Extra! Korea

October 27, 2010

Census Time

Filed under: expatriates, multicultural society — extrakorea @ 2:52 am

(I should have posted this earlier. It slipped my mind, and real life takes precedence over virtual life.)

Last week, a woman came to my door. She was collecting census data.  (Hopefully, she didn’t experience the trials and tribulations of Kushibo.) She spoke almost no English, but we made do with my broken Korean. After getting the information, she gave me a piece of paper. On it was a website address, www.census.go.kr, along with a nine-character code (broken down as follows: three letters, dash, four numbers, dash, two letters).  She told me to go to the website from October 22nd to 31st.  I did so, and it was relatively quick and painless.  On the left side of the screen is a toggle through which you can choose a non-Korean language.  Click “go” and then input the nine-character code where it says “The Internet Access Code.” Then you have to make up a password. The English is pretty good. I guess they went through the trouble of having it proofread by a native speaker.

So if a census worker came to your home last week, the visit to the website is not too much of an inconvenience, and could help the government and,  by extension, you.

October 26, 2010

HIV rules relaxed for foreigners … except for E-2 visa holders

Filed under: expatriates, health, xenophobia — extrakorea @ 2:25 pm

The Ministry of Health and Welfare has announced that the rules regarding HIV and foreigners will be relaxed … except for E-2 visa holders. This is in contrast to the changes announced (and reported by Chris) in July. Why?

The policy will remain in place for E-2 visa holders – foreign language teachers – because of strong public opposition.

Come again?

“Education is considered a very intimate relationship. According to an unofficial survey by the Prime Minister’s Office, the majority of parents wanted solid evidence of their children’s teachers’ HIV status,” said an official of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

“The continuation does not mean the government regards foreign teachers to be HIV positive or have the potential of transmission ― it is just intended to assure the parents. We are considering revisions in this area, too,” he added.

So, instead of trying to educated these prejudiced parents, the government has chosen instead to pander to their stereotypes.

A National Human Rights Commission officer said in an interview with The Korea Times that the regulation infringes upon human rights.

Benjamin Wagner, a professor at Kyung Hee University, filed a complaint with the agency last year, claiming that the visa regulations were based on unfounded biases and prejudices that Westerners were promiscuous and used drugs.

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?

October 8, 2010

Incident in Itaewon: One article says two foreigners, others says one

Filed under: crime, expatriates, idiots, media irresponsibility — extrakorea @ 11:31 am

Korea Beat has translated a Korean-language articles that says:

Controversy is spreading after a video showing two young foreigners assaulting a white-haired elderly man began spreading on the internet.

(Emphasis mine.)

The entire article repeatedly states that there were two foreigners involved:

The 1:43 video … two foreigners … The two foreigners … they … the foreign men …

This seems to be the same incident described in other articles (which were translated at the Marmot’s Hole) which clearly stated that there was only one foreigner.

So which account was correct? If you watch the video (below), you can see for yourself that there was only one assailant. Clearly, the people at cbs.co.kr are a bunch of morons. Or too lazy to even watch the video footage in question. Or too stupid and lazy to watch said footage.

(Caution: Video contains foul language and violence against the elderly.)

August 2, 2010

American English teacher accused of sexual assault

Filed under: crime, expatriates — extrakorea @ 2:38 am

On the heels of this embarrassing incident comes news that an American English teacher has been accused of sexual assault.

According to police, an America citizen, a native English teacher at a private language institute, is accused of sexually assaulting a Korean barmaid in a public restroom of a building in Dunsan-dong, Daejeon, at 3 a.m. Saturday.

Police said the victim didn’t want the investigation to go further in exchange for compensation from the American.

Under the law, police investigations into a rape case can only continue with the victim’s approval, meaning that the probe must be halted.

I find myself wondering why the woman is asking for compensation instead of having the man put in jail for his alleged crime. In any case, I`m sure that Lee Eun-ung, the founder of Anti-English Spectrum, will run with this as far as he can.

July 27, 2010

Why blogs have surpassed Dave’s esl cafe for usefulness

Filed under: expatriates — extrakorea @ 7:49 pm

You might be surprised by how many Korea-related bloggers got their start as posters at Dave’s esl cafe (blogger / username on Dave’s).

