Extra! Korea

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.

March 19, 2010

South Korean movie poster looks like North Korean propaganda

Filed under: North Korea, xenophobia — extrakorea @ 10:50 am

The Marmot’s Hole has informed us that a new movie, based upon supposed historical events, is coming out. (ROK Drop would surely take issue with the validity of said events.) Here is the movie poster.

South Korean movie poster

Hmmm, I could swear that I had seen that before at Marmot’s. Wait, we have.

North Korean propaganda

Notice the similarity between the South Korean movie poster and the North Korean propaganda. I’m not American, but this irks me.

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.

February 17, 2010

Filipino community leaders collect signatures to save “Little Manila”

Filed under: expatriates, multicultural society, xenophobia — extrakorea @ 12:36 pm

Zen Kimchi has a post with snippets about the latest measures to attempt to save “Little Manila” (as well as Filipino cooking).

You might recall that the “Little Manila” market is being threatened with closure, and the Filipino ambassador is getting involved in the efforts to save it. In the latest development, community leaders are starting a drive to collect signatures.

The Jongno District Office had cited complaints from residents and storeowners regarding the cleanliness, orderliness and traffic in the area, as reasons why the market should be closed.

Look at this video below. To those of you who live in South Korea, does this look especially dirty or disorderly, especially when compared to other outdoor markets? I see far worse at the little plastic tables outside my local convenience stores.

The petition also highlighted the Filipino market’s contribution to multiculturalism in Korea. While the majority of market-goers are Filipinos, there are also a number of Koreans and foreigners who are visiting the market to sample Philippine food such as barbecued meat, stir-fried noodles, fried banana and rice cakes.

“Even Koreans, who have been to the Philippines, come here to buy pancit (stir-fried noodles) or balut (duck egg),” said another Filipino vendor, who did not want to be identified.

Several vendors interviewed by The Korea Times expressed their willingness to cooperate and make improvements, in order to prevent the market’s closure or transfer.

[ snip ]

“We’re aware that there are some complaints because there are really a lot of people in the street, especially when the mass ends around 3 p.m. But it’s only a once a week market, and we’re more than willing to cooperate with any changes they want us to make,” said Wilbert, a Filipino vendor who lives in Bucheon.

Many Filipino workers from different parts of Korea travel to Seoul on Sundays just to go to church and shop at the market. The Filipino EPS Workers Association (FEWA) is one of the organizations trying to gather signatures for the petition to save the market.

FEWA President Marcy Serdena said the market has become an important part of Filipinos’ way of life in Korea.

“We go here every Sunday, even if it is far, just to go to church, buy food and meet other Filipinos. … I think they should first try to make sure the market is orderly and impose discipline among the vendors. This can be resolved through discussions, and not immediate closure,” Serdena said.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask. The question is: Is the Filipino community going to be allowed to enjoy their culture to try to cope with homesickness and culture shock, or are they only good for doing dangerous labor in factories and being baby machines for unmarriageable Korean bachelors?

Under the Times’ article, I noticed this comment by “jsburgeson” (J. Scott Burgeson):

Mayor Oh Se-hoon, if you close down Little Manila, Seoul City will lose a big part of its soul. And if you do go ahead and close it, don’t you dare use the world “multiculturalism” in any more of your city slogans.

February 11, 2010

Ambassador hopes to avert the closure of “Little Manila”

Filed under: expatriates, multicultural society, xenophobia — extrakorea @ 3:35 pm

The Philippine Ambassador to Korea, Luis Cruz, hopes to avert the closure of “Little Manila”

“Our point is both ends should meet. … There can be discussions with vendors for alternative solutions and to address the issues the Jongno residents raised. Such issues like traffic and the garbage can be addressed. The vendors can make efforts to clean the area and create some order,” he told The Korea Times in a phone interview.

For instance, Cruz suggested that vendors be provided with store carts that can make the market look cleaner and more organized. Currently, vendors at “Little Manila” usually place their products in boxes or on the sidewalks, causing congestion for pedestrians.

Cruz said embassy officials will also meet with Jongno District officials to clarify the matter and discuss alternatives solutions to the problems raised by the residents.

He also said the Filipino community leaders should talk to the vendors to work out a system to make the market more orderly. There are currently 16 vendors, selling Philippine delicacies, canned goods, noodles and magazines, clustered in the area leading to the Hyehwa Catholic Church.

The Filipinos are certainly willing to meet half-way, but what about the Koreans who complained? Since they’re so worked up about a market that only exist for six hours, one day a week, something tells me that that they’re not very open-minded or tolerant. Then what?

