was one such disease, while mental handicaps (more so than physical ones) might be seen as something that could be transmitted to children (Theodore Jun Yoo's book It's Madness: The Politics of Mental Health in Colonial Korea explores this topic). More modern manifestations of disease or hereditary conditions which are tightly bound with stigma include HIV/AIDS and the radiation-related illnesses of the tens of thousands of Koreans who survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as their descendants, who found it difficult to marry unless they hid their past. (As well, taking racist logic to its limits, mixed race children can be seen as carrying tainted genes which will be passed down.)

I was pleased to see this response from Cho Hee-yeon, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education:
“When it comes to educational administration, it’s necessary to consider the different, realistic positions of interested parties.” He continued, “That’s democracy, the administrative obligation of a public institute.”

He added, “In that sense, I understand the realistic points of view of several residents who oppose the establishment of a school for people with disabilities.

“Nevertheless, this isn’t a matter of concession. This isn’t something like a nuclear power plant or Thaad [Terminal High Altitude Area Defense]. A school for people with physical disabilities is a right to live.”
This isn't the first time the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has faced a situation like this however. In the spring of 1969, a similar situation arose in Seoul as the government faced off with parents of students at Daewang Elementary School, which stands three kilometers south of Suseo Station in southeastern Seoul (and was opened in 1932, according to its website). The Seoul Board of Education had initially pushed for the enrollment of five “children of the patients of dormant leprosy” from a nearby lepers’ rehabilitation center in Naegok-dong but parents of other students began boycotting classes from April 18, 1969. The rehabilitation center, ‘Ettinger Village,’ was “established by the American-Korean Foundation in 1966 through 1968 where 63 families of cured lepers settled,” as the Times reported May 10.

This is not the first time discrimination against such children had happened. The Korea Times reported in March 1964 that boycotts were taking place at schools in Ulsan and near Mungyeong. In the case of the school in Ulsan, 80% of 546 pupils refused to attend classes with 11 children "whose parents were suffering from Hansen’s disease." Though the following is based on the Korea Times' (extensive) coverage, the term for leprosy used in the Korean-language media was 나병 / nabyeong (미감아, or 'child not infected,' was also often used).

On May 6, 1969, after two-and-a-half weeks of the boycott, the Seoul Board of Education backtracked and instead said it would establish an elementary school exclusively for children of dormant leprosy near the rehabilitation center. This announcement led to criticism, even from the national government:

The Korea Times reported on May 10 that the Ministry of Education intervened and ordered the city to integrate the children, but when the city tried with the help of Yonsei University leprosy specialist Prof. Yu Chun to convince parents that the children were healthy and posed no threat, the parents shouted “We need no doctors,” “Dismiss the principal,” “Let’s go to the education ministry to protest.”

(From the Kyunghyang Sinmun)

On May 11 the Times published a lengthy look at the children’s plight:

(One wonders if the Harry Ettinger after whom Ettinger village was named was this pilot who was shot down and made a POW during the Korean War.)

On May 12, 300 parents chartered buses to hold a protest in front of the education ministry but were stopped by police near the Han River. When they refused to disperse they were taken to Dongbu Police Station and there they continued to protest until Pak Won-ik, a Board of Education officer, told parents the five children would be hospitalized for a week for a medical examination and they would not be at school during that time, after which the parents dispersed. The Ministry of Health reiterated later that day, however, that it was set on integrating the students, and the Seoul Board of Education publicly concurred with this.

On May 14 the Times reported that 6 students had come to school the previous day, but “five of them were taken out of the classrooms by some 10 parents who were on the school ground.” 300 parents had agreed to return their students to classes if “the five children of cured lepers” were “examined thoroughly at the National Medical Center,” but most parents did not agree to this.

On May 16, the Times reported that 18 students (out of 853) had returned to school the day before (likely for teachers’ day).

Two days later it reported that on May 17, 365 students had returned to school after 27 days, among them the daughter of Education Minister Hong Jong-chull, who had transferred to the school.

(From an August 3 Korea Times article.)

The reason for this was further elaborated on May 28, when it was reported that the five children had been released from the National Medical Center “to stay together with the families of four high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs.”
The four health ministry officials have volunteered to take care of them to prove that the children of negative lepers are neither potential lepers nor infectious.

The officials are Chung Hi-sup, health minister, Hong Chong-gwan, director of the National Medical Center, Cha Yun-gun, chief of the Medical Bureau, and Kim Taik-il, chief of the Bureau of Public Health.

To make the parents understand, Hong Jong-chul, minister of education, has transferred his daughter from Kyunghee Primary School to the Taewang School May 17.

Despite such efforts, the parents are still strongly against the government move, threatening that they will keep their children out of the school if the five children attend again.

Despite such an admirable stand by the government, however, the next day it was reported that the government had “bowed down to the determined pressure of the parents…by deciding to set up a new primary school for the five children of negative leper patients.” The school was to be attached to the Korea Theological Seminary. Not everyone in the government was happy with this, but the education minister assured that this arrangement was only to be a temporary one. Residents of Ettinger village criticised this decision and tried to persuade parents to allow the children to attend the school, but failed and the children began studying at the seminary on June 23.

On July 30 it was reported that 35 Christian youth from around the world had come to Korea to do volunteer work at Ettinger village. It is not clear if this was in response to the controversy that year or not.

On August 3, the Times reported that locals in the community where Ettinger Village was located had signed a petition asking that the children be allowed to go to school nearby, since they had to live in a dorm at the Korean Theological Seminary [and returned home on the weekend]. It makes clear that when the village was first established, locals responded in a hostile manner, then refused to communicate with them, but after farm hands were needed at harvest time, they eventually grew to realize that the former Hansen’s patients were of no threat to them and saw them as neighbours.

This was the last report in the Korea Times on them, and the Naver News Archive makes no mention of them after this either. At a guess, they likely never attended Daewang Elementary School, and the Seoul Board of Education lost its battle with the parents.

Thinking back to the comment by Yonsei dean Song Nae-un, who bemoaned the existence of such discrimination "in this age of science," one wonders what his reaction might have been had he seen the recent clash over the school for disabled students. In May of 1969 the father of one of the five children said that setting up a separate school for the patients' children was "a measure that will eventually separate them from society." Now it seems a school separating stigmatized children from society is not enough. From the behavior of those parents in Gangseo-gu last week, it seems that today even the school must be cast out.

All of which makes me wonder just how fragile some Koreans must feel their prospects for future wellbeing to be if screaming at the parents of disabled children has become acceptable behaviour.