Extra! Korea

June 4, 2011

Students suspected of sexually assaulting classmate on “school field trip” (Membership Training?)

Filed under: crime, drinking, education, gender equality, youth — extrakorea @ 9:40 am

Three medical students of Korea University have been accused of molesting, taking indecent photographs of, and raping a female classmate. The alleged sexual assault took place during what has been described as a “school trip” and a “field trip.” I’m assuming that it’s what’s called an “MT” in South Korea, an acronym for “Membership Training.” (No actually “training” goes on at these trips –more like games, drinking, chatting, drinking …) I’ve written before about sexual assaults on MTs, as has the Grand Narrative blog. Also, in the comments thread of this blog post, someone asked

Have you ever heard of a sexual assault on a Korean University campus?

to which a commenter by the username of Darth Babaganoosh responded

Yep. Happens all the time at events such as MT. Just because it’s not reported to the police or in the newspaper doesn’t mean people on campus don’t talk.

Harrassment, sex-for-grades, the occasional assault… they all buzz about campus. They’re open secrets. People know, but don’t say anything.

And incidents do find their way into the newspapers. For example

Freshmen at Sejong have University complained that they had to participate in an inappropriate game during a department’s welcoming party last February.

According to students who attended, some games went too far to the extent they felt humiliated. One game had them compete in making the most sexual pose they could come up with, while others also included sexual pranks.

I don’t know how widespread this kind of thing is, but I think it’s fair to assume that for every incident that makes it into the newspapers, there are many that don’t.

May 10, 2011

(Updated) Short schoolgirl skirts to cost 820 million won of new desks

Filed under: education, rapid cultural change, youth — extrakorea @ 2:34 pm

While students at Korean middle schools and high schools are still required to wear uniforms, dress codes have been relaxed in recent years. Students are now allowed to wear running shoes, and regulations regarding hairstyles are not as strict as before.

Another effect has been that schoolgirls have been shortening their skirts, a subject that I and other bloggers have written about before.

The Gangwon Province Office of Education has cooked up a brilliant scheme to deal with this problem. They will spend 820 million won on new desks that will be specially-constructed so as to hide the schoolgirls’ legs.


First of all, this ignores the fact that if these schoolgirls are going to dress like this in class, then they are going to dress at least this provocatively off school grounds. Hasn’t anyone thought about what potential problems this might cause?

Secondly, the teachers are ignoring the fact that these schoolgirls seem to think that dressing in revealing clothes is “cool,” “empowering,” “stylish,” or something else that’s equally wrongheaded.

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who’s thinking, “We are authority figures, and for the sake of our students, we should act like it.”

But the Korean Federation of Teachers Association (KFTA) denounced the move, arguing it is a waste of money and a proper guideline is rather required to promote longer skirt lengths.

“What we need is to promote longer skirt lengths by adopting stricter dress codes,” said Kim Dong-seok, a spokesman for the KFTA. “The education office is now neglecting its duty to properly educate students.”


The BBC has picked up the story (Hat Tip to Gusts of Popular Feeling).

I think that the BBC might have been slightly mistaken when they ran the caption with the photo below.

The trend for short school skirts is well established in Japan

As far as I know, when Japanese schoolgirls are in class, they have to wear their skirts long. However, once they leave school grounds, they hike them up. They’ve honed it to a science, with folding techniques and even velcro.

Regarding the situation in Korea, Chris in South Korea correctly pointed out that 820 million won (about $700,000 or £427,000) could be put to many good educational uses.

October 28, 2010

Teacher fired for sexually harassing his students taught, of all things, ethics

Filed under: crime, education, youth — extrakorea @ 9:43 am

The Korea Times brings us the story of a high school teacher who was fired for sexually harassing his own students.

According to the school, a 29-year-old teacher of ethics with the family name Song at a girls’ high school in Jongno, central Seoul, called in a 16-year-old student to the teachers’ room around the end of August and forced her to touch his body.

