Extra! Korea

March 12, 2010

Former Miss Korea accepted to PhD programs at Harvard and Johns Hopkins University

Filed under: celebrities, education — extrakorea @ 1:04 pm

Where has this woman, Geum Na-na, been all my life? It’s a rhetorical question, but if you want an actual answer, it’s: winning beauty contests in Korea and then going to school, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, in the United States. Specifically, she was Miss Korea for the year 2002, and has been accepted to PhD programs at Harvard and Johns Hopkins University, including one with a full scholarship.

The 27-year-old previously made headlines for gaining admission to prestigious undergraduate schools, including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in biology.

During a recent telephone interview with The Hankook Ilbo, sister paper of The Korea Times, Geum said she has qualified to become a doctorate candidate in three departments: epidemiology at Harvard, and epidemiology and cellular & molecular medicine at Johns Hopkins. For the medical program, she was also offered a full ride, which would cover not only tuition but also living expenses for five years.

After graduating cum laude from Harvard College, Geum is currently working toward a master’s degree in nutrition at Columbia University. She will be completing the accelerated one-year course in August.

[ snip ]

Geum was a pre-med student at Kyungpook National University when she won the Miss Korea pageant. Even though she earned impressive undergraduate grades at Harvard she was rejected by 26 medical schools.

Her original plans for medical school failed but she wasted no time sulking in disappointment and pursued an alternative course. And she succeeded.

Here she is nowadays:

And here are photos from her Miss Korea days.



In my experience, medical schools are full of hotties.

February 10, 2010

SAT answers were also leaked in 2007

Filed under: crime, education — extrakorea @ 2:11 pm

It looks like the current scandal involving the leaking of SAT answers is not the first of its kind.

In 2007, the U.S.-based Educational Testing Service canceled the scores of about 900 Korean students, saying that some of the questions for the January test were leaked to some of the students in advance.

So maybe that’s what Tablo’s brother was talking about.

January 31, 2010

Your teacher might quit? Kidnap him

Filed under: crime, education — extrakorea @ 1:45 pm

You may recall the scandal involving the leaking of SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) answers, which since then has widened. In the latest development, an instructor who helped prepare students for the test was kidnapped, taken to a resort villa on the outskirts of Seoul, beaten, threatened with a knife, and finally, forced to sign a renewal contract.

January 27, 2010

Great video by teacher and his students

Filed under: education, hard to categorize — extrakorea @ 4:00 am

Below is a (great, I think) video that was made by high school students with the help of their teacher. He is known as SightsOfSeoul on YouTube and as bassexpander on Dave’s ESL Cafe, and is the man responsible for the very good The Midnight Runner podcast. (Too bad it’s been inactive for five months.)

January 18, 2010

Maybe this is what Tablo’s brother meant about leaking test answers

Filed under: crime, education — extrakorea @ 2:30 pm

You might recall that soon after the Infinity Challenge fiasco, David Lee, the brother of Tablo (a member of Epik High, a popular music group) wrote a brutally frank rant on his Cyworld, which is like a Korean version of MySpace or Facebook.

The students leak the questions online and get high scores on their TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) to study abroad, but all they do is fool around karaokes and clubs on 32nd Street. They copy the reports from their seniors and get caught by the professors. They can’t speak a tiny bit of English, not even a simple phrase.

Now the Korea Herald and Dong-ah Ilbo bring us the news of a hogwon (private eduction instutute) instructor who has been arrested for leaking answers to the U.S.-based Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) to Korean test takers.

Speculation is also rising that cheating also occurred in Korea on other international tests such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, and the Test of English for International Communication, or TOEIC.

The fear is that Korean students will face discrimination when applying to American universities because of tainted credibility through scandals like this.

[ snip ]

The instructor is known to have paid 15,000 won (13.40 U.S. dollars) to a Thai national who took the SAT Jan. 24 last year in Thailand. Then, he e-mailed the test sheets to two Korean students, who took the test in Connecticut 12 hours later.

Reportedly a graduate from a prestigious private university in the U.S., the instructor is well-known as an effective lecturer on SAT reading. The two students took his class over school vacations.

The instructor reportedly told police, “The institute I worked for charged a student 2.8 million to three million won (2,500 to 2,670 dollars) per class or more than 30 million won (26,700 dollars) for 12 classes on the promise of substantially raising their SAT scores.”

[ snip ]

Police also said the test sheets might have also been forwarded through e-mail to 20 other students who also took the instructor’s class and the same test taken by one of the two students.

Maybe cheating to get in helps account for why so many Korean students struggle at western universities.

[Samuel] Kim [a doctoral candidate at Columbia University’s Teachers College] said the main reasons for the high dropout rate were lack of preparation and proficiency in English, and wrong choice of major and university. By lack of preparation, Kim means inability to cope with independence after the coddled upbringing and constant parental supervision typical of Korea’s affluent children.

Despite getting the high required scores on standardized multiple-choice English tests, students often realize that their actual language skills are insufficient to follow lectures and take part in discussions.


The Joongang Daily now has a article on the topic, though there doesn’t seem to be much new information. There’s a Korean translation for those interested in using it as study material. Actually, the Dong-ah Ilbo also has a Korean translation.

