The truth about the 'pleasure parties' thrown by foreign instructorsI love the 'unrelated' photo at the top of the article.
Parents tremble inside
Last summer, American foreign instructor H (24) was booked without detention for assaulting and choking a middle aged man on a bus. While H was speaking loudly with others, a middle aged man told him to shut up in English and was assaulted. For this reason, public opinion buzzed as demands for verified foreign native speaking instructors were made, but with no particular solution it soon died down.
However, on December 2, the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors' Office, arrested A (23), an Australian native speaking English instructor, for smuggling J(trillion)-018 called 'Spice,' it was announced on the 5th.
With the domestic situation in confusion, this problem has not been greatly highlighted, however parents who send their children to hagwons with foreign native speaking instructors have once again had to bury their feelings.
As the demand for native speaking instructors continues to grow, the number of foreign instructors teaching foreign languages grows as well. However, with this increase in demand, the number of problems caused by some unverified foreign native speaking instructors grows day by day. We will examine this.
At a street full of hagwons near Mok-dong Station before 10pm lines of cars wait for students. On rainy weekends in the evening one or two lanes of the street become a parking lot. It's a queue of parents waiting for their children.
This occasionally ties up traffic, but but there is no particular reaction from most of the residents who live here because most have had the same experience.
One can often see foreign native speaking instructors around the Mok-dong hagwon area. Of course, it's not just here, but in any big city across the country one can see foreign native speaking instructors without much difficulty.
However parents carry anxiety with them in a corner of their hearts. Sometimes when they hear of an incident involving drugs or assault by native speaking instructors reported in the news parents cannot conceal their worry that it might be [their child's teacher].
The deviation and illegal acts of some native speaking instructors
In fact, on December 6 I met two native speaking instructors on the subway who were drunk. Luckily it was not crowded, but they had a loud conversation with each other not caring about the others around them.
As no one was restraining their behaviour, this reporter requested, "This is a public place, please be quiet," and after looking around they wore an apologetic expression. Their voices also quickly became quiet.
It just so happened that they got off at the same stop and we walked in the same direction transferring to another line. Getting up the courage, I asked after them.
Brendan (30) was a tall Australian and native speaking instructor, and Osborn (29) was a short American.
After a short conversation with them I arranged a time to meet for an interview.
Both of them really liked Korea and said they were very embarrassed about illegal activities of some native speaking instructors.
However they hoped it was recognized that some were a little distorted.
Brandon explained that, "In truth, very few native speaking instructors commit illegal acts, but if you look at what has happened, there are many cases of it being due to misunderstandings caused by not being able to communicate or cultural differences.
Osborn complained that "You can see that things that are not [illegal at home] are illegal in Korea, and I hope we can all recognize these differences."
There are 'pleasure parties' but they are not well known.
In June 2009, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency Drug investigation unit caught 84 people including foreign instructors, university students, famous entertainers, and adult entertainment workers. They were charged with habitually taking and dealing drugs in Yeoksam and Cheongdam-dong area clubs.
Over 80 people were caught by police, but a big stir was caused by the knowledge that foreign instructors and Koreans who had studied in foreign countries had secretly brought drugs into the country.
After this, the government intensified its crackdown, and following this many of the so-called "wild parties" disappeared.
However wild parties are still taking place secretly, the two teachers told me. Of course, they never attended the parties themselves, but sometimes when socializing with other foreign instructors or foreign students in Hongdae or Itaewon they hear talk of these parties.
The two said there are problematic things about these secret parties which are sometimes thrown. However they don't know the details of the parties attended by a very secret minority.
On the other hand, most parties are not problematic and see the gathering of people who share a similar culture and who drink, chat and dance through the night, they explained.
There are cases where people get so drunk that they lose their senses and start arguments or use violence, but these people are also in the minority. In particular, Koreans find it difficult to understand foreigners who are a little more sexually open and can see them as being promiscuous, but they are all not like that, they explained.
Osborne said, "Among foreign instructors there are also people who have caused minor problems in their home countries. However there are never problems related to teaching children. People like that could not come to Korea."
He also said, "The reasons for coming to Korea are all different, but in my own way I feel pride as a person who teaches a foreign language here and gives children a chance to learn a language."
There is a need to make mandatory confirmation that one has an E-2 visa.
