Monday, December 11, 2017

Foreign netizens turn on Suwon restaurant for 'blackface' caricature

[Update: I originally posted this entry based on my reading of Korea Expose's article and my noticing of the Dooly connection. Moments after posting it I read a post by a friend on Facebook who highlighted the harassment the owner of the restaurant was receiving. Not wanting to contribute to that in any way, I've altered the original post (which Google tells me was seen by 8 people) to draw attention to the way this was framed on Facebook.]

Korea Exposé has reported on a Suwon restaurant named Kkamdis Jjimdak (or "blackies jjimdak"), which, according to the owner, is the last-remaining branch of a franchise. A review of the restaurant in Korean can be found here. Attention was first drawn to the restaurant after photos of the menu, featuring the mascot below, were recently posted on Facebook.


The Facebook post in "Restaurant Buzz Seoul" reads as follows:
Ummmm...can anyone explain to me why a restaurant like this is allowed to exist? Isn't this incredibly racist? If you'd like to complain this is the number for the restaurant. [Phone number posted.] No one is asking them to close down the restaurant just remove the racist name and label. Thanks.
The photos were also uploaded at the Facebook group "Suwon Newbies" by the same person, and the post there reads as follows:
This is absolutely not acceptable! This is supposed to be a depiction of a black person for their logo. This just opened near suwon station! If you go out exit 7 and follow the road you will see it across the street. If you're in the area please go inside and let them know that this is not okay. I have recently done so. Even if the people don't know better someone should educate them. I am not one to "try and change the country" but this is unacceptable!!!!

'깜디' is a short version of  '깜뚱이' which is a derogatory word for African Americans.
So many exclamation marks!!!! Along with phone numbers, directions to the restaurant, and marching orders, which appear to have been followed, according to a friend on Facebook who contacted the store's owner, who commented on the response by the Facebook-organized netizens:
The owner of the restaurant was really scared. He said "I don't know what to do. I am so embarrassed." He said he had received a lot of threats via Facebook messenger and phone, so he deleted his Facebook account to block the disparaging comments. A reporter contacted him to get his story. He also said he didn't create the design. He just received the mural from the headquarters and applied it to his restaurant. He didn't expect that this design stir up controversy. The only thing I could do was to let him know the unfavorable post of his restaurant being unloaded in Suwon newbies. It takes a lot of time for the person who is not fluent in English, to understand what is going on in English speaking communities and compose an official apology in English.
It begs the question that has been asked since the Dog Poop Girl: When does the response to a perceived offense become worse than the original offense? The restaurant is now featured on an American website as well. (If only Korean restaurants could be more like American restaurants, right?) Responses included assertions that Koreans should know better by now, and that all the owner needs to do is change the sign. In response to the first assertion, I doubt that discussion of representations of black people seen as racist by non-Koreans has really spilled over very far beyond English-language discussions online. That this comes up frequently in these forums likely says more about their foreign users than about the degree to which it is an issue in Korean-language public discourse. As for the second assertion, a glance at the restaurant in that previously mentioned review makes it clear that not only the sign, but the tables, menus, posters, and more would need to be changed - not an easy thing for an independent business owner. Perhaps the people who are so concerned by the image could donate money to help him change the sign they find so offensive.

That the owner said the character was supposed to look like the cartoon character Dooly is interesting. Dooly, of course, is green, has no bone in his hair, and wears no loincloth. This isn't the first time Dooly has been cited as the origin of a blackface-style image, however, as I noted in this post on the history of blackface in Korea. In January 2012 an MBC show featured comedians in black face, an act that was described in an apology by the production team as a parody of Maikol, (Micheal), a character from Dooly based on Michael Jackson.


That in turn highlighted the problem with Maikol, though he was not the only one, as we can see from the characters in this Dooly clip:


The appearance of such stereotypes on a children's show suggests at least one reason why such caricatures are not considered offensive to some people in Korea, especially since they have been embedded not just in entertainment but also in dictionaries and textbooks.

While campaigns against the government or television networks to stop such practices are understandable, turning internet users against an independent business seems a bit over the top, particularly when the person who first posted this said he had already talked to the owner.

While the owner of the Kkamdis Jjimdak store was apologetic, the owner of the franchise, while disavowing any racist intentions, was less so:
"If I launched a dish called 'White Jjimdak,' all white people would throw a fit," he said over the phone. "People shouldn’t scrutinize every little thing. Foreigners who complained have an inferiority complex."
An unhelpful comment (and one reminding me of the MBC staffer's response of "why are all these foreigners making a fuss over it? Maybe because they have a guilty conscience" in response to anger over an MBC show about interracial couples in 2012), but it seems to me to be the flip side of "I am not one to 'try and change the country' but this is unacceptable!"

As for Korea Exposé citing a Hankyoreh article about a similar incident involving a restaurant, I can't think of the Hankyoreh in this context without calling to mind what is, for my money, the most racist depiction of an African I've seen in a public forum in Korea - particularly because of its 'progressive' source and because it was so unnecessary - this cartoon published by the Hankyoreh in the aftermath of Roh Moo-hyun's impeachment in March 2004, which looks at the reaction of foreign bloggers to the impeachment:


"...?" indeed. He looks about as primitive as some of those raging against peninsular racism seem to think Koreans are.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Colonial-era collaboration and the controversy surrounding Helen Kim's statue

An article titled "Controversy continues over 'treacherous' 1st Ewha President" appeared in the Korea Times a few days ago. It reports on Ewha University students who put up a sign Monday near a statue of the university's first president, Kim Hwal-ran, or Helen Kim, to draw attention to her "treacherous," "pro-Japanese" statements "under the Japanese occupation."
The students said a continued failure to remove the statue represents the shameful history the country is in the process of eradicating.

“Pro-Japanese activities are a crime that in no way can be justified under any circumstances. Many figures including Kim who committed such acts are still revered on the campuses of many universities,” they said.

