Thursday, December 04, 2014

Screening of Kim Ki-deok's 1964 film 'The Barefooted Youth' this Saturday

This Saturday, December 6, at 3pm, the Royal Asiatic Society Cinema Club and Seoul Film Society will have a free screening of the 1964 Kim Ki-deok film 'The Barefooted Youth' (맨발의 청춘) with English subtitles at Seoul Global Center's Haechi Hall in Myeongdong. As it's described here,
So-called "adolescent films" first gained widespread popularity in Korea during the 1960s, and of these, Kim Ki-deok's Barefooted Youth is the best known. Doo-soo lives in a poor neighborhood and makes his living doing odd jobs for a local gang. One day he comes across some thugs harassing two young women, and he intervenes, saving the women but getting himself injured in the process. Later when one of the women, an ambassador's daughter named Johanna, comes to thank him in person, the two strike up a friendship that will eventually lead them into trouble.

Barefooted YouthBarefooted Youth features an enjoyable mix of humor and drama in highlighting the vast gap between Doo-soo's lower class world and the aristocratic circles inhabited by Johanna. For audiences of the 1960s, the film highlights not only Korea's stark class divisions, but also the generation gap that was opening ever wider in that time period, with increasingly wild youth and ever more alarmed parents. The film features an interesting mix of optimism -- highlighted by the younger generation's willingness to fight and overcome barriers -- and pessimism marked by economic struggles and the harsh social dictates of the era
Directions to Seoul Global Center's Haechi Hall can be found here, and more information about the film is here, and the screening, here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

News on cuts to public school native speaking teachers

The Seoul Sinmun reported November 13 on budget cuts to native-speaking teachers in public schools in an article titled "[Controversy over welfare] Because of daycare, native speaking teachers are saying 'Oh my God!'" The article opens by asserting that, "One local government after another is expanding the budget for free day care programs and reducing native speaking instructors."

According to the budget submitted by the Incheon Office of Education to the Incheon City Government, this year's native speaking teacher budget will be cut from 14,494,000,000 won to 9,076,000,000 won, a reduction of 5,418,000,000 won. There are currently 202 native speaking teachers (180 English teachers and 22 Chinese teachers), and these will be reduced by 76 to 126 teachers next year. The Daegu Office of Education will reduce its budget by 8.8 billion won, reducing its teachers from 443 this year to 323 next year. The Chungcheongnam-do Office of Education will reduce its current 438 teachers by 71 to 367, cutting 42 from elementary schools, 13 from middle schools and 16 from high schools. The Chungcheongbuk-do Office of Education will cut Local Education Subsidies and cut 113 out of 306 native speaking teachers. To make up for this video lessons will be increased and teachers will travel from school to school.

Offices of education are saying that native speaking budgets are getting the most cuts since there is less urgent need for native speakers compared to day care, but parents are complaining, saying that both are important. Incheon's placement rate for foreign teachers is already only 55%, compared to the national average of 81.4% of schools, and the placement rate will only drop.

As well, TBC reports that for next year Daegu has cut the native speaking teacher budget in half, from 18.2 billion won this year. Above, in the Seoul Sinmun article, we see 8.8 billion won has been cut, which accords with 'half the budget' being cut, though it's odd that only 120 out of 443 teachers will be cut. While the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education isn't talking too openly about it, there may be cuts in Seoul as well. Offers to renew contracts were delayed two weeks until mid-November, though it seems teachers currently working should be able to keep their jobs. Below is a chart from the Kyunghyang Sinmun showing public middle schools in Seoul with native speaking teachers. While SMOE has cut funding to NSETs for middle schools, the district offices can use their own budgets to pay NSETs. Most don't have the resources, but Gangnam and Seocho districts have a 100% NSET placement rate in their public middle schools, while most districts have no teachers at all, leading to fears of this contributing to the gaps between rich and poor neighbourhoods.

(At bottom are the number of public middle schools per district.)

One thing worth noting is that while it's often said that Korean teachers will replace NSETs, it seems hiring Korean English language instructors may also fall by the wayside. A friend of mine in this teaching position in Gangseo-gu in Seoul is about to lose his job due to budget cuts.

According to the Gukje Sinmun, in Busan, the budget has gradually shrunk from 17.6 billion won in 2011, to 13.7 billion won in 2012, to 16.2 billion won in 2013, to 12.4 billion won in 2014, to 6.9 billion won for 2015. The number of native speaking teachers during that time has gradually shrunk from 522 in 2011, to 528 in 2012, to 399 in 2013, to 304 in 2014, to 170 for 2015. The teachers taught at all levels of public school until 2014, after which only elementary school teachers remained. As of next year, teachers at small schools will travel and teach at several elementary schools.