Last August people were shocked when Mr. Kim (38), who was a gangster in the US who was deported to Korea after serving a 10 year sentence obtained a fake degree on the internet and was hired as a native speaking instructor.
Ultimately while demand for native speaking instructors explosively increases, the biggest problem is that of hagwons hiring instructors who have not been properly verified, but in fact the fundamental problem is that there are few ways to verify the backgrounds of foreigners.
So how does one distinguish good foreign instructors from bad?
Currently there are approximately 25,000 native speaking instructors working in Korea. In order to work a native speaking instructor, they must be issued an E-2 visa.
In order to receive an E-2 visa from the ministry of justice, they must submit a criminal background check and health verification, as well as go through a consular interview. As well they have continuous in-depth verification such as blood tests to confirm whether they take drugs.
In the end, a hagwon which plans to hire a native speaking instructor absolutely needs to confirm that they have an E-2 visa. As well, parents need to investigate to see if the hagwon has verified the person through the ministry of justice.
Brandon, who teaches elementary school students, said, "Every time illegal activity by native speaking instructors emerges, parents look at us with fierce eyes." "But it would be good for them to know that most instructors come to Korea through a legitimate process.
Osborne said, "I feel bad that [teachers] are treated like lawbreakers because some cause problems like secretly throwing wild parties. However it would be good for native speaking instructors to know for certain that these acts are clearly problematic."
So let's see... the article brings up several cases from over the past few months, and seems to feel bad that one case "soon died down" (hence the need for this article, perhaps). Lamenting that "parents who send their children to hagwons with foreign native speaking instructors have once again had to bury their feelings," it states that "parents carry anxiety with them in a corner of their hearts." I'd tend to think the purpose of that statement is to be prescriptive more than descriptive.
The reporter then bumps into two (drunk, of course!) foreign teachers on the subway and stands up to their noise, shames them into being quiet, and then happens to be getting off at the same spot and asks for an interview. After a chat about conflicts caused by cultural differences, they reveal the "wild parties are still taking place secretly," but don't know much about them as they are attended by a "secret minority." This is reminiscent of the party that turned Koreans against foreign teachers during the English Spectrum incident in 2005 (an incident I plan to revisit before long), a party so secret there was an advertisement for it up on the internet beforehand, as well as plastered on the wall of the bar itself:
When photos of it (some of which are here) were found at English Spectrum (its Ask The Playboy forum organized the party), netizens frothed at the mouth in anger and formed the 'Anti' cafe that's still with us today. It's this party the article is drawing on when referring to 'secret parties,' but instead, it tells us that in June, 2009, police arrested Yeoksam and Cheongdam-dong area clubgoers for taking drugs, and that
[o]ver 80 people were caught by police, but a big stir was caused by the knowledge that foreign instructors and Koreans who had studied in foreign countries had secretly brought drugs into the country.Much like Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, but the big stir was caused by Winston Churchill being hung over that day. Hey, I can rewrite history, too!
The busts referred to above were reported on June 3, 2009, but it was the entertainers who were arrested which drew the most attention, with the media even revealing at least one of their names. That's not to say no attention was paid to the small number of foreign teachers involved.
Newsis reported that entertainer(s), native speaking teacher(s) and university student(s) were charged with smuggling and taking drugs, as did Yonhap. Another report said native speaking teachers/ instructors were arrested, while the Munhwa Ilbo wrote the most about the foreign instructor busts, saying that four native speaking instructors were arrested, giving details on one who smuggled 150 ecstasy pills from Canada for 2 million won and sold them for 80,000 won a pop in Itaewon and Gangnam clubs.
At almost the same time, photos of (mostly Korean) clubgoers at a club in Chungdam-dong were reported by Yonhap to be causing a scandal online. What was amusing is that, though only 4 or 5 photos of the 140 posted had foreigners in them, I still managed to find a Korean blog post at the time which railed against 'foreign teacher bastards with Korean women' (no complaints about the Korean guy posing with a white woman) - talk about ignoring the forest to look at the trees.
I also enjoyed the article explaining that "a hagwon which plans to hire a native speaking instructor absolutely needs to confirm that they have an E-2 visa." They also might want to confirm that they have sponsored that E-2 visa.
At any rate, the article has at least served one purpose - via this translation it lets foreign English teachers who read it "know for certain that [secretly throwing wild parties is] clearly problematic." Remember - you need to advertise your wild pleasure parties!