Kim’s controversial remarks included, “We are now able to welcome the overwhelming joy of the long-awaited conscription. We, the women, should send our husbands and sons to the battlefield with a graceful smile.” She justified her words as "necessary in order to keep Ewha open under harsh colonial policies.”
Personally, I don't think a sign including some of a public figure's less laudable acts to give a more balanced picture is a bad thing. I doubt "balance" is what these fundamentalist students are aiming for, however. Rather than celebrating a woman who "spent 40 years at Ewha as an educator," who was "the first Korean woman to earn a Ph.D.," and the founder of the Korea Times, the students want the statue removed and one of Yu Gwan-sun put up instead. Personally, I'm surprised there isn't a statue of Yu at Ewha University (there is one at Jangchungdong Park). At the same time, despite her courage, it seems to me it's her martyrdom - her "innocent victim" status, of the sort that motivated the 2002 candlelight protests - that has been memorialized above her accomplishments. She seems more remembered for her death than her life, and replacing Helen Kim's statue with one of her would be like tearing down Horace Underwood's statue (for the third time) at Yonsei and replacing it with one of Lee Han-yeol. (Admittedly this isn't the best comparison; Lee's death, despite his presence at the protest, was more of a tragic accident; Yu organized and took part in protests, and continued to protest in prison, knowing full well the fate that likely lay in store for her.)

To give an idea of what the sign the students erected looks like, it's not the placard or banner I was expecting (from here):



There's nothing wrong with highlighting the less-than-patriotic statements of public figures, but it seems to me what Helen Kim wrote or said was not all that uncommon at the time. It really should say above that her statements were made during the Pacific War. Saying "under the Japanese occupation" creates the impression she did this for years, and not under the extraordinary conditions of total war and "imperialization" of Koreans in the Japanese Empire in the early 1940s. While there are certainly people who deserve the label "pro-Japanese" (Yi Wan-yeong, for example), others fall into a much grayer area, particularly those who made statements during the war.

Though combat never reached the peninsula (other than a few bombings), the Pacific War was still a time of suffering and difficult choices for Koreans, particularly for those drafted / coerced into the Imperial Army, labor battalions, or into becoming comfort women. Korean intellectuals and artists faced challenges throughout the colonial period, what with being educated most often in Japan but finding little chance for employment in Korea (see Chae Man-sik's story 'Ready-Made Life,' for example). During the Pacific War, however, they faced two options: to make statements or art supporting the war effort, or to not work. Some, like author Yi Tae-jun, retired to the countryside for the duration of the war (as detailed in his story 'Before and After Liberation' which is translated in On the Eve of the Uprising and other stories from colonial Korea). For most people, however, foregoing an income was not an option.

To what degree intellectuals actually supported the war effort can be hard to tell. To be sure, some people were rather genuine supporters of Japan. That younger people would have supported Japan wouldn't be too surprising, considering that generation grew up under Japanese rule. Once the war started, some who were more critical of Western imperialism may have been happy to see Japan "liberating" Asia. As described in Mark Caprio's book Japanese Assimilation Policies in Colonial Korea, 1910-1945, for example, Yun Chiho responded to the "electrifying news" of Pearl Harbor by writing in his diary, "A new Day has indeed dawned on the Old World! This is a real war of races—the Yellow against the White." For the first six months of the Pacific War, Japan was winning (and did its best to hide its subsequent losses), so it wouldn't be surprising that some would have seen Japan as the right horse to back.

To highlight their defeat at the hands of the Japanese Army, 1,000 British and Australian Prisoners of War captured in Singapore were shipped to Korea, marched through the streets of Busan, Incheon, and Seoul in late September 1942, and interned in POW camps in the latter two cities. Some POWs were ordered to labour in front of Koreans to emphasize how defeated they were. From accounts by these POWs, however, it's clear that many Koreans were sympathetic to them and did things like give them food. Even Korean POW guards shared information with them, wanted to learn English from them, or even, in one case at the end of the war, offered to give them their guns to break out of the prison camp.

British and Australian POWs marching through Pusan

Upon the arrival of the POWs in Korea, the Maeil Sinbo, the Korean-language mouthpiece of the Government General, published numerous articles about the POWs over two days. On the second day, September 26, 1942, there appeared numerous testimonials by intellectuals (some Korean, others perhaps Japanese, though since by that point most Koreans had Japanese names, it can be hard to tell). Here is one I translated:
Thinking again about the crimes of the British and Americans
Shirehara Rakujun

After the Great East Asian War our grateful citizens will always be moved by seeing in photos and newspaper articles the military exploits of the invincible imperial army, but today as we saw the POWs directly with our own eyes this deep feeling grew further and we were thankful for the efforts of the imperial army.

Now as we strive to make greater efforts to impress upon those people the spirit and power of the empire, we deeply feel that we are in the glorious position of victorious imperial subjects and will ever more firmly resolve to win.

Looking from the position of a religious person, I think again about the British and Americans when they came in the past with an overly proud attitude of arrogance, of only pretending to believe in Christianity, and also masking this.

Now they have surrendered before the righteous imperial army and the day when they must keenly feel the sins of the past has come.

Now when we face the POWs we will fulfill our duty with a solemn bearing as imperial subjects and meanwhile we will not become careless and carried away by the feeling of victory but will further strive to achieve our goal in the Great East Asian War
The Korean name of Shirehara Rakujun was Baek Nak-jun, better known as George Paik, friend of missionaries and, up to 1939, a teacher at, and then dean of, Chosen Christian College. According to this book, Paik spent much of the war under house arrest, so one assumes he wrote the above column under duress. He went on to organize Seoul National University after liberation, became president of Yonhui College and oversaw its merger with Severence Medical College in 1957 into Yonsei University, and served as Minister of Education from 1950 to 1952.

