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.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Screening of Lee Man-hee's 1968 film 'Holiday' tomorrow

Tomorrow, August 2, at 3pm, the Royal Asiatic Society Cinema Club and Seoul Film Society will have a free screening of the 1968 Lee Man-hee film "Holiday" (휴일) with English subtitles at Seoul Global Center's Haechi Hall in Myeongdong. This tale of two penniless lovers wondering the streets of Seoul in search of cash for an abortion was considered too bleak by the powers that be, and when their suggested revisions were rejected by the director and producer, the film was blocked from being shown, and was only rediscovered in 2005. The film is a premier example of Lee's art-film phase, features a great performance by Shin Seong-il, the leading man of the late 60s and early 70s, and is well worth watching. I'll give a brief introduction to the film, and, as it's so short, we'll also show a short documentary about Lee Man-hee's film making, with the film and documentary totaling just over 2 hours. The film 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, July 31, 2014

The not-so-wildlife of the National Arboretum

Last week I made it to the National Arboretum east of Uijeongbu where they had quite a few not-so-exotic, Korean animals on display. Up first was a 너구리, or raccoon dog, which I hadn't seen (in person) before. Unfortunately, the pens were quite small, perhaps ten by twenty feet.

Attracting a lot of attention was the Siberian tiger, donated by China. It was asleep, but that didn't stop people from yelling at it and trying to get its attention. Its pen was bigger, but not very large considering we're talking about ten-foot long animal.

Up next was a wild boar, which I'd never seen in person. There were several, in fact, and long time readers may remember me writing about the wild boar invasion of Seoul (as the media presented it) nine years ago (here and here) as well as a (rather amusing, considering the convenience store invasion) update here in 2010. Needless to say, they were quite large, and seeing one these bearing down on me in a forest doesn't rate too highly on my to-do list.

A gray fox in a small enclosure. This one was sleeping; the other was pacing about quickly in its small enclosure. I remember an article by Robert Neff pointing out that in the 1920s it was wolves, and not tigers or leopards, which killed the most people in Korea's countryside (especially children).

Here's what the bear enclosure looked like.

At least it had a shaded area and a pool to cool off in, but it still looked pretty hot.

The bird enclosures contained (huge) vultures...

... and owls.

Next door was a 고라니, a small water deer. I was actually able to see this one in its entirety, compared to the rear end of one I caught a glimpse of along the Han River years ago.

I didn't actually look too much at the plants and trees, though I liked the shape of this flower:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"South Korean patients have nowhere to go as world gathers to discuss HIV/AIDS"

On July 2 the Korea Times reported on this sad state of affairs:
Dozens of AIDS patients on the brink of death are struggling to find places to receive care after being told to leave the nation's only care center for dying AIDS patients, according to a rights activist.

According to HIV/AIDS Human Rights Nanuri, the patients were told to leave the care center, Sudong Yonsei Sanitarium Hospital, earlier this year because it was deprived of a license following alleged violations of human rights.

One patient was raped in 2011. In August of last year, a new patient died 13 days after arriving. The investigation found that the care center staff refused the patient's request for medical attention. Her death attracted media coverage which eventually led to the uncovering of years of human rights abuse.
Benjamin Wagner and Kwon Mi-ran have written an article about this titled "South Korean patients have nowhere to go as world gathers to discuss HIV/AIDS." An excerpt:
As experts gather in Melbourne this week for the world’s largest conference dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS and associated stigma and discrimination, the patients of Sudong Yonsei Sanitarium Hospital in Seoul are caught in a desperate limbo.
Following shocking abuse by hospital staff that culminated in the rape of one patient and death of another, the Korea Centers for Disease Control stripped the center of its license. But with the KCDC failing to provide a suitable alternative facility to what is the only long-term care center for AIDS sufferers in the country, more than 30 patients now have nowhere to go.

Meanwhile, ten other patients have been transferred to the National Police Hospital where they report yet more neglect and being denied necessary treatment and care.

The KCDC’s failure to rectify the situation marks its second betrayal of patients after it ignored allegations of mistreatment at Sudong first raised in 2011. Residents of Sudong have reported being denied human contact and not being asked about their condition by a medical professional even once. Some had their requests to be discharged ignored because the hospital insisted on obtaining permission of family members with whom patients had long lost contact. [...]

Shamefully, the plight of the patients at Sudong is not an isolated case of mistreatment of those living with HIV/AIDS in South Korea. In a modern country with world class medical facilities and easy access to antiretroviral therapy, there is no reason why people with HIV/AIDS should not be able to live long, comfortable and productive lives. In fact, a recent study found that some people living with HIV in the United States, particularly those diagnosed and treated before their CD4 counts fell below 350 cells/mm3, “now have life expectancies equal to or even higher than the US general population.”