January 17, 2010

Foul-mouthed teacher encapsulates what’s wrong with education here

Filed under: education, idiots — extrakorea @ 1:16 pm

First and foremost, the author of this article is not given, and since it’s a Korea Times article, we should take everything with a big grain of salt, since they have reporters like Kang Shin-who under their employ.

Now, onto the story of an “exceptional” teacher.

Woo Hyung-chul, 46, teaches math at a private institution or hakwon in Seoul that prepares students to get into colleges.

There are many teachers like him in Korea where education is a religion. But Woo stands out among them because his pedagogical approach is different.

“Don’t throw an unrealizable goal to students on the first day.” That’s one of the lessons he shares in an interview with Donga Ilbo on Saturday. “Students will find it beyond their reach and give up.”

Wow, what a revolutionary idea. In all of my years of teacher training and attending teachers’ conferences, I have never seen such “thinking outside of the box.” Amazing.

Most of Woo’s students are “problem kids” by some definition.

No, they are not. He teaches at a hogwon (private education institute), not at a public school. To attend his classes, you have to register, pay money, and go to class in your spare time. B.S.

They don’t do well academically.

How do we know that? Every school kid is dissatisfied with their marks (or at least their parents are).

Their attention span is short.

Thanks to computer games, cell phones, TV, and being spoiled rotten, this describes just about every kid.

But when they come to Yoo, their grades improve. If not, they at least have a good time laughing a lot.[1] And as days go by, these students’ grades also tend to pick up eventually.[2] So, he’s special.[3]

(Numbers are mine.)

1. The students grades improve. Unless they don’t. And if they don’t, at least their parents paid top dollar (or won) for their kids to laugh a lot.

2. Again, their grades tend to improve. Unless they don’t. Gee, that describes just about every teacher except for the most incompetent ones.

3. No, he is not.

Woo believes that when students don’t do well academically, it’s partly the teachers’ fault.

More “blame the teachers.” That’s always popular. No wonder people like him.

“You need to understand the teen culture to motivate them. When you motivate them, they do better academically,” he said.

More revolutionary ideas. I have never met a teacher who tried to learn about, say, Big Bang, to better understand their students. Nope. Never.

The secret of his approach lies in his three-step formula of “first apply sticks, then carrots, and show a vision.”

OK, so what would that vision be?

Being a good deliverer of knowledge isn’t enough, he says. “Students are not a memorizing machine. You should guide them to help find a life goal by meeting them on their terms,” he said. “Creating a common ground of understanding between you and students is critical.”

Wow, this guy has truly opened my eyes. I have never heard teachers criticize the over-emphasis on rote memorization in eduction here. Never. Neither have I ever met a teacher who asked their students about their life goals or tried to foster understanding with their students.

He prepares his lecture by watching a comedy program. He uses the jokes he picked up from the comedy show in “disarming students and opening their hearts.”

I’m all for using humor in the classroom to relax students, but it should be somehow related to the task or topic. Using class time to play a comedy program that’s not related in any way to the lesson? They can watch such comedies in their own time.

He also uses “shock and awe” strategy. This includes intentionally cursing them and an exaggerated gesture of beating them with a shovel.

To be fair, the wording is ambiguous, but suggests that he pretends to beat them with a shovel, and doesn’t actually do it. But even pretending is not cool. And cursing with vulgar language is definitely inappropriate behavior for a teacher.

If it were in the U.S., he would be probably in jail for doing so. But yeah, it’s Korea.

Yeah, and there are reasons for that. Corporal punishment is one thing. Beatings with a shovel are another. And a foul-mouthed American teacher wouldn’t be a teacher for very long.

The chemistry he creates with such non-conventional methods is formidably effective and his income proves it.

Wait a minute. His income proves his effectiveness? His income ?! They admitted above that some of his students have their grades improve, but some do not, just as with most other teachers. But he’s special. Because he plays comedy programs in class.

Sadly, this encapsulates a lot of what’s wrong with education here. People equate popularity with being good, so there’s a race for the lowest common denominator. At the university level, no one demands academic excellence from their students (who are capable of such) because no one wants to be unpopular. Students want to come in hungover, sleep, play with their cell-phones, go on dates, and participate in club activities, and woe to anyone who impedes that with, say, homework. A teacher who taught in Korea and then Japan said in a podcast that (I’m paraphrasing) the Japanese want teachers, while the Koreans want expendable, short-term entertainers. Koreans keep saying that they want qualified teachers, but they don’t really mean it. Actions speak louder than words.

January 15, 2010

Sarah Palin, North and South Korea, and semantics

Filed under: education, history, North Korea, politics — extrakorea @ 2:00 pm

You might recall this from a previous post.

In the days leading up to an interview with ABC News’ Charlie Gibson, aides were worried with Ms. Palin’s grasp of facts. She couldn’t explain why North and South Korea were separate nations and she did not know what the Federal Reserve did.

(emphasis mine)

Sarah Palin has responded.

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin (R) said Tuesday night that it was “a lie” that she didn’t know the difference between North Korea and South Korea during the 2008 presidential campaign.