What Baek wrote (or what is attributed to him) is typical of that kind of writing that was in the Maeil Sinbo when the POWs arrived. It seemed as if the Japanese believed that by repeating mantras like "we felt ever more moved to have become imperial subjects and felt more keenly the deep desire to support the war to its end," Koreans would actually believe it. I thought Jun Uchida put it quite eloquently in her book Brokers of Empire when she spoke of "the veneer of submission that the majority of Koreans were forced to maintain under total war."

Where should Baek be placed on the scale of collaborators and nation builders? And what of Helen Kim, whose statue has so raised the ire of certain Ewha students? It's not an easy question, and is one needing careful examination of evidence, consideration of the pressure put on intellectuals and prominent Koreans in the 1940s, and the weighing of their actions before and after their statements. As Koen De Ceuster's "The Nation Exorcised: The Historiography of Collaboration in South Korea" and Don Baker's "Memory Wars and Prospects for Reconciliation in South Korea" make clear, however, the question of whether someone is guilty of collaboration is beholden to serving current political needs more than anything else.

The truth that many do not want to admit is that most intellectuals at that time made statements or created works supporting the war; it was what they had to do to continue working. Likewise, most people were forced to recite oaths of loyalty to the Japanese Empire, bow at Shinto Shrines, or to compromise in other ways. The Shinto Shrine issue proved incredibly divisive for Korean Christians, particularly when some foreign missionaries thought they should simply obey and tell themselves they were simply "looking at their shoes" when they bowed. Some did not compromise, of course, and actively stood up to Japan, facing prison or death for their efforts, but by the 1940s most of those actively resisting Japan did so outside of the country. The problem with admitting this is that it seems to allow for only exiles, or those serving prison terms at the time, to have any kind of legitimacy. That certainly seems to have been the way Kim Ku felt, as related by Mark Gayn in his book Japan Diary, about his visit to Korea in 1946:
I recalled the story of a press conference at which Kim Koo, the irreconcilable enemy of Japan and of Korean collaborators. was asked what he would do with the latter. With characteristic bluntness, Kim Koo said:

"Practically everyone in Korea is a collaborator. They all ought to be in jail."

A young adviser doubling in brass as an interpreter did not even blink. "Mr. Kim Koo says," he translated, "that it's problem to be studied carefully." [Page 433-34]
And studied carefully it has been, with a Biographical Dictionary of Collaborators (친일인명사전) listing over 4,300 people having been published in 2009 by the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities (민족문제연구소). In 2004, the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities published Colonial Korea and War Art (식민지 조선과 전쟁미술), which spent 30 pages listing Korean artists who made art "glorifying the war." It charged that these artists
beautified and supported the Japanese Empire’s foreign war of aggression, and it was a time of extreme, treasonous acts like urging [Koreans] to go as far giving their lives for the emperor and the construction of Greater East Asia. Therefore the pro-Japanese activities of a good many Korean artists which got into full swing after the [start of the] Sino-Japanese War were not just anti-national / traitorous acts, but, in regard to driving a good number of Koreans to become cannon fodder in the war of aggression, compelling their deaths, they were also war crimes. The pro-Japanese art of that time deserves to be ruled as anti-national and anti-human criminal activity. [Page 179]
Needless to say, declaring the activities of artists to be "war crimes" pulls off the neat trick of making Kim Ku's "Practically everyone in Korea is a collaborator. They all ought to be in jail" seem moderate in comparison. Kim was right to some degree, in that everyone living in Korea had to make some kind of accommodation with the Japanese, regardless of how they felt. But admitting to such complexity does not seem to make for a useful national memory of the colonial period, so it's easier to draw a line and single out a small number of "traitors" who committed the sin of not resisting Japanese rule like the rest of the nation. As Don Baker pointed out, the argument between left and right in South Korea has not been over whether to allow for more or less nuance, but where to draw the line, with the left wanting Park Chung-hee and other elites connected to authoritarian rule and jaebeols included, and the right resisting this.

With the kind of Manichean discourse quoted above, rife with terms like "anti-national," "anti-human" and "war crime," being seen as not out of the ordinary in South Korea, it's not surprising that Ewha students would want to tear down the statue of a woman who devoted 40 years of her life to their university for her "traitorous" act of making comments supporting the Pacific War, whether it was a common-enough act among intellectuals at the time or not. Returning to the Ewha protest, here is a photo of the banner the students displayed (from here):


The text in red reads "I say goodbye Hwal-ran, okay" in English, but written in Hangeul. Ignoring the rudeness of using her first name, I couldn't help take note of the English in use on the sign. This actually dovetails into a thought experiment that came to mind some time ago in regard to the question of collaboration. Namely, what would happen if North Korea took over the South and and had to deal with a population that included many, many people who had links to the Korean race's eternal enemy, the United States? Would being able to speak English be cause for suspicion? (One assumes many English loan words would be excised from the language, as South Korea's Yusin government announced it would do in 1976.) Defectors have already spoken of the North Korean military's plan to set up camps to exterminate "half breeds," but what of people who had, say, studied in the US? They might say they were just trying to improve their lot in life, that it didn't mean they had any great love for the US, but if the North Koreans used the fundamentalist logic of the Institute for Research in Collaborationist Activities, they'd be sent off to camps - or worse - with little debate. While the excuses they might make for their "collaboration" with the US - a nation that some even now declare is "occupying" Korea - might suffice to justify themselves in their own eyes, it seems such latitude is not to be extended to people faced with difficult choices more than 70 years ago. 

All things considered, the issue of collaboration is a complex one, and is part of a debate which is still very much unfinished in Korea - as I believe much related to the colonial era will continue to be, as long as the country is divided. So it might be worthy of a bit more gravity than party hats and the equivalent of shouting "Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye."

Friday, November 17, 2017

"Why can't Americans be Punished?"