Cruz emphasized that the market cannot be separated from the church, since it is a way of life for many Filipinos. “It’s a place where Filipinos gather to meet other Filipinos. It’s like social networking. It’s also about Philippine culture. If people go to the Philippines, they’ll see that outside the churches, there are markets and a lively fiesta atmosphere,” Cruz added.

Maybe it’s that “lively, fiesta atmosphere” that’s really the problem. Don’t those Filipinos know that in Korea, you’re supposed to be sullen and constantly worried about the future? Those Filipinos and their joie de vivre are interfering with Korea’s high suicide rate. In Korea, you’re supposed to deprive your children of sleep by sending them to umpteen hogwons* in an effort to keep up with the Kims. It’s Korean culture to jump off a roof and turn yourself into strawberry jam on the sidewalk if you get an A minus on a high school test. Those festive Filipinos must be taught Korean culture, and be forced to be as miserable as everyone else. Maybe closing down their market will make them nice and dour.

* private education institutes

February 10, 2010

“Little Manila”? Not in our backyard, say mean people concerned citizens

Filed under: expatriates, multicultural society, xenophobia — extrakorea @ 2:00 pm

Every Sunday in Hyehwa-dong, many Filipinos gather after church services to chat, eat, and buy things from their home country in an informal market. The Jongno District Office has told them to cease and desist because of intolerance from mean people complaints from passers-by and residents.

There are about 46,000 Filipinos in Korea, forming the fifth largest ethnic group, following Chinese, Americans, Vietnamese and Japanese.

[ snip ]

“The reasons they gave up us was one, they received complaints from neighbors and pedestrians in the area; two, there were concerns about cleanliness and order; three, they want to redevelop the sidewalk and include a waterfall wall in the area; and four, they want to transfer the market to a new multicultural market,” the priest told The Korea Times over the phone.

“It’s a Philippine way of life. We go to church, then go to the market to buy provisions and meet friends. It’s an expression of Philippine culture. The national government has a policy about supporting multiculturalism in Korea, but there seems to be a contradiction with the district office’s plans. The church and the market should go together and not be separated,” he said.

Outside the church, there are usually 16 vendors selling Philippine products and cooked food. Many Filipinos living not just in Seoul, but also from the provinces, flock to the market to buy products from their home country

Parantar noted the problems raised by the district office can be addressed by the vendors at the market.

“The problems that they raised can be resolved by talking to the vendors. They are willing to cooperate. If they are concerned about the cleanliness and orderliness in the area, they can address the problems. If they want to redevelop the area again, they can integrate the Philippine market according to their plans,” Parantar said.

So they want to trample all over a migrant minority group so they can build a fountain. And if they’re concerned about “cleanliness” how about telling Koreans not to throw trash onto the street?

The district office said they have received civil petitions from the neighborhood and they have to take some measures against the Philippine market.

“There were many complaints from the pedestrians and residents. There also is a possibility of accidents as Filipinos flock out of the church after mass into car lanes,” said Lee Jong-ju of the district’s construction management division.

“A possibility of accidents”? Ever seen Koreans jaywalking right into oncoming traffic? How about delivery guys driving motorscooters right on the sidewalk? If you haven’t, you must be living in a parallel universe South Korea.

The district suggested moving to the grounds of Dongsung High School, but the school refused to participate. Another idea was shifting it to an area in front of the Catholic University of Korea campus, however, it has failed to respond to the suggestion.

Filipinos? Not in our back yard. We don’t like Filipinos It’s not convenient for us.

He added that the district will try not to use physical force. “The best way would be to transfer them to a designated area, but otherwise we are going to crack down on the market from March,” he said.

They’ll force them into a “designated area”? Somebody thinks that Filipinos in Korea should be neither seen nor heard.

January 31, 2010

(Updated) Anti-English Spectrum’s leader admits to stalking “following” foreign teachers in the LA Times

Filed under: crime, expatriates, xenophobia — extrakorea @ 12:45 pm

The Los Angeles Times has an article about the group called Anti-English Spectrum, and its leader admits that he stalks foreign teachers. Well, he says it’s not “stalking” but “following.”

Sometimes, in his off hours, Yie Eun-woong does a bit of investigative work.

He uses the Internet and other means to track personal data and home addresses of foreign English teachers across South Korea.

Then he follows them, often for weeks at a time, staking out their apartments, taking notes on their contacts and habits.

He wants to know whether they’re doing drugs or molesting children.

Yie, a slender 40-year-old who owns a temporary employment agency, says he is only attempting to weed out troublemakers who have no business teaching students in South Korea, or anywhere else.