Furthermore, he has also sent obscene text messages to another student, saying, “Let’s go to a motel” and “Come to my home as my wife is out.” The teacher is also alleged to have sent pictures of his lower body to the student’s e-mail recently.
A group of students who found out about this ugly behavior strongly protested, but Song denied any unethical behavior, according to the school.

Last Friday, the school organized an in-house fact-finding team to investigate the case, while relieving him of his post as homeroom teacher.

“The investigation team confirmed Song had sent such text messages and pictures to the student.”

[ snip ]

The female student unfortunately dropped out of school.

The guy taught, of all things, ethics. You cannot make this stuff up. And it’s a damn shame that the student dropped out of school because of this scumbag. Now I’m wondering two things:

1. Will this man be charged with a crime, because it sure looks like he should be.

2. If he is not (!), will he be prevented from ever teaching again, or will he be simply shuffled off to another school?

October 14, 2010

Holy crap! A Korean newspaper printed a correction and apology!

Filed under: (lack of) journalistic integrity, education, expatriates — extrakorea @ 7:02 am

You might recall that Brian (formerly) in Jeollanam-do and Gusts of Popular Feeling wrote posts about the wildly divergent statistics cited by Korean newspapers when describing the number of native English teachers in Korea who quit. Since some of them contradicted each other, some were clearly inaccurate.

If you don’t live in Korea, you might be unaware of the fact that Korean newspapers, unlike their western counterparts, never print retractions even when they are clearly wrong. At least, they didn’t, until I read something in the Hankyoreh that knocked me out of my seat and onto my back.

The Hankyoreh English Online Edition published a News Briefing entitled “Over half of native English teachers quit job after six months, Education Ministry says” on Sept. 30.

Due to both a misinterpretation of the both data and source of the report, the article erroneously stated that up to 66 percent of native English teachers in public schools, while the number of teachers quitting is in fact less than 5 percent.

[ snip ]

We would like to issue an apology for our mistake and our late correction, and look forward to more active responses, comments and participation of readers of the Hankyoreh’s English Online Edition.

Wow. I mean, wow. I guess Brian, Gusts o’ Feelings, and the Hankyoreh all deserve standing ovations.

Kang Shin-who, who’s the man now?

July 13, 2010

Konglish-teaching robot is an epic FAIL

Filed under: education, idiots, languages, technology — extrakorea @ 9:35 am

The New York Times brings us the story of Engkey, a robot with a Konglish name.

Enter Engkey, a teacher with exacting standards and a silken voice. She is just a little penguin-shaped robot, but both symbolically and practically, she stands for progress, achievement and national pride.

She won’t stand for progress or achievement if she’s a failure.

“Not good this time!” Engkey admonished a sixth grader as he stooped awkwardly over her. “You need to focus more on your accent. Let’s try again.”

“Accent”? We all have an accent; which one depends upon where we’re from. While “accent” can also mean “stress” (as in syllable, not syllable), the word “stress” is used more often, especially in pronunciation text books. And also, what is the student saying wrong? A good teacher should be able to give feedback so that the student knows what they’re doing wrong and can self-correct.

Engkey, a contraction of English jockey (as in disc jockey), is the great hope of Choi Mun-taek, a team leader at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology’s Center for Intelligent Robotics.

So that’s why the robot has a Konglish name.

“How can I help you today?” Engkey said.

“Do you have any fruits on sale?” the student said.

“Wow! Very good!” Engkey exulted. She sounded a fanfare, spun and raised her left arm for a high-five. A screen on her chest showed stars grading the student.

Uh, Engkey? How about actually answering the student’s question (e.g. “Yes, apples are 20% off today.”)?

Still, Engkey has a long way to go to fulfill her creators’ dream. The robot can help students practice only scripted conversations and is at a loss if a student veers off script, as Yang did during the demonstration.

“I love you,” the boy said to appease Engkey after he was chastised for a bad pronunciation. Engkey would have none of it; it was not in her programmed script.