The 1988 Seoul Olympics

Prologue 1: "Why can't Americans be Punished?"

Part 1:  The Seoul Olympics, 25 years later
Part 2:  The 1988 Olympics and Korean fears of AIDS
Part 3:  Americans and bad first impressions
Part 4:  Reptilian Style: The 'live-or-die general war' against Hollywood
Part 5:  An attack in a boxing ring
Part 6:  Media responses to the boxing ring incident
Part 7:  No more lion: US swimmers' 'prank' becomes 'diplomatic incident'
Part 8:  KAIST catches Big Ben
Part 9:  Hankyoreh interviews Korean witness to theft by swimmers
Part 10: Stop me if you've heard this one: Four GIs head to Itaewon in a taxi...
Part 11: Taxi-kicking US runner taken to Itaewon police box
Part 12: NBC uses the power of t-shirts to insult Korea... again
Part 13: Cultivating outrage toward America
Part 14: Politicians engage in damage control
Part 15: Heaven on Earth
Part 16: Hustler magazine tramples the purity of the Korean race 
Part 17: Stolen gold

[Update: I rendered the names of the teens below into English from their renderings in Hangeul, which were 매트니 잘스 and 오맬리 패트릭. The latter is easy enough, but I rendered 매트니 잘스 as 'Charles Mateny,' which may not be correct.

Original Post:]

Prologue 1: "Why can't Americans be Punished?"

Prior to the 1988 Olympics, the claiming of jurisdiction by Korean prosecutors in SOFA cases was an issue that had failed to garner much interest among the general public. In the summer of 1988, the Hankyoreh was mostly alone among newspapers in arguing that SOFA should be revised, especially in regard to reporting on rallies calling for the government to take jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers who had committed crimes in several cases outside Seoul that summer. On August 6, however, a spokesperson from the foreign ministry said the government was reviewing the possibility of revising the SOFA. Because issues related to jurisdiction of U.S. soldiers who committed crimes, the rights of Koreans working on U.S. bases, and cost sharing had come up at previous annual security consultative meetings with the U.S. government, various ministries planned to meet to discuss these and make recommendations to USFK. This issue began to gain traction with the public days before the Olympics, however, when the assault of a pregnant Korean woman by American teens from a US base took place in Seoul. In many ways, the Donga Ilbo, even more so than the Hankyoreh, was at the forefront of pushing left-nationalist causes at this time, and on September 5, 1988, twelve days before the Olympics, the Donga Ilbo published the following piece of agitprop article in a column called "Window":
"Why can’t Americans be punished?"
Pregnant woman battered by children of US Military 

September 3, around 8:30 am in Predelivery Room 1424 in the Joongang University Yongsan Hospital on Hangangro 3-ga, in Seoul’s Yongsan-gu. Jo Gyeong-ok (334 Han River 2 ga, Yongsan-gu) was laying in bed and crying as she thought of the infuriating and absurd thing she had gone through the night before.

Mrs. Jo's husband Im Sam-bin (37, tile worker) was at her bedside comforting her, holding his wife’s tear-streaked face in his hands.

At around 12:40 am Mrs. Jo went out by the street to wait for her husband, who was late coming home.

Mrs. Jo married Mr. Im, who is the only son of an only son, three years ago, and at last she was about 4 months pregnant with her first child.

About ten minutes after leaving the house, Cho was surprised when someone suddenly hit her cheek as they rode a bike past her. Mrs. Jo, who shouted "Why did you hit me?” was mistaken in thinking it was her fault. They heard Mrs. Jo's shout and came back on their bicycles.

Both of them were young-looking foreigners.

They began to beat Mrs. Jo. They jibbered on in English and punched and kicked her wildly but, unable to ask them in English why they were beating her, Mrs. Jo screamed.

Passersby reported it to a nearby police box but during the 10 minutes before the neighbourhood patrol arrived she had to suffer beating and taunting.

The two who were arrested and taken to the police box in front of Yongsan Station were found to be the children of American military personnel, Charles Mateny (18, high school student) and Patrick O'Malley (17, high school student). They never did explain why they slapped Mrs. Jo as they rode by on bicycles.

However, after the police contacted the main Yongsan Police Station and asked some questions, they were all sent home around 4 o'clock in the morning.

Mrs. Jo and her husband, Mr. Im, who had hurried to the station later, protested, but the police explained that they couldn’t help it because of the "Korea-US Status of Forces Agreement" [SOFA].

The explanation Mrs. Jo heard was that if they were to collect material from the police and notify the US military, they (the boys) would get punished there so it would be the same anyway, but she could not accept this.

"I don’t know what SOFA is, but they beat a Korean in Korea, so why can’t Korean courts punish them? And how should I get compensation for the mental shock my wife received?"

Her husband, unable to go to work that day, was saddened as he looked after his wife.

Reporter Kim Sang-young
In an article I posted here, it was reported that she would not miscarry. This is the incident - and most likely the very article - that turned issues related to SOFA from an esoteric topic few but activists and those near US bases cared about into an issue people could relate to: the victimization of an innocent Korean - a pregnant woman, at that - at the hands of Americans who seemed to get away without punishment, a trope which would be of great utility to activists in the decades to follow.

The media attention may have led the police to follow up on the assault, as the Donga Ilbo published the following report the next day:
Investigation launched into assault on pregnant woman, USFK kids summoned to police station

The Yongsan Police Department in Seoul has decided to directly investigate the case of the children of US military personnel, Charles Mateny (18, high school student) and Patrick O'Malley (17, high school student), who for no reason assaulted a pregnant Korean woman, and sent a summons to the US 8th Army ordering them to appear before the police within three days.

Police said it was judged that South Korea had jurisdiction over soldiers' family members under Article 22 (3) of the ROK-US SOFA, and decided to summon them for an investigation.