As reported by Yonhap back in late October, Saenuri Representative Yun Jae-ok pointed out then that the native speaking teacher placement rate in schools nationwide has decreased from 81.9% in 2012 to 65.1% in 2014.

According to Rep. Yun, in 2012 there were native speaking teachers placed at 9,315 schools out of a total of 11,368 schools nationwide, making for a placement rate of 81.9%, and this fell to 81.4% in 2013 and 65.1% in 2014. As well, the number of students of per native speaking teacher has increased. In 2012 there were 8,529 NSETs teaching 6,807,637 students nationwide, making for one NSET per 799 students. In 2013 this increased to one NSET per 821.1 students, and in 2014 this increased to one NSET per 947.2 students.

In looking at the history of the EPIK program before, I posted this chart made in 2010 by the Seoul Sinmun showing the number of native speaking teachers placed in public schools between 1995 and 2010, which reveals the hit the program took in 1997 after the financial crisis (it took 7 years to recover the numbers it had then).

(At top are the number of teachers by year, followed by a breakdown by nationality of teachers currently working, and at bottom are the percentages of teachers with qualifications.)

That graph is a bit compressed, height-wise, however, so I made a new one using data from this Korea Observer article which notes that 2,500 native speaking teachers have been cut over the past three years, dropping to 6,785 as of April this year from the high point of 9,320 in 2011.

The number of native speaking teachers in Korean public schools made an incredible jump between 2005 and 2009, from 1,017 to 7,997 before making a smaller increase to 9,320 over the next two years and has seen, as the Korea Observer reported, a decrease of around 2,500 teachers since 2011. Adding up the cuts announced above, at least another 500 teachers will be cut next year.

(Also worth reading on this topic is Akli Hadid's article in The Diplomat which argues that "Government attempts to undercut English have not slowed corporate language demands.")

To finish with a bit of happier news, the Yeongnam Ilbo reported on November 17 that foreign teachers in Daegu had organized a give a gift appeal for children in childcare facilities called Daegu's Time to Give, which has also been reported on by the Korea Herald, and can be found on Facebook here.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Teachers busted for growing pot, mailing self designer drug

Perhaps the 'crime prevention education' I recently posted about is needed after all. KNN (via SBS) reported on November 18 that a 43 year old American who is a 'visiting professor' who teaches English at a national university in Busan had been arrested for growing marijuana. Among many plants on his balcony were three pot plants, seen below. He's heard in the report saying, "I wasn't trying to grow marijuana."

Whoops. These things happen accidentally, I guess. The old 'he taught while high' accusation is made once again by a police officer: "Because it's come to light that he would smoke in the evening after classes finished at clubs or bars, it seems during the semester he often smoked and taught class." So he smoked after classes finished but he was high in class? Okay then.

The only other mention of this case outside KNN was NoCut News, who reported on two busts in Busan, one of a meth bust involving 42 people (23 arrested and detained), and this one. It mentions that he'd he'd brought pot back from California in 2012, started growing the plants late last year, and had been smoking the plant since March. I couldn't help but chuckle at the way NoCut News reported what police seized in these two busts: 178g of meth (worth 590,000,000 won), 0.33g of marijuana, three marijuana plants, and disposable syringes. The order might make one think the syringes were for the marijuana, while the amount of pot seized (0.33 grams) certainly isn't much to write home about. That said, growing is always going to get serious attention from the police, and likely from the media as well, though this bust really wasn't reported much. The KNN report states that the university will decide what to do with him after it receives the results of the police investigation.

In other news, as Asia Gyeongje reported on October 28, it turns out there was another foreign teacher busted for drugs, a foreign hagwon instructor arrested by Suwon prosecutor's office after Incheon customs intercepted mail which contained either blotter paper containing with the psychedelic drug 2C-C-NBOME or another package with pentedrone at the end of September (a Korean male was also arrested and it's not made clear the connection - if they each are responsible for one, or together responsible for both; one assumes the former).