“You need to work on your accent,” the robot repeated.

So the robot responds to everything that’s not in its programming with the same stock answer? It responds to grammatical errors, incomplete sentences, inappropriate responses, etc., with the same criticism of the student’s pronunciation? That is so inadequate as to be almost criminal.

And anyone who’s worked with kids, or even just has been a kid, can see where this could go.

* * *

Engkey: How can I help you today?

Student: I’m just looking, thanks.

Engkey: You need to work on your accent.

Student: There’s nothing wrong with my accent.

Engkey: You need to work on your accent.

Student: You not a very smart robot, are you?

Engkey: You need to work on your accent.

* * *

Actually, one kid was thinking exactly the same thing as I.

When Yang said, “I don’t like apples” instead of “I love apples,” as he was supposed to, Engkey froze. The boy patted her and said, “Hello, are you alive or dead?”

And look at this public relations spin:

Even though they are little more than fancy toys, experts say, these robots prepare children for a fast-approaching robotic future.

If they “are little more than fancy toys,” as they admit, then how do they prepare children for the future? You prepare kids through education, and toys don’t educate.

Here is the most damning bit:

An independent evaluator of the trial noticed that Engkey required the constant presence of a technical operator.

If it requires the constant presence of a technical operator, then that means that there has to be two people working the classroom, just like now. The only difference is that instead of two teachers, there’s a teacher and a robot operator, which brings me to something earlier in the article:

Over the years, this country has imported thousands of Americans, Canadians, South Africans and others to supplement local teachers of English. But the program has strained the government’s budget, and it is increasingly difficult to get native English speakers to live on islands and other remote areas.

Since you will still need two people who will have to be paid, then how do these robots help ease the supposed strain on the government’s budget? Instead of paying a foreign teacher, you’ll be paying a Korean robot operator. This reminds me of a great quote by a guy (his username was Billybrobby) who used to post on Dave’s esl cafe (before it became pretty much useless).

“It’s no coincidence the Japanese and Koreans are working hard on building robots now. Their aversion to co-existing with people from other countries is so great that they’d rather co-exist with robots.”

Here’s a honest evaluation:

“Engkey has a long way to go if it wants to avoid becoming an expensive yet ignored heap of scrap metal at the corner of the classroom,” said Ban Jae-chun, an education professor at Chungnam National University.

You said it.

Dr. Choi said his team was racing to improve the robot’s ability to recognize students and to discern and respond to a student’s voice amid noise. It is also cramming Engkey with more conversational scenarios.

That’s all? How about programming Konglishbot to respond to not respond to grammatical errors with admonitions about the student’s pronunciation?

This all reminds me of this teacher’s comment:

I’m currently teaching in South Korea (and yes, there are always job openings… though less than usual, with the recession on). I teach at two public elementary schools, one of which is on the extreme outskirts of the city and only has 46 students. For some reason, this tiny school got an English robot called the Cybertalker, which uses voice recognition and some kind of face recognition to tailor pre-made conversations to students. The only time I’ve seen the thing turned on was in the frantic lead up to a school inspection, when my English classes were cancelled in favour of registering all the students in the system and trying to make it perform for the school board officials. Even with days of practice, the students couldn’t make it respond – even the almost fluent teachers couldn’t make it recognize their English. These are the crappiest teaching robots in existence. A Speak and Spell would be more useful.

Read the blog post by Brian that I got this from. It has a lot of information, links, and thought.

This makes me think of a post that I saw over at the ROK Drop blog regarding how to make an efficient army. (What follows is a paraphrase from my recollection, so it could be very inaccurate.). The priorities should be: training, then leadership, then fancy equipment, not the other way around. Give fancy guns to poorly-trained soldiers, and they’ll panic when they’re under fire, rendering the fancy toys almost useless. By contrast, give mediocre guns to well-trained solders, they’ll keep cool under fire, know what to do, and do it. In the same way, give fancy toys to poorly-trained (or untrained) teachers, and they’ll just waste the students’ time in an amusing way with lots of bells and whistles. Give a well-trained teacher something that’s not so sexy (e.g. textbooks), and they’ll be good to go. Unfortunately, the Korean public school system is trying to save money by letting go or hesitating to hire the most-qualified foreign teachers, and keeping, hiring, and seeking the least-qualified foreign teachers. Back-asswards.