Article 22 paragraph 3 of the ROK-US SOFA states that the US 8th Army holds jurisdiction over active duty US military and US military property, and the ROK has jurisdiction over the families of soldiers, civilian attached to the military, and their families.

Meanwhile, as witnesses testified that they seemed to be high at the time of the assault, police intend to investigate whether they took drugs or not.
The next day, on September 9, 1988, the Donga Ilbo published a follow up which highlighted the impact of the first article:
Stir over US military kids' "assault on pregnant housewife"
US military kids' pregnant housewife assault incident

Our report in "Window" on September 5 is causing an unexpected stir. After the report on this incident our office received flood of telephone inquiries about the SOFA agreement by many readers wanting to recover their wounded national pride and scolding the insincerity and indifference of the police investigation.

The readers who called in above all expressed anger in complaining about the ROK-US SOFA. Experts also pointed out that the ROK-US SOFA is a much more unequal agreement than the "London" convention (concluded in 1951), the law on foreign military status on which it is modelled.

One reader, a 40-year-old housewife, argued that "this agreement, which was signed 22 years ago when we had to put up with inequality, should be correctly revised to fit current realities."

However, rather than the inequality of the agreement itself, what caused resentment among readers was the passive attitude of our nation's government, which from the beginning shrinks from and turns its back on incidents involving Americans, even if one of our citizens is the victim.

According to the ROK-US SOFA, domestic investigative agencies can investigate criminal cases even if they are the families of American military personnel or families of civilians attached to the military, and according to Article 22, which regulates criminal jurisdiction, there are various conditions, but generally jurisdiction over families of American military personnel or civilians, excluding soldiers, should be exercised by Korea. Even in the case of US soldiers, cases of serious crimes such as murder, robbery, and rape must also be brought before Korean courts.

In spite of these regulations, there are many cases when our side gives up jurisdiction while the case is in the hands of the police and the prosecution, and jurisdiction is passed on to the US military.

The fact is, in the past year, of 835 cases involving Americans the Seoul District Prosecutor's office received, 196 cases involved crimes by military family members, but the number of these cases prosecuted by our nation’s prosecutors amounted to no more than twelve.

In fact, in the case of this incident, even though as a matter of course the police should have started an investigation immediately after the incident, one gets the impression that the belated issuing of a subpoena to the young Americans who committed assault is due to the pressure of public opinion.

A 50 year-old reader said, "Although it is an unequal agreement, it is sadaejuui-type thinking for us to abandon even the right to exercise [jurisdiction] as a matter of course." Kim, a 26 year-old graduate student, said, "Acknowledging that there is a positive aspect of the role the US has played in our country since liberation, we should also re-establish our position now by asking the question "What is America to us?"

Reporter Kim Sang-young
One has to chuckle at the Reporter Kim's description of the furor following his first article as an "unexpected stir" when that was pretty clearly the hoped-for response to it. Criticism of the "sadaejuui-type thinking" in regard to Americans appeared the next day when a letter was written to the Donga Ilbo and printed with the title "The humiliation of the US Army kids’ assault on Korean pregnant women; If we can’t punish it, are we not a colony?"

It's the phrase about readers wanting "to recover their wounded national pride" that stood out for me the first time I read this article, however. How wonderful and evocative is that phrase? During the previous year or so the liberalization of the economy, particularly of beef and cigarettes (see the articles here) had angered farmers, and students and farmers' groups held protests, criticizing the government's "renunciation of sovereign rights" and distributed leaflets reading, "Those who smoke foreign-brand cigarettes are sellers of national self-respect." And when United International Pictures (UIP) began doing an end run around Korean film companies by directly distributing its films in Korea during the Olympics, one director said that UIP's dealings demonstrated "a high-handed attitude to the disregard of the Korean people," while another said "UIP's 'sneaking' infiltration is a fatal blow to our pride." The need to recover national pride vis-a-vis the US would become a theme in media coverage throughout the Olmypics, helping spread anger at the US from students and farmers to the population at large.

As reported in a September 19, 1988 Joongang Ilbo article, the United Korea Women's Association gave a statement the day after the Olympics began denouncing the attack by US military teens against the pregnant Korean woman and criticized the "special privileges" of the US military, citing a government statistic that out of 15,000 crimes committed by US soldiers in the past decade, the Korean government had exercised jurisdiction in less than one percent of the cases. As well, they called for the perpetrators' parents and the US Ambassador to publicly apologize to Korea citizens, a speedy and fair investigation and punishment by government authorities, and "revision of the unequal SOFA." They also declared that it "wasn't simply an assault, but a reflection of Americans' tendency to look down on Koreans." This tendency would be highlighted by the media throughout the Olympics, influencing a growth in anti-Americanism that would influence government policy after the Olympics, particularly in regard to the SOFA.

[For an archive of SOFA-related documents, see here.]

Monday, November 13, 2017

A one-sided depiction of the ROK-US alliance and SOFA

Last week an op-ed titled "Is South Korea’s Alliance with the United States Worth It?" by Se-woong Koo, best known for running Korea Expose, appeared in the New York Times. As a piece meant to educate American readers about negative effects the alliance has had on Koreans, it succeeds, but at the cost of being rather one-sided. On the one hand, well, yes, it's an op-ed, and op-eds tend to lean in one direction over another. As well, there's often not a lot of space, so it's not difficult for nuance to get lost. And more material could have been excised by an editor. Still, it seems to play the victimization note a little too consistently to suggest that wasn't the intent.

