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 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.)

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.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Skies and water

Apologies to my readers for the utter lack of posts the last month. I spent much of the month in Canada, and a good portion of that time was spent away from the internet. The weather wasn't always great, but I can't help but take a certain amount of pleasure from sleeping with layers of covers on in August, considering the impossibility of that in Seoul these days. Lots of photos of skies, water, and nature follow:

A couple days after the super moon (thanks to Ami for the settings).

A particularly hazy day driving (excruciatingly slowly on the Gardener Expressway) into Toronto.

Spooked geese make for more interesting subjects than calm ones.

Swallowtail butterfly.

Pure luck involved in this shot - the hummingbird was flitting about here and there and I zoomed in and just happened to shoot at the right moment.

More regular posting will begin from here on out.