Brian in Jeollanam-do / Smee

Grand Narrative / Exciting Head

Korea Beat / Hater Depot

Page F30/ Mithridates

Zen Kimchi / Zen Pickle

The Yangpa / Billybrobby

Gord Sellar / Gord

– [myself] / Troll_Bait

This is because Daveseslcafe used to be the place for expatriates to meet online, discuss, and exchange information. However, in my opinion, Korea-related blogs like Gusts of Popular Feeling have surpassed Dave’s in usefulness and relevance. The reason why can be summarized in one word: accountability. The recent issue of the revised E-2 visa regulations is a perfect example. Gusts of Popular Feeling and the Chosun Bimbo have written excellent posts on the matter. By contrast, the discussion on Dave’s was so full of vagueness, rumours, inaccuracies, and going-around-in-circles that the resulting noise-to-signal ratio was so high that it was pretty much useless. Why? GoP Feeling and C. Bimbo are accountable. Even if they were to blog anonymously, as I do, their reputations are currencies that they want to make and keep valuable. If they talk out of their arses, then they will lose credibility and people won’t visit their blogs. On the other hand, everyone on Dave’s is anonymous. You don’t know if someone is correct, ignorant, or trolling. Why bother trying to guess? Even if someone gets called out, it’s no big loss to them if the reputation of their anonymous username is damaged. Another, related problem, is the fact that the moderators are also anonymous. If a blogger is abusive of his power, or negligent in some way (e.g. his comments section is full of flame wars), people know who to complain to (even if, like myself, they are anonymous). Again, the reputation of the blog is on the line. However, at Dave’s, some of the moderators are lax about some of the Terms of Service. For example, GoP Feeling put a lot of effort into translating an interview with the founder of Anti-English Spectrum (a great service to us all).* Somebody at Dave’s posted all of GoPF’s work there. This is a violation of the Terms of Service:

Articles that are more than 300 words may be edited or deleted. Try to keep your comments concise. If an article is longer, post a link and quote only the really important parts to your argument.

When I was an active poster at Dave’s, I noticed this kind of thing all of the time (another example here) and would complain about it to the moderators. They would then slowly, belatedly take half-hearted action, usually consisting of, “Please don’t kind of do this, OK?” Another example was the fact that a poster named Homer would always mock and ridicule other posters. He wouldn’t say, “You’re stupid,” but he would sarcastically say, “What a logical idea.” His favorite trick would be to put a laughing emoticon right next to his mocking words. Insulting people is not OK, but mockery shouldn’t be either. He was called out on it many times, but nothing was ever done. Why not? Probably because he was also a moderator, by the username of The Dude.

So if you’re new to Korea, and you have a question, I would advise you to pose it to a reputable blogger, such as:

Chris in South Korea

Ask the Expat

Ask a Korean

(There’s a whole list of them here, here, and here. So if, for example, you’re interested in gender-related issues in Korea, you might want to look at Grand Narrative.)

Just two things:

1. Don’t ask silly questions.

(“Can I bring a laptop to South Korea?”)

No, despite being one of the biggest producers of laptops in the world, laptops are illegal in South Korea.

2. Don’t ask questions that betray an obvious case of yellow fever.

(“When I’m there, will I be able to date Korean women easily?”)

If dating the local women is your priority, then maybe you shouldn’t be coming here.

* [Edit] I’m seriously thinking about taking Kushibo’s advice and asking the National Human Rights Commission to have Anti-English Spectrum classified as a hate group.

July 15, 2010

(Updated) Homestay students in Canada more likely than Canadians to be sexually abused, be sexually active, use cocaine

Filed under: crime, expatriates, youth — extrakorea @ 6:20 am

Update #2:

The University of British Columbia has a media release, but by far the best source of information so far is this Vancouver Sun article. First, it gives us a definition of what was meant by “sexual abuse”:

The B.C. Adolescent Health Survey asked respondents if they had been forced to have sex by either an adult or a youth (or both) and defined sexual abuse as: “Sexual abuse is when anyone (including a family member) touches you in a place you did not want to be touched or does something to you sexually which you did not want,” explained study co-author and nursing professor Elizabeth Saewyc.