The introduction based around a personal anecdote is an effective and interesting beginning. It is noted that "South Korea’s relationship with the United States started as one of dependency," which is a good point - though more important might be the fact that a large number of educated people then, and still, feel ashamed by this. For millennia, societies the world over have adopted aspects of the culture or social organization of more powerful states they hoped to influence, but Koreans - North and South - have turned the Korean term describing this - Sadaejuui - into an epithet, which reflects both shame at dependency as well as a desire to overcome that shame. In fact, the thesis of the article - "when that partner turns ungrateful, and even unreliable, it is time to question the idea that the alliance is sacrosanct" - is not a new one. One only need look at the rhetoric critical of the US in the Korean news media during the 1988 Olympics, couched as it was in the need to "recover wounded national pride," to see anger lashed out at an "ungrateful" or "disrespectful" guest. Such criticism of the "erosion of South Korea’s sovereign spirit" had been alive and well for decades, at least in some circles. Reading news reports from the 1950s and 1960s makes clear that more than a few Koreans have long chafed at the US military presence here, and frustration has boiled over periodically throughout the entire length of the alliance (as well as due to the presence of Americans here generally, for example during the Haysmer apple incident in 1926).

Mention is also made of Korea being compelled to contribute soldiers to America’s wars, but all we read of are 5,000 Korean dead and Agent Orange exposure, making it sound like an unmitigated loss for Koreans rather than the huge shot in the arm it was to Korea's economy (right down to the village level due to soldiers sending money home). Much as the Korean War had provided Japan with an opportunity for economic recovery after the destruction of the Pacific War, the Vietnam War (and the normalization of relations with Japan) provided Korea with a means to develop its economy.

As for the withdrawal of US troops leading to less "psychological dependen[ce] on a foreign army," this may well be true, though at their heart, both Koreas' feelings of 'national inadequacy' stem from the condition of Korea's division. And while Germany's leader may be able to say "We Europeans have to take our destiny into our own hands," Germany is in a rather different situation than Korea, with a rather different set of neighbours. One reason to be wary of the withdrawal of US troops is precisely because that is what North Korea has always wanted, and still continues to want as a precursor to the unification of peninsula under North Korean control, as Brian Myers and others have argued. This goes back decades, and the message is most intelligible for non-Korean readers in the pro-North Korea propaganda of the American-Korean Friendship Information Center based in New York in the early 1970s. Links to their material can be found here, though this blurb from their magazine Korea Focus makes things clear enough (from Vol. 1, No. 1, page 58):


Withdrawal of US troops might sound like a good idea in theory. In practice, I'm not so sure.

What I found especially one-sided was this:
Then there is the Status of Forces Agreement, signed between the two nations in 1966 and renewed twice. It has been understood to grant the United States military nearly exclusive jurisdiction over its personnel, such that even high-profile offenses committed by American soldiers against South Korean citizens go unpunished.

One of the most heinous examples happened in 2002 when an American military vehicle ran over two middle-school students, crushing them to death. The perpetrators were shielded from South Korean authorities and a United States military court dismissed the case.
The "It has been understood" part is rather weaselly, in that this perception by the Korean people, encouraged by citizens groups and the media, is mostly incorrect (especially since 1988 and even more so since the 2000s). In not saying so, however, it conveys to American readers that this one-sided "understanding" is factual. The idea that the "United States military [has] nearly exclusive jurisdiction over its personnel, such that even high-profile offenses committed by American soldiers against South Korean citizens go unpunished" better applies the pre-SOFA days (or perhaps to its first 20 years) rather than the present.

SOFA first came into effect on February 9, 1967. Below are some Korea Times articles from that year about SOFA cases (some are hard to make out, unfortunately). The first is from February 11, two days after SOFA came into effect:


Just because the case could be subject to Korean jurisdiction didn't mean Korean prosecutors pursued the case, however, especially since they would have been rather busy, what with 122 crimes committed by US soldiers in the first month, as this March 10 article relates:


As it says above,
The 122 "offenses" reported to the ministry include 36 assault cases, 40 accidental homicide and injury cases involving traffic accidents, and 28 traffic law violation cases. The ministry statistics said that 35 of the 122 cases were turned over to U.S. military investigation authorities. Korean authorities earlier decided to turn all minor offenses over to U.S. authorities and to handle only "important" cases. 
The first soldier to be indicted by Korean prosecutors was Billy Cox, who was charged on March 29, 1967, as this June 20 article relates.


A second soldier was subject to Korean jurisdiction two months later, as this May 23 article relates:


Korean authorities tended to prosecute only serious crimes, particularly murder, arson, and rape, while leaving assaults to USFK authorities. A comment by a Seoul prosecutor in a November 2, 1988 Stars and Stripes article, after the Olympics, indicates again that there was an element of choice in not prosecuting every case:
While the U.S. ROK Status of Forces Agreement gives South Korea primary jurisdiction in incidents involving American troops outside U.S. bases, [Seoul Prosecutor] Yoo [Sang-su] said authorities "have waived that jurisdiction in the past." "The national consciousness toward American troops in Korea has changed, however, and it is time we begin exercising a wider scale of jurisdiction," he said.
Needless to say, the idea that off duty American soldiers were out of reach of Korean authorities is an exaggeration, to say the least, and the post-1988 "exercising [of] a wider scale of jurisdiction" was directly tied to attempts to recover national pride and a change in "national consciousness" after the Olympics.

As for the use of the word "heinous" to describe the 2002 traffic accident - a word with synonyms like "odious, wicked, evil, atrocious, monstrous, abominable, detestable, contemptible, reprehensible, despicable" - this makes rather clear the bias of the author, since it gives the impression that there was malice aforethought in the running over of the two girls, when accounts by those who were there make clear it was an accident. A narrative of Korean victimization at the hands of unpunishable Americans - the standard SOFA narrative since 1988 - drove thousands into the streets for the first, avowedly "non-political," candlelight protests, which have been a means for expression of the national will ever since.