[ snip ]

Her appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor” was Palin’s first on a Fox News show since Monday’s announcement that she would join the cable network as a contributor. She was asked by host Bill O’Reilly to respond to several claims cited in the book “Game Change,” which was the subject of a segment Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

(emphasis mine)

Notice the slight difference in wording. I found the source of this quote, the interview with Bill O’Reilly, and tried to make a transcript of the important part, which begins at around 0:32 of the video.

(news clip of an interview with John Heilemann, author of the book “Game Change”)

John Heilemann: She still didn’t really understand why there was a North Korea and a South Korea.

[ snip ]

(interview between Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin)

Bill O’Reilly: Is this [indistinct] kind of lie, that you didn’t know the difference between North and South Korea?

Sarah Palin: That surprised me. [ snip ]

Bill O’Reilly: Is that a lie, though?

Sarah Palin: Yes, that is a lie.

(emphasis mine)

Notice the difference. It’s possible that both are telling the truth. Palin could be speaking truthfully when she says that she knew that North and South Korea are separate countries, and Heilemann could also be factually correct when he says that Palin did not know the reasons why Korea was separated into two different countries.

January 11, 2010

Sarah Palin didn’t know why North and South Korea are separate countries

Filed under: education, history, North Korea, politics — extrakorea @ 4:18 am

The following quote is from a New York Times article about the 2008 presidential campaign that I found thanks to this great website. There are other interesting facts but this is the only one related to Korea.

In the days leading up to an interview with ABC News’ Charlie Gibson, aides were worried with Ms. Palin’s grasp of facts. She couldn’t explain why North and South Korea were separate nations and she did not know what the Federal Reserve did.

To be fair to Ms. Palin, neither do these people:

The Korea Academy for Educators is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Los Angeles, dedicated to informing American educators about Korean history and culture and the general Korean-American experience in order to promote cross-cultural understanding.

[ snip ]

For instance, Koreans should work to educate Americans about the Japanese colonial period, the role of the U.S. in Korean history and the fact that we divided a country that had been unified for centuries,” said Connor.

January 4, 2010

Professor becomes public nuisance after being caught riding without a ticket

Filed under: education, humor, idiots — extrakorea @ 6:49 am

If you’ve ever wondered why Korean universities don’t rank in the world’s top 50, perhaps this story might shed some light.
A professor was caught riding the subway without a ticket by an official. Having lost face, she decided to retaliate by becoming the subway officials’ #1 public nuisance.

“Frankly, at first, part of my motivation was revenge.”

[ snip ]

When she shows up, the whole employees at the Apgujeong subway station shudder. And it has been that way for the last six years.

[ snip ]

It has become her habit. Since then, she has filed 499 complaints against the state-owned Seoul Metro, pointing out various problems, including improper ventilation, trains arriving not on time.

When a complaint is made, the chief official of the subway station which the complaint was directed to, has to write a report to the regional head office, which then refers it to the headquarters. A reply, approved by the head office, has to be composed and has to be posted on the Seoul Metro web site. The complaint records are used to assess the job performance of the subway employees at the station.

Kim has become a pain in the neck for the local subway station officials. When she showed up at 6:30 a.m. every morning at the Apgujeong station near her home, they got nervous. She might complain that you’re not standing in a proper position where you’re supposed to be, or notice that you’re using your mobile phone during work hours.

“The subway workers here have developed nervous breakdown because of her,” said Kim Seong-mo, the chief official at the Apgujeong station. Last Autumn, he proposed a meeting with Kim to placate her. It was rejected.

These days, she composes two or three complaint letters every week.

“Every day, we deal with 100,000 people who use our station. We’re very busy all the time even without her. But now, the first thing we do every morning is to check our computer to see whether there is any new complaint from her,” he said.

Finally, after complaining about her, officials were able to make her stop. End of story, right? Not quite.

She switched her letters’ destination and now directs her complaints to another government web site at the Seoul Metropolitan Government, which manages railway transportation.

This would be childish behavior from an 8-year-old. She’s a professor?! Where does she get the free time? Doesn’t she have things to do, like … teach? Unbelievable immaturity from a so-called “educator.”

(Hat Tip to tzechuk)

December 30, 2009

Hiring Indians really is about paying teachers less

Filed under: education, languages — extrakorea @ 6:23 am

First and foremost, I must point out that the writer of this story is Kang Shin-who, whom Brian has accurately described as Korea’s worst journalist, because he has put words in people’s mouths, among other things.

So now we know that we have to take a large grain of salt with this story, which continues from news this past November that the Korean government was thinking about hiring teachers from India. Immediately, there was speculation as to whether this was to put more qualified teachers into classrooms, or to save money by hiring teachers from a developing nation. Well, it looks like those questions have been answered:

Officials at the city and provincial education offices, which are in charge of hiring native English speakers, formed a consensus that they might not give Indian English teachers the same wages given to other native speaking teachers.

[ snip ]

“It would be tough for Indian teachers to compete with other native English speaking teachers, unless they take lower salaries,” he added.

Officials are taking the “I really don’t want to, but circumstances are forcing me” line, but I’m sure that they’ll be happy to pocket the difference.

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