The volunteer manager of a controversial group known as the Anti-English Spectrum, Yie investigates complaints by South Korean parents, often teaming up with authorities, and turns over information from his efforts for possible prosecution.

Outraged teachers groups call Yie an instigator and a stalker.

Yie waves off the criticism. “It’s not stalking, it’s following,” he said. “There’s no law against that.”

Since its founding in 2005, critics say, Yie’s group has waged an invective-filled nationalistic campaign against the 20,000 foreign-born English teachers in South Korea.

On their website and through fliers, members have spread rumors of a foreign English teacher crime wave. They have alleged that some teachers are knowingly spreading AIDS, speculation that has been reported in the Korean press.

Teacher activists acknowledge that a few foreign English instructors are arrested each year in South Korea — cases mostly involving the use of marijuana — but they insist that the rate of such incidents is far lower than for the Korean population itself.

“Why are they following teachers? That’s a job for the police,” said Dann Gaymer, a spokesman for the Assn. for Teachers of English in Korea. “What this group is up to is something called vigilantism, and I don’t like the sound of that.”

The article goes on to mention the fact that Anti-English Spectrum has posted photos of teachers’ apartments online and the death threats made against the ATEK president. Like Kushibo and Brian in Jeollanam-do, I remain unconvinced that the death threat is undoubtedly from a Korean person as opposed to, say, an expatriate playing some kind of sick joke.

What’s most important, I think, is that now that this guy has publicly admitted to a famous, international newspaper that he stalks, er, I mean, follows, foreign teachers, it’s time to bring the hammer down on the guy.


Brian in Jeollanam-do now has a post in which he gives a lot of background information on Anti-English Spectrum, both from his blog and from other sources such as the blog Gusts Of Popular Feeling and law professor Benjamin Wagner.

In case you’re thinking that Mr. Yie actually cares about education, I would direct you to this comment by King Baeksu, a.k.a. author Scott Burgeson.

Browse the AES site and you will find at least two threads from 2007 in which Yie himself urged his cafe members to call up my former employer, Hongik Univesity, and demand that I be fired for the “crime” of publishing a critical, but nonetheless bestselling and well-reviewed, book about Korea — despite the fact that at the time I was a certified ESL instructor with some ten years’ experience in the field. He was even so thoughtful as to include the phone number of Hongik’s office of academic affairs. No mention of my actual teaching ability — or lack thereof — was mentioned in either thread, I might add.

An equivalent analogy would be neo-Nazis in the US trying to get a Korean-American university instructor fired for writing a critical book about the US.

Of course, this is no surprise to anyone familiar with Mr. Yie and his group. Aside from advocating the harassment of foreign teachers, he has never made any suggestion as to the improvement of English-language education, or education in general.

Like asadalthought, I liked this quote from the LA Times article:

Yie, who is single and has no children, volunteered to help organize an effort to rein in such behavior.

But he looks so cheerful, handsome, and kind.

Surely some Korean woman is eager to snatch up this prize of a man.

In the interest of fairness, I feel that I should point out this part of the article:

In 2005, by then living in Seoul, he joined the fledgling activist group after seeing an upsetting posting on a website: claims by foreign teachers that they had slept with Korean students.

Yie, who is single and has no children, volunteered to help organize an effort to rein in such behavior.

“People were angry; most of them were parents with kids,” he said. “We all got together online and traded information.”

Gaymer says he doubts that such a posting ever existed. Instead, he says, Koreans were angry about photos posted on a job website showing foreigners dancing with scantily clad Korean women.

“They were consenting adults at a party with foreign men,” he said. “They weren’t doing anything bad or illegal.”

They’re both right. Gaymer is correct in that people were enraged upon seeing pictures of Korean women dancing with foreign men at a party. Those women were stalked and harassed online, and called “whores” by people who in all likelihood went on to form Anti-English Spectrum. However, Yie is also correct. The website called English Spectrum (from which Yie’s group gets its name) had a discussion forum as well as column written by an unnamed foreigner called “Ask The Playboy.” The Playboy and other members did indeed discuss ways to seduce one’s adult students. Plans and strategies for sleeping with one’s students is unacceptable, indefensible behavior for so-called “teachers.” Other members of English Spectrum should have spoken up, or spoken up more strongly, but they didn’t, and now we are all suffering the consequences. I write this because I feel that we must counter lies with truth, not with distortions of our own. As they say, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” We should take the high moral ground by owning up to what really happened. However, as they also say, “Let the punishment fit the crime.” Also, the innocent should not be punished along with the guilty. For Yie and his group to be sta… er, following innocent teachers because of the actions of a few who, in all likelihood, are no longer even in Korea, is beyond the pale.