What can be troubling for the US military is the way in which incidents involving alcohol can turn into mob scenes - such as during the 1988 Olympics [here and here], the 1995 subway incident, or the 2004 Sinchon stabbing incident - and the way in which these incidents have been politicized, with the prosecution altering charges for political reasons, particularly to appease public anger. According to ROK Drop, after the 2004 Sinchon stabbing incident, "The soldier was at first charged with simple battery since he was trying to protect himself, but due to all the misinformation in the media the charges were upgraded to attempted murder." A firsthand account by that soldier makes clear just how terrifying the mob scene he got caught up in was, but also how fairly the judge treated him:
[T]he judge told me he would give me a self defense sentence which was typically 2+ years… even though I was convicted of attempted murder. Basically the conviction was to appease the people of S. Korea, and the sentence was relative to a "self defense with a deadly weapon" conviction in that country. The judge was truly fair to both parties in that aspect.
His sentence gives hope that judges have the ability to fairly deal with biased prosecutions. Needless to say, there's a lot complexity involved in the SOFA issue, far from the black and white way in which it is often portrayed. Such simplistic formulations involving victimized Koreans obscure more than they illuminate, and do a disservice to one's readers.


Above I made mention of how a narrative of Korean victimization at the hands of unpunishable Americans has been the standard SOFA narrative since 1988. I've translated a key article from that time and posted it here.

Monday, October 02, 2017

From 2006: A parade of lascivious foreign teachers; or, They shoot Canadians, don't they?

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

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

Part 2: Low-quality native speaking instructors: 'Korean women give us money and are sex partners'

On either August 17 or August 13, 2006 (note the two different dates below), the tabloid weekly Inside Story, or BreakNews in its online edition, published its second article on the evils of foreign English teachers, with a particular focus on Canadian evildoers. The top right half of the paper's front page is dedicated to promoting the article:




The article is supposed to be here, but the link no longer works. Luckily, the next article in the series - at least at its website - reprints the article in its entirety for some reason. It was also reprinted at Anti English Spectrum, where I got the photos.

It should be noted that all of the BreakNews articles mention the informant Mr Kim (or Mr. K) and/or Anti-English Spectrum. In a November 2006 BreakNews article, Mr. K also made comments, and is described as "Low quality native speaking teacher deportation site manager Mr. K," suggesting this is a pseudonym for AES head Lee Eun-ung. Two days before that article appeared, an older BreakNews article was reposted at Anti-English Spectrum, and in the comments, members thanked 'Mr. Kim'. 'M2' - the ID of Lee Eun-ung, the manager and public face of the site - coyly wrote "I'm curious about Mr. Kim;..." Regular poster 'jasminhyang' later wrote in a comment "the first letter of Mr. Kim's nickname is 'm'." There is a blurred photo below of Mr. Kim. It can be compared to this photo originally published in the LA Times in 2010 (though it is no longer on the site):


For all the sensationalism and one-sideness of the article, it's a reminder that the negative stereotype of foreign English teachers which developed with the help of such articles didn't come from out of nowhere.

-----------------------

Low-quality native speaking instructors: “Korean women give us money and are sex partners”

[The Inside Story’s exclusive, part 2]

Foreign English instructor blacklist

Reporter Sin Yeon-hui


In the Inside Story’s 430th issue, the in-depth article "Foreign instructors earn money, are ‘absorbed in decadence,’ women and drugs" reported on the shocking reality of some foreign English teachers in Korea who are stained with illegality/crime and decadence. After that report, netizens who criticized such low foreign instructors or who claimed to be victims of them denounced them one after the other in the discussion rooms and bulletin boards of this newspaper’s internet edition, Break News.

In addition, information on foreign instructors flooded in. Mr. Kim (37), who has been taking measures against low-grade foreign instructors, said the illegal employment and decadent behavior of foreign instructors are far worse than has been made known through media reports, and he tipped off this paper about shocking victimization cases and the low-grade foreign instructor blacklist.

On August 2 this reporter met Mr. Kim, who knows better than anyone about the English Spectrum Incident, and interviewed him.

'Hello ... Please punish the bad guys who are blind to their own mistakes while smoking marijuana and who denigrate Korean women. I know the academy that he works for. Please tell me how to report it.' 'I've seen foreign English instructors smoke marijuana a lot, and I think it should not spread. I've heard stories of them buying marijuana in Itaewon.'

These are just some of the tips that Mr. Kim has received. In the meantime, many of the women who have complained that they suffered at the hands of low-grade foreign instructors were school or hagwon students. Recently, however, these instructors have been using pen pal sites to introduce themselves as English language instructors and attract women online, he disclosed.

Approaching [women] through pen pal sites

According to Miss A, a woman shared the story of meeting a foreigner who is a native speaking instructor at the provincial K University via a pen pal site, this English instructor, as well as his friends, of course, have at least two Korean girlfriends. They said that Korean girls are generous with money and sleep with them, and that they make the best girlfriends.

Another woman, Miss B, said, "A foreign instructor I became friends with on a pen pal site is dating a female Korean instructor who works at the same institute. The woman is responsible for paying his share, and he is dating the female instructor as a sex partner."

According to Miss B, beyond the 4 million won a month he earns at the hagwon, the foreign instructor earns a lot of money from private lessons and so has a high monthly income.

Among the things that a victimized Korean woman reported to Mr. Kim about a foreign instructor she met on the 'xxx Love' site, one of the many sites for chatting with foreign instructors, one message he sent to the woman while chatting stood out: "To be frank, I am in Korea for sex and money. If you don't have either why come here?” Obviously, it was shocking.

The case of the woman Miss C was even more terrible. Miss C dated a Canadian foreign instructor and became pregnant but had an abortion and even thought about suicide. What was especially shocking was that the foreign instructor was famous for appearing on a TV program.

Miss C, learning she was pregnant, worried he would be even more surprised and agonized, but when she told him his reaction was, "It is just an egg," and said curtly, "Get an abortion, but I can't pay for it."

"When I was on the operating table the doctor asked why I was crying. Was I crying because I was sad, because I was nervous, because I'd taken anesthesia? I just said that I was nervous. I felt horrible, wondering how I had come to this," Miss C said, pouring out her miserable feelings from that time.