But not in South Korea where, despite the country’s wealth and capacity for early diagnosis and effective treatment, governmental policies and prevailing societal prejudice conspire to destroy the dignity and quality of life of people living with HIV/AIDS and drag the nation back to the 1980s where an HIV positive diagnosis was a death sentence.

Today in Korea, discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS is still so extreme that public and private hospitals routinely refuse to treat them. And the very few that do often segregate them from other patients, forcing them to shower and dine in separate areas, pandering to stigma and the mistaken belief that people with HIV/AIDS can easily infect those around them even though Korean medical professionals know this isn’t true.

The stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS is so intense in South Korea that the National Human Rights Commission of Korea has estimated that Koreans living with HIV are 10 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, which already has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
The rest of the article can be read here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The battle over Guryong Maeul

Four years ago I took a brief look at Guryong Maeul in Gangnam-gu, a shanty town first settled in the 1980s.

Though a 2009 article said redevelopment plans were in the works, this still hasn't happened. Today's Joongang Daily takes a look at how the area has "become a political battleground between Seoul city government and Gangnam District Office."

Friday, July 18, 2014

'Quincy Black' gets two and a half years in prison

You may remember Quincy Black, the English teacher working at the Dajeon International Communication Center who caused a media and internet firestorm back in October 2010 when videos of himself having sex with two Korean women which he uploaded to foreign porn sites were discovered by Korean netizens. He ended up being fired and leaving the country (and causing his employer some grief as their 'morality' was questioned) before it was discovered one of the girls was underage. He was extradited from Armenia in late January this year and on February 12 the Seoul Central District Court indicted and detained him on charges of producing a video of him having sex with an underage girl.

Yesterday, as the Joongang Ilbo reports, he was sentenced to prison:
Quincy Black sentenced to prison for spreading video of sex with high school girl

A foreign English instructor who spread videos on the internet of sex with Korean women including a high school girl under the name 'Quincy Black ' has been sentenced to prison.

On July 17 the Seoul Central District Court sentenced foreign English instructor C (29), who had been charged with contravening the Law for the protection of children and youth by producing and distributing pornography) to two years and six months in prison was ordered to complete 40 hours of a sexual violence treatment program.

The court's judgement said that "C committed a crime when, as a native speaking English instructor who taught elementary school students, he was in a position to protect youths, and by spreading the pornography he inflicted considerable psychological schock upon the victim."

The judgement listed as reasons for the sentence that "the underage victim in the incident found daily life difficult and moved overseas, while the adult victim wished for C to be punished."

Before the trial C protested that "the video was filmed with the consent of the underage victim" but the court did not accept this, saying that "the victim's feeling uncomfortable during the shooting of the video is valid."

C was charged for videoing sex with high school student A, who he met via a Korean dating site, with a camera and uploading the video to an overseas porn site in late August 2010. C invited A to the lodging provided for him by the Dajeon International Center and after drinking alcohol he filmed their sex using four cameras installed in his room.

Among those victimized by C was an adult woman who did not give her consent to be videoed.

After his criminal activity was discovered, C left Korea and went to China, and early this year was arrested in Armenia and was transferred to Korea for trial according to an extradition convention.
There are about 25 articles reporting on this story, including my favourite from a couple hours ago by the Kyunghyang Sinmun, which opens like this:
Elementary school instructor by day, sex criminal by night
The two-faced native speaking instructor 
A native speaking teacher who taught elementary school students who had sex with a female student who was only 15 and videoed it has been sentenced to prison. The native speaking instructor committed the crime and continued to openly teach English classes to elementary school students.
I almost miss this kind of writing. There's been very little of this kind of article this year, and none in the last three and a half months. More than half of the negative articles about foreign teachers have been related to Quincy Black, with the rest revolving around a drug bust in Daegu in January and the drug arrest of a Korean citizen native speaker in Daejeon in April.

If Quincy Black's sentence seems light, the Kyunghyang Sinmun states that one reason for the relatively lax sentence is that he deposited 9 million won for his victims.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Scientist arrested in US for fraud connected with HIV research

On June 25, Jilard News reported on a fraud case involving HIV research in the US:
In a rare move, federal prosecutors have charged a scientist with fraud. The charges stem from falsified data which had attracted millions of dollars in research grants.

Normally the U.S. Office of Research Integrity will investigate allegations of research misconduct, although since they do not have prosecution authority, charges are rare. In this case, the alleged fraud was so blatant and involved such a huge amount of money that federal prosecutors felt they had to step in.

The charges are based on years of research by Dong-Pyou Han, a former laboratory manager at Iowa State University and a native of South Korea. Han’s research into an HIV vaccine was promising and gained widespread attention. The hope was that the successful HIV vaccine could be administered to at-risk people around the globe, preventing them from catching the devastating disease. Because of the urgency for HIV treatments and vaccines, and because the research showed great promise, Han’s lab secured millions of dollars in grants from the National Institutes of Health to continue their research.