Like Brian, I would also strongly discourage any kind of vengeful retaliation. If he or one of his cronies is, ahem, following you, then gather evidence (e.g. photos) and take it to the proper authorities. That’s their job, and don’t think, “I’m not a Korean, they won’t take me seriously.” Look at Bonojit Hussain.

January 14, 2010

North Korean kids become outcasts in the South

Filed under: North Korea, Uncategorized, xenophobia, youth — extrakorea @ 2:37 pm

While there is definitely discrimination against non-Koreans in Korea,* especially if you have dark skin, sometimes what looks like racism is actually discrimination based upon socioeconomic status or the fact that someone is simply not part of one’s “in group.” This is demonstrated by the way that North Koreans are looked down upon by their southern brethren, despite the fact that they share a language, history, culture, and genetics. North Korean kids have both academic and social difficulties at school, where they can be ostracized by their class mates. You might recall my previous post about Choi Hyun-mi, the World Boxing Association women’s featherweight champion. It’s estimated that 1,700 teenage North Koreans have fled to South Korea since the mid-1990s. Here’s more, from the Joongang Daily.

Ji-eun pictured a wonderful life in South Korea when she was on the plane. But after she arrived, she found that things were quite different than what she had imagined, recalled Ji-eun, who turned 15 this year.

“Why did you come to Korea, you beggar?” one person asked her. “Were you hungry?”

“Go back to your country because there’s nothing we can give you,” said another.

These were the first words Ji-eun heard when she transferred to a South Korean elementary school as a third-year student. The first thing she learned in the South Korean school was bullying by classmates.

Ji-eun tried hard to eliminate her North Korean accent because her classmates avoided playing with her after they realized she was an outsider. Even after trying hard, though, she found obtaining a South Korean accent to be very difficult. She sometimes had to simply stay silent for fear of embarrassing herself.

When she became a senior, the bullying became more complex.

There’s no one who verbally insulted her to her face. But she could hear her classmates whispering, “Isn’t she a bit North Korean in style?”

No one asked her to have lunch. Because she didn’t want to eat alone, she skipped lunch frequently.

“I regret coming to South Korea so much,” Ji-eun said. “I even thought about suicide.”

Below is an excerpt from a similar New York Times article (via One Free Korea).

One October evening, when the students had gone camping and stayed up late, Moon Sung-il, a 14-year-old North Korean, brought tears to the South Koreans’ eyes when he recounted his two-and-a-half-year flight with other defectors that took him through China, Myanmar and a refugee camp in Bangkok. But he stunned them when he said that none of this was as daunting as a South Korean classroom.

“I could hardly understand anything the teacher said,” he said. “My classmates, who were all a year or two younger than I was, taunted me as a ‘poor soup-eater from the North.’ I fought them with my fists.”

Their difficulties are also academic.

When they are placed in South Korean schools, these Northerners start nearly from scratch. In the North, they had spent as much time learning about the family of their leader, Kim Jong-il, as they did the rest of Korean history. Few learned English, a requirement in South Korean schools. Dropout rates among defectors are five times the South Korean average, according to the Education Ministry.

A group called the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights has North and South Korean teenagers doing extracurricular activities and making friends, which is all fine and good, but it should be kept in mind that making a scarecrow out of straw together is a start, not a solution.

Given the enormous potential cost of reunification, we are not likely to see a unified Korea for a while, and thus can expect North Korean refugees to be coming for years to come. Hopefully, it will be a manageable trickle, and not a flood caused by the straw that broke the camel’s back.

* One example is the fact that the entrance fee for NB (Noise Basement), a dance club in Hongdae, is (or at least used to be) double for foreigners. By the way, NB is owned by the CEO of YG Entertainment, Yang Hyun-suk. I like 2NE1, but their boss is a douche.

October 23, 2009

Korean immigrant criminal referred to as “Canadian”

Filed under: crime, xenophobia — extrakorea @ 11:12 am

The Korea Times brings us a story entitled Canadian Caught for Swindling $27.8 Million. But wait.

Police said they arrested the Korean-turned-Canadian suspect in Seoul. According to police, the suspect, identified by his surname Kim, established an investment agency in Vancouver and raised funds amounting to nearly $27.8 million from 200 Koreans living there.

So if a Korean immigrates to Canada, then becomes a criminal, he’s a “Canadian.” Oookaaay. I’m sure that if he discovered the cure for cancer, he’d be hailed as a great “Korean” hero.

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