That’s a pretty broad definition, and could conceivably include things like unwanted hugs, etc. Also, it states that the offenders could be anyone the student knows, not just home-stay “parents” but others such as other students or home-stay participants.

The study studied three groups of students who were of East Asian heritage:

1. students living in B.C. without their parents (home-stays)
2. immigrant students living with their parents
3. Canadian-born students who also live with their parents

Are any of these home-stay kids living with relatives? It seems so.

The Vancouver school board had 730 international students between the ages of 13 and 19 last year, says the head of the board’s international education program, Barbara Onstad. Most students stay with relatives, but between 15 and 20 per cent use the homestay program managed through Langara.

(emphasis mine)

Another tid-bit of information:

Fifty-four per cent of male homestay students spent more than four hours a day on the computer for recreation compared to 30 per cent and 35 per cent of immigrant and Canadian students living with their parents.

Way to break the Starcraft-playing, four-eyed computer geek stereotype, boys. More proof that sending these kids to Canada for the sake of “a better education” is not working out as planned by the parents.

And how much do the students pay?

Foreign students pay about $12,000 a year in tuition and another $7,000 for room and board.

Most disturbing of all is the fact that some of these young women may be getting into (being forced into?) prostitution.

In May, a 17-year-old female homestay student from China was picked up during a raid on a bawdy house in downtown Vancouver. A 44-year-old Vancouver man, Xiao Jin Zhao, was charged with several prostitution-related offences including procuring women to sell sex.

(source, Hat Tip to Seth Gecko)



Gusts of Popular Feeling posted a link to a Canadian article that has more information. First of all, it tell us more about who takes in these kids and why.

The industry, however, is largely unregulated and home-stay “parents” who take fees from foreign students “are considered custodians, not legal guardians, and have no legal obligation to nurture youth,” the University of British Columbia and non-profit McCreary Centre Society researchers noted in calling for government oversight of the sector.

[ snip ]

“Shouldn?t we also have systems for protecting foreign teens when they are here for years without their parents?”

We also find out more about who these students are …

The research was based on information collected from more than 3,000 foreign home-stay students, among 30,500 students surveyed in grades seven to 12 throughout British Columbia in 2003.

And what they’re doing (or not doing) in Canada.

[H]ome-stay students were also far less likely than other students to be involved in extracurricular activities and just over half had skipped school in the month before the survey, while only a quarter of their peers did.

So much for the notion of sending these kids abroad for the sake of a better education.


Original Post:

Each year, lots of young people from Korea (and other East Asian countries) go to Canada to hang out pretend to study escape their parents study English, but there is a dark cloud, due to the fact that there is little-to-no oversight of the homestay programs.

Each year, thousands of East Asian students, mostly from Korea, China and Japan, stream to Canada to study English or attend high school through homestay programs.

Under the scheme, families pay for their children to study there while living with families who provide room and board.

But the industry ― worth an estimated $60 million annually in British Columbia alone ― has no oversight or screening processes, the study said.

[ snip ]

It found that 23 percent of female respondents from East Asian countries reported having been sexually abused, compared to eight percent of Canadian-born girls.

Among males and females, 25 percent of the homestay students were sexually active, more than twice the ratio of their Canadian counterparts.

They were also two to six times more likely to use cocaine compared to other students their age.

All three of these problems seem to come out a lack of supervision. Another factor could be that in Korea, these students and their schedules are strictly controlled by their parents, especially their mothers. After they arrive in Canada, they “overdose” on this new freedom (freedom provided both by Canada’s more relaxed atmosphere and the homestay program’s lack of oversight). The relatively-high rates of sexual abuse could be traced back the naivity that South Koreans had until the horrible Na-young case. Korean parents don’t teach their kids to be careful (not just of strangers, but not to run across a street without looking, etc. It’s not surprising, since the parents themselves are often reckless.*) My Korean language teacher told us that when she was in elementary school, she would walk to school alone, a half-hour trip. Nowadays, some parents walk their kids to school, but not all. I still see a lot of young students walking to school either alone or with a friend of similar age.

* At one of KOTESOL’s annual conferences, Dr. John Linton described Koreans as “lacking the danger gene.”