In both cases it's the first time such drugs have been found by the Korea Customs Service.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

RAS walking tour of Jeong-dong this Sunday

This Sunday, November 23, I'll be leading a walking tour for the Royal Asiatic Society of Jeong-dong, which became the neighbourhood for Westerners after Korea opened to the west in the 1880s through to the end of the colonial period. I've written about the history of this area before (here and here), and will be looking at lots of turn of the century Western architecture and connecting these buildings to stories of Korea's modern history. From the RAS website:
On this excursion we will meet in front of Deoksugung Palace from where we will explore the Jeong-dong's rich early modern history. After a visit to the Anglican church we will take in a view of the neighbourhood from above before heading to the Seoul Museum of Art, which is housed in the colonial era-built former Korean Supreme Court building.To learn about the missionary influence upon the neighborhood, we will visit the Baejae Hakdang, a missionary-run boys' school which educated many of Korea's future elite, now restored as a museum; the Jeong-dong First Methodist Church; and Ewha Girl's High School, the first school for girls in Korea, and also the site of one of Korea's earliest foreign-run hotels, the Songtag Hotel. From there we will visit the restored Jungmyeongjeon Hall, which was built as a royal library but is best known for being the place where the Eulsa Treaty, which the Japanese used to deprive Korea of its diplomatic sovereignty, was signed in 1905. Other stops will include the remains of the former Russian Legation and the beautiful colonial home where independence activist Kim Ku was assassinated in 1949.

The cost of the tour is W20,000 for members and W25,000 for non-members. The excursion will set off from Daehanmun, the front gate of Deoksugung Palace, (subway line number 1, dark blue line, or 2, green line, City Hall Station #132, exit 2) at 1:00 pm.
Feel free to join us!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Native speaking instructor crime prevention education


It turns out the Gyeongsangnamdo Police Agency already carried out the same crime prevention education for about 370 native speaking public school teachers on October 23.

[Original Post]

This was published in The Gyeongnam Domin Ilbo on November 17:
Gyeongsangnamdo Police Agency carried out crime prevention education for native speaking instructors. At Jindong Elementary School in Changwon on the 13th Sergeant Kim Jong-hwa of the Agency’s foreign affairs section spoke to around 50 elementary, middle and high school native speaking instructors in English and explained, on a case by case basis, how crimes arise due to cultural differences.
This sounds like a good idea, but isn't there a better name than "native speaking instructor crime prevention education"?

Monday, November 10, 2014

"The truth and falsity of native speaking instructors"

On November 1, the Segye Ilbo published the following article at its website:
[Kim Hyun-ju's everyday talk talk] Do you know 'Quincy Black'?
The truth and falsity of native speaking instructors

The foreign English instructor who spread a video of sex with a Korean high school girl known in online communities and social networking services as 'Quincy Black' was sentenced to jail. According to police, English instructor C (29, American) was arrested and prosecuted for videoing sex with A (then 15), who he met on the internet, in his lodgings at the education center he worked at and distributing the video.

C used three cameras that he had installed in his lodgings in advance as well as a handheld camera to record the sexual activity from various angles and afterwards saved the file on his computer and a memory stick.

He had entered Korea in May of 2009 on an E2 conversation instruction visa and worked as an English instructor at an education center in Daejeon before leaving for China in October of 2010. After this he was put on Interpol's wanted list and last October he was arrested by police in Armenia.

Immediately after being informed of his arrest, the Ministry of Justice began the extradition process and he was extradited to Korea in January of this year.

Incidents due to cultural differences occur repeatedly

Recently universities which have hired native speaking instructors to take charge of foreign language education, such as English conversation, have had deep worries. It's not just the difficulties that come with looking for dozens of native speaking instructors to hire each semester, it's also that it's not easy to strictly screen their qualifications. As well, the fact is that every year incidents caused by cultural differences occur repeatedly.

According to a business in the relevant industry, native speaking instructors are hired in the short term for one semester, or in the longer term on a one-year contract in the position of 'instructor.' Because the contract should be for one year, there are also not a few instructors who suddenly return to their home countries in the middle of the semester or who finish teaching and then from the next day leave for a vacation. Because of this there are almost no native speaking teachers who give their students time to appeal their marks or consult with them.

'August 3, 10:00 - My sex toy.'

Not only this, but disputes over qualifications are endless. At a university in Busan an English instructor who entered the country on a tourist visa was caught teaching. At that time, following the disturbance, the local immigration office carried out an investigation into local universities.

As well, it's not just university instructors, but there was also an incident involving a native speaking instructor affiliated with a hagwon who was booked without detention by police for chasing after women and videoing them, focusing on their legs and buttocks. Videoing in public places such as subways, over a period of two weeks he took a staggering 306 videos of the lower halves of women's bodies.

An expert pointed out that, "Because English conversation instructors who teach in hagwons could also apply to work at universities at any time, there is a need for a management system to verify their qualifications."

◆ Verifying native speaking teacher's morality isn't easy

Despite such disputes over qualifications that are occurring both in and out of universities, for universities a personnel management system that can verify their qualifications and guarantee the quality of education is almost non-existent. Most universities hire by placing ads on native speaking instructor hiring websites or through introductions from friends. Depending on the situation, they will try to scout people who have a good reputation in area elementary or middle schools or hagwons. At that time, more than experience, 'verification of qualifications' such as the instructor's morality or job performance is given more weight.