However, another laboratory eventually looked into Han’s work and found irregularities. They became convinced that the data was purposely falsified.

As Han was investigated, he admitted to placing human antibodies in rabbit blood to make it look like his vaccine was working. He had sent the samples to another lab who verified the results. However, in reality, Han’s vaccine appears to be a dud, which is a big disappointment for the scientific community and those affected by HIV and AIDS. Han claims he acted alone, without the knowledge of the lead researcher Michael Cho, and that he simply wanted the results of his research to look better.

Last week, prosecutors went ahead and charged Han with four counts of making false statements. If convicted, the scientist could face up to five years in prison for each charge. Han failed to appear in court Tuesday for his arraignment, apparently due to a mix-up, so he has another court date scheduled next week. Han had already surrendered his passport.
Two weeks later, the Demoines Register reported further on the case, noting that Han had resigned from the university last year when the fraud was discovered, and that he had pleaded not guilty. It also reported that
The team, which includes researchers at other universities, was awarded $14.5 million in such grants over several years, officials have said. Much of that money was awarded because of the team's dramatic reports of vaccine success, which turned out to be bogus.
The National Institutes of Health decided, unsurprisingly, "not to make the final, $1.38 million payment on a grant to the ISU team." The article adds that this "decision comes on top of ISU's agreement to reimburse the federal agency $496,000 for salary and other costs related to Dong-Pyou Han's employment."

Quite the salary, though it's possible it was for his five years of employment at the university.

As the Jilard News article makes clear, the money could have been of great use had it not been misappropriated, considering the progress being made in HIV research elsewhere:
The next most promising vaccine comes from a lab in Thailand, which has succeeded in protecting about a third of its recipients from infection. However, this rate is not high enough for widespread vaccination programs. An HIV vaccine remains a priority for scientific research as people in both developed and developing countries continue to contract the serious disease at a rate of about 6,300 new cases a day.
Despite it being 'a rare move' for federal prosecutors to charge a scientist with fraud, and despite similarity with another well-known Korean scientist who committed fraud (and especially in the post-Sewol mood of self-criticism), only a handful of Korean news outlets reported on this, with the Segye Ilbo being the only major paper to publish a report (which refers to him as a '재미 한인,' or Korean American).

Survey on the experiences of native English speakers living and working in Korea

I received an email asking to publicize a survey for native English speakers in Korea:
I am a former EPIK English teacher, and am currently in graduate school doing research on the experiences of native English speakers living and working in Korea.

I wanted to do this research to give foreigners in Korea the chance to talk about their experience in a controlled forum, so that we could ultimately use the data to help improve the experiences of expats in Korea.

Here is the survey info:

We are looking for native English speakers currently in Korea and 18 years or older to participate in a research study with the purpose of learning about typical emotional experiences.

Complete an approximately 30 minute online survey to have your experiences heard. You will also be entered in a raffle. 1 in 10 participants will win a gift card prize up to a $50 value for their participation!

If interested, go the link below!

This research is conducted by Nicole Senft in affiliation with Georgetown University. For more information, contact her at

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

100 year-old drainage tunnels designated as cultural assets

As the Korea Times briefly reported the other day,
The Seoul Metropolitan Government designated two underground drainage
tunnels built in the early 20th century as its cultural assets, Sunday. Pictured is a tunnel beneath Namdaemun [sic], central Seoul, which was discovered in 2012. The other tunnel is under City Hall Plaza.
Here are photos of the 394 meter tunnel beneath Namdaemun-ro (as in the street) from the Donga Ilbo:

The location of the tunnels can be seen below (marked in blue) in a map published by Aju News:

The 191 meters of tunnel under Seoul Plaza, pictured below (from the Herald Gyeongje), feature two branches which head towards Deokgusgung Palace and a main tunnel which cuts diagonally under the plaza.

To get a better idea of what it looks like to wander in the tunnels, SBS has a report here.

The tunnels were first reported on last October, as this Yonhap article notes, when the city announced that it was considering designating the two tunnels, which had been discovered between December 2012 and May 2013, as cultural properties since they were symbols of modern urban development and civil engineering. Previously tunnels under Deoksugung had been considered cultural properties, but they were included as part of the palace, and this was to be the first time such tunnels would be considered separately as cultural properties. They are thought to have been built between 1907 and 1915; the tunnel under Seoul Plaza is made of brick, with the lower half sealed with plaster/mortar, while the tunnel under Namdaemun-ro has a top half made of brick and a lower half made of concrete, which was a new material at the time.

The SBS report also notes that the city plans for the drains that were designated as cultural properties to be open to the public for free tours from October. That sounds like it would be fun.

(Hat tip to Hamel and Ami.)