June 21, 2010

Why schools can’t teach creativity: parents

Filed under: education, idiots — extrakorea @ 3:34 am

Kim Jin-sung was a professor at Korea University until he resigned and became the principal of Hana Academy Seoul, with the grand vision of creating a learning environment that was unique in that it would do more that just emphasize rote-memorization. In addition to normal lessons, the student participate in extracurricular activities (such as learning musical instruments and playing sports) and volunteer work.

“These extracurricular activities are designed to harmonize students’ physical, cultural, ethical and intellectual qualities,” said Kim Jin-sung, principal of Hana, who came to the school after resigning as a professor at Korea University with the vision of establishing an elite institution like Eton in Korea. “The ultimate goal is to make Hana Academy Seoul an outstanding educational institution that does not only focus on college admissions.”

Unfortunately, he’s run into a snag: parents.

“Enhancing creativity is good, but how can our children get into elite universities if they don’t study as much as other high school students?” a parent asked Kim Seung-yu, the founder of Hana Academy Seoul, at a parent-teacher conference held on May 24. “If our children don’t get admissions to prestigious universities from doing too many extracurricular activities, who will be responsible?”

June 19, 2010

Kang Shin-who reports 3-month-old news about Kim Yu-na’s Fs

Filed under: education, media irresponsibility, sports — extrakorea @ 12:28 pm

Reporter Kang Shin-who, a favorite of Brian and other expatriates, does a write-up on how champion figure skater Kim Yu-na received two failing grades from Korea University. Hmmm … that sounds familiar.

(from the Korea Herald)

April 7, 2010

Another phrase you can’t use in class anymore: “She’s gone.”

Filed under: education, languages, music, youth — extrakorea @ 1:04 pm

As Brian (formerly) in Jeollanam-do has noted, once an English phrase has been used by K-pop artists, it ceases to be a tool of communication, and becomes an instrument of triggering widespread epileptic seizures in the majority of your students. Examples: “Please tell me the answer,” and, “Try it one more time.”

One of my students decided to disappear during break time. Despite the fact that I am a foreigner (and therefore stupid), I noticed. Pointing to the vacant desk, I asked the girl whom she had been sitting next to:

“She’s gone?”

Cue mass hysterics.

It’s a song by G-dragon. It’s not one of his big hit singles, but it’s gained notoriety for being accompanied by, at his concert, a video in which he stalks and murders some girl.

Actually, the song itself is pretty decent. Unlike most Korean rappers, he doesn’t do the staccato monotone that I dislike so much. And if you read the translated lyrics, you can see that he’s trying to have a kind of Eminem’s Stan-style twist at the end.

March 24, 2010

Korean becomes first foreigner at Tokyo University’s medical school

Filed under: education — extrakorea @ 1:47 pm

A South Korean student, Kim Yae-kang, has become the first foreign national to enter Tokyo University’s medical school.

March 16, 2010

Kim Yu-na got two Fs from Korea University

Filed under: education, sports — extrakorea @ 2:16 pm

What a deplorable way to treat an iconic national treasure. Korea University gave Olympic champion figure skater Kim Yu-na two failing grades last year. Why? Because she never attended class … or submitted training plans to make up for her absences … or turned in assignments … or took any exams … or turned in any reports to replace her missed exams.

Don’t worry, she won’t become a college dropout. In Korea, once you’ve been accepted into university, you’re practically guaranteed to graduate. Just ask Jang Na-ra, who graduated after ten years. I think Lee Hyo-ri did too, though I’m not sure.

From next year, Kim will be able to take classes at a partner university of Korea University in Toronto and transfer the credits.

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