An official from a national university outside Seoul said, "By choosing people with a good reputation among foreigners who are already teaching in another place, you can reduce the risk." "Choose someone with at least a Bachelors Degree and TESOL (English teacher certificate)." He added, "To prevent scandalous incidents with female students, choose female instructors."

However universities are frustrated because they have no other method than to use a passport in place of a background check into native speaking instructors' degree, qualifications or criminal record. It's no different with instructors who have been confirmed to have taught at schools or hagwons. This is because there is no way to confirm via their passport whether they have committed crimes in their home country.

◆ Things to consider when hiring native speaking instructors

Representatives of regular schools or hagwons perceive two categories of foreign instructors. There are those whose priority is earning money to travel, and a great many of the foreign instructors outside Seoul belong in this category. It is hard to find instructors who find teaching meaningful, as well as those with ability to teach.

To young people from Canada and the US, particularly those without jobs, Korea is a very attractive country.  With the rapid increase in English hagwons and the sharp rise in demand for native speaking instructors, the knowledge that they can easily earn money while lacking qualifications has spread.

A representative from the business advised, "You must look at things like what qualifications they have, what their character is like, and what their attitude toward work is." "What and how they teach is good to inquire after as well."

Reporter Kim Hyun-ju
If you think this article is written by someone who needed to fill some space online who dug up a four-month-old story ('Quincy Black' being sentenced to prison) and decided to write a 'foreign teachers are bad' article based on her own faulty knowledge and tried to hide this by citing unnamed sources, you're probably right. Just how lazy was our author? She couldn't even spell 'Quincy Black's name correctly in the title, writing '흑퀀시' (instead of heuk [black] kuinsi, the headline says heuk kwonsi), which is just plain lazy. Plus, she writes in the third-last paragraph that "Representatives of regular schools or hagwons perceive two categories of foreign instructors," but then only describes one such category. She also writes some howlers, such as saying that universities scout talent from area elementary schools and hagwons, or that "universities are frustrated because they have no other method than to use a passport in place of a background check." She also, in that sentence (in the original article), mistranslates 여권 as 'visa' rather than passport.

The final photo is recycled from a July 9, 2006 Segye Ilbo article written by a reader (who lived not far from me, and who claimed native speaking teachers usually make 4-5 million won per month) titled "It’s urgent that measures be prepared for unqualified native speaking English teachers." I have no idea where the other photos come from, but judging from the collection of either screen shots from the videos or photos from his room seen in the photo below, they may not be from 'Quincy Black's videos at all. (The photo is from the Daejeon city journal, and shows Daejeon Dong-gu council's probe into the videos in November 2010.)

It's 'nice' to see that the 'foreign English teachers are a problem' trope is still an attractive one for journalists in a hurry.

(Thanks to Ami for help with the translation.)

Friday, November 07, 2014

BBC: Irish woman not hired as teacher due to "alcoholism nature of your kind"

Currently the second most shared and seventh most read story at BBC News is "'Irish alcoholism nature' reason for job rejection for Irish teacher in South Korea":
The teacher had emailed the application when a job was advertised on listings website Craigslist in September.

She told the agency that she had been teaching English for over three years, in Barcelona, Oxford and Abu Dhabi as well as South Korea.

Last week, she received a reply that said: "I am sorry to inform you that my client does not hire Irish people due to the alcoholism nature of your kind".

Ms Mulrennan said she did not know who the recruiter was as their details were not listed on the site.
She's since found a job and has laughed it off, saying, "I still love the country and being in Seoul." She also said, "A friend saw it and encouraged me to post it online as it might go viral." And so it has. The article notes that "The 26-year-old told the BBC that she could not believe the email was real at first." One hopes the BBC has done its due diligence here, because it's almost a little too perfect; but then sometimes these things happen (I remember the first hagwon owner I worked for complaining about the lack of housekeeping of former teachers, saying they were "like animals" (though not one of them had a housewife like he did to keep their domiciles spotless)). If the email is real, well, being the center of attention and being ridiculed is just what it deserves.

(Hat tip to Ryan.)

Monday, November 03, 2014

"Canadian teacher facing nightmare in South Korea"

This is a disturbing story - a Canadian teacher who was sexually assaulted was successful in taking the case to court, but the perpetrator - known to police for being accused in a number of other attacks - was set free when the verdict was overturned on appeal, and he is now taking her to court for defamation. More information can be found in the article as well as in the online fundraising page her friends set up to help her with legal costs.

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.