April 1, 2010

Must Read: Critic tried to silence blogger Brian by siccing Immigration on him

Filed under: censorship, expatriates — extrakorea @ 1:24 pm

Brian (formally) in Jeollanam-do said before that he had a big announcement coming up, one that he had been sitting on because of Korea’s libel laws (Even if what you write is verifiably true, you can still be sued. [Edit/Update: You can also get a criminal record.]). This must be it. Be sure to read his post first.

Brian isn’t the only one whom disgruntled Koreans have tried to silence through ugly methods. Members of the group Anti-English Spectrum tried to get author Scott “King Baeksu” Burgeson fired for writing a book that had some criticisms of Korea.

Also, Koreans have been silenced by other Koreans. Most notably, the Korean government itself arrested a blogger called “Minerva.” That so many people would blindly follow an anonymous blogger is an indictment of the educational system of this country. That the government would arrest someone for expressing his opinion is an indictment of the government’s mindset. It’s no wonder that South Korea was recently named an “enemy of the internet.”

Of course, expatriates have targeted other expats. One guy, after being banned from the Marmot’s Hole comments section, tried to get said blogger in trouble with his boss. There is also an expat blogger who has an unhealthy obsession with Brian. However, in my opinion, these are different. The guy who got banned is clearly mentally ill. The expat blogger may or not also be certifiable, but he is certainly an alcoholic as well as a negligent, lazy teacher. The Koreans, on the other hand, are not crazy (at least not in the conventional sense). They know what they are doing, which is exploiting the legal confines that expatriates must live within to silence them. (Blogger Kushibo says that he has also been targeted by, I believe, other expatriates. I don’t know much about it, so I can’t comment.)

March 18, 2010

“Little Manila” won’t be closed … for now

Filed under: expatriates, xenophobia — extrakorea @ 11:13 am

“Little Manila,” the outdoor market that is erected every Sunday by Filipino* residents, had been threatened with closure, but has earned a respite, at least for the time being.

Jongno District Office in Seoul has informed the Philippine Embassy it will not push through with its original plan to relocate the market from its location outside the Hyehwa-dong Catholic Church to the new multicultural market in Nakwon-dong this month.

“They will seek a relocation plan this month, pending on the improvements in the market, such as the new size and designs of the stalls that were being discussed together with the vendors,” Father Alvin Parantar, chaplain of the Hyehwa-dong Filipino Catholic Community and representative for the ethnic community, told The Korea Times.

Parantar said the community greatly appreciates Jongno District Office’s consideration, even though there is no final decision on the matter.

Jongno officials have warned that they will be closely monitoring developments at the Philippine market, before deciding on the fate of the market.

“ When these visible developments of the market have been done, the Jongno office will discuss the issue with Seoul City office.

“However, they warned that if the vendors fail to follow the proposed changes, Jongno District office will raise the issue of relocation once again,” Parantar said.

[ snip ]

“The ball is in our court now. This is not easy because there is internal conflict among the vendors, which is understandable because of competition. We still need to fully convince them to stick to the changes in the market’s set up. We don’t know where the budget will come from either,” he said.

(emphasis mine)

My understanding is that those regulation carts, etc., are very expensive. Unfortunately, it looks to me like Little Manila might be forced into making a choice: close down, or become a non-profit, cultural endeavor.

* Filipinos are the fifth-largest minority in Korea, after Chinese, Americans, Vietnamese and Japanese.

February 19, 2010

Korean exchange student killed by group of Russian youths

Filed under: crime, expatriates, safety, xenophobia — extrakorea @ 4:02 am

A South Korean exchange student, surnamed Kang, has been killed by a group of Russian youths.

Kang, a sophomore at a university in Gwangju, had been taking part in an exchange program at a university in Barnaul near Russia’s border with Kazakhstan.

Local police said three suspects, aged between ten and 20, have been arrested and are being investigated for aggravated assault.

Russian news agencies are reporting that a knife was used during the attack.

Given that Kang was not robbed, investigators are looking into the possibility that the attack was motivated by racism.

Last year alone, 70 people died in Russia as part of racists attacks. In 2007, a South Korean student was killed in such an attack.

It looks like he may well have been the victim of extreme Russian nationalists. Very sad news about a young man who was trying to expand his horizons.

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