"Now I don't believe in God. During the months I suffered pain due to my baby, he was performing on TV, tutoring, and lecturing at a hagwon. If there is a God, if the life given to me is 60 year, it would be good to die at 50, I want him to die. If I commit suicide one day, I will do it on August 21, the day I aborted my child," Miss C lamented, and worried that this instructor might victimize another Korean woman.

Mr. Kim explained that instances in which women become pregnant while dating a foreign instructor are common. He disclosed the story of Miss L, who was abandoned and attempted suicide after finding out she was pregnant while dating a foreign instructor.

After graduating from junior college, Miss L began working and while attending a foreign language academy met and dated a Canadian instructor but they broke up. The instructor was soon dating a Korean female student in another class but after breaking up Miss L found out she was pregnant.

Miss L's friend met the foreign instructor and demanded he take responsibility for the abortion surgery, but all he said, coldly, was "We once had feelings for each other and I have no responsibility.”

Miss L, who experienced betrayal and pregnancy from her first love at a young age, is struggling to cope day by day with suicidal impulses.

Miss D, who dated a native speaking professor at A university, said, "The professor is dating several women. If this becomes known, he has a habit of using violence, like throwing furniture at the woman he is dating."

He has been charged with assault by police several times, but the foreign professor only paid hundreds of thousands of won in fines and as this is not grounds to divest him of his professorship he is still working at D University.

Miss E, who currently resides in Japan, had an experience while working for a while in Korea.

"As I’' been in a foreign country for a long time and all my friends had married and lived far away, I felt a little lonely. Then I came to know the 'xxx Love' site on a certain portal site, and as I was lonely and wanted to find a pen pal there and write them letters, I joined it,” and in this way became friends with a Canadian living in Korea.

Since Miss E was also an expat, they shared their stories about life abroad and became acquainted, and she learned that he was a famous English instructor who had appeared on TV.

However, once they had become acquainted, he revealed his true colors and made sexual demands of Miss E. She said he was so explicit, especially when they were chatting together, that it is hard to express in words.

Miss E said that while she had a [preconceived] image of Korean people and just tried to move beyond it, he said, 'You are not a child. I want to teach you many things. I do not like nuns," all while continuously hitting on her.

In addition to the TV program, the foreign instructor also appeared on a New Year's special and went to parties every week. "Fortunately, I was not directly victimized, but I was sexually harassed several times, and the problem in particular was that the foreigner did not think of Korean women as people but simply as sex partners," worried Miss E.

Mr. Kim pointed out that the number of Korean women who are victimized after meeting foreign instructors online in the manner mentioned above is increasing rapidly.

According to Mr. Kim, what is worse is that a link to an obscene site containing images of Korean women there can be found at the pen pal site, which, he said angrily, leads to even further debasement of Korean women by low-grade foreign instructors.

This can be seen at 'Xxxlove, repuxxxx.xxxx.com, and oreanxxx.xxxx.com', and these sites are still running, he said. And in some cases, links to the pen pal site are exchanged at the obscene sites.

Alcoholic instructors abound

 Informant Mr. Kim

Mr. Kim pointed out that there are still plenty of job postings for unqualified foreigners at the native speaking instructor job search site English Spectrum, and that there is an urgent need for authorities to strengthen the qualifications for foreign instructors.

Mr. Kim said the fact is some corporate-type English hagwons find out that foreign instructors have criminal records or are alcoholics and hire them anyway, and some smaller hagwons have stopped the formality of recruitment screenings, making it easy for low-grade foreign instructors to be hired.

In fact, at an English hagwon in Daegu, an instructor was found to be an alcoholic, arousing criticism. His family in his home country said his alcoholism was so serious he should be hospitalized and asked around about his whereabouts. The instructor in question was reported to be working again as a hagwon instructor in another area.

Foreign instructors are required to obtain an E-2 visa, which is an English conversation instructor visa, in order to teach English in Korea. After the English Spectrum Incident in 2005, the qualification requirements for E-2 visas were somewhat strengthened so that in addition to diplomas, transcripts have to submitted, and a fake document detection system has also been established.

According to Mr. Kim, one can be relieved that currently steps are being developed so that at least foreigners working as assistant teachers in Seoul elementary and middle school can be said to be in the top 30%.

Mr. Kim said, "I do not want only foreigners to be unconditionally chosen as instructors. Korean English instructors with English ability are also acceptable enough. Finland and Sweden are now investing heavily in their English language teachers, so students in Northern Europe are not hindered in their English communication due to their local English teachers who have improved their English skills." "If even half of the budget to bring foreign teachers were invested in Korean English instructors, quality education could be provided to students," he emphasized.

In order to prevent the mass occurrence of secondary and tertiary victims by drawing attention to the harm caused by low-grade foreign English instructors, Anti-English Spectrum, who were introduced through an article in this newspaper, has launched a movement to distribute 5,000 flyers in Hongdae, where there are lots of clubs, and at girls’ high schools and women’s universities, as well as to send petitions to authorities such as the immigration office and to senior officials. They are also launching an online campaign to expel low-grade foreign instructors which aims for 10,000 signatures.

Meanwhile, the Korean Native Speaking Instructor Recruiting Association has published a blacklist of 17 unqualified foreign instructors with profiles and reasons for their ineligibility. The reasons for their being blacklisted were things such as many midnight runs, disappearing after receiving their salary, student molestation, theft, and document forgery.

Friday, September 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Nongae, we miss you."

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

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

--------------------

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

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

Reporter Sin Yeon-hui

[Shadows of the English craze]

Is Korea a paradise for illegal sojourner foreign instructors?


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoying drugs and lewd, decadent parties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excessive treatment, students' harm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Does anyone remember Watch Your Head?

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


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

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


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

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