Earlier I posted a translation of a February 5, 2010 Dong-A Ilbo interview with Anti-English Spectrum’s Lee Eun-ung. A response to the claims made in the article follows. Here are links to the original foreign media articles (National Post, Vancouver Sun, LA Times (Feb. 2009, Jan. 2010)) referred to in the Dong-A Ilbo article.
At the beginning of the article, it asks “Why are foreign media ‘attacking the citizen’s group?’” and “attacking” is in quotes; not so a few sentences later: “Why are you receiving such attacks?” The reporter decided to turn the debate into “us vs. them” – “malicious foreign press reports are distorting things Korean.” This is amusing when you realize that in reality, one of the most critical statements made about Anti-English Spectrum came from an ROK diplomat, Younggoog Park, Minister-Counsellor of Public Affairs at the Korea Embassy in Ottawa:
“Their reactionary views and opinions do not represent the sentiment of Koreans toward Canadians or other foreign teachers,” Park told the CBC’s The Current.
Lee then takes the chance to once again reiterate the reason for forming AES – the English Spectrum incident: “During this incident, postings like ‘Picking up Korean women is easy… I had sex with a middle school girl’ enraged Koreans.” He fails to mention, as always, that the “How to mollest[sic] your students” post on Korean ESL (from which the “I had sex with a middle school girl” quote came) also enraged the foreign English teachers who read it when it was first posted a year and a half before it was discovered by Koreans. For once, due only to the criticism brought up in foreign media reports, Lee does actually admit something he never has before: “[A]mong the people who first joined our group, some concentrated only on attacking and degrading women who date foreigners.”
The women who appeared in photos with Western men taken at a sexy costume party (which were posted at English Spectrum and discovered by netizens in January 2005) received threats via phone and email at the time, such as:
‘Why don’t whores like you just die quietly.’
‘Foreigners’ whore! Why don’t you shut down your club?’
‘Whores, are Western bastards that good?’
According to the Chosun Ilbo,
A 27-year old also in the pictures said, “It’s true that I enjoy dancing to relieve stress, but isn’t it going overboard to treat me like a whore?” Fighting back tears, she said, “My co-workers point at me behind my back. “I don’t know how they got my email address, but I get tons of emails with frightening titles, so I don’t even turn on my computer these days.”
Ohmynews interviewed the women in the photos and the owner of Mary Jane bar, who told them, “It wasn’t a secret obscene party” and “In some online articles and at the Anti-English Spectrum cafe it was said that we were prostitutes, yanggongju and brothel keepers.”
More damning is a screen shot of Anti-English Spectrum’s main page taken by Dalian for this article at the time of the English Spectrum incident:
It’s difficult to read, but post 366 from 2005.01.14 is entitled “미친년들 이번 기회에 망신한번 당혜봘아,” or “This is the chance to humiliate those crazy bitches,” firsthand evidence of the type of venom the “citizens’ group” was spewing.
So it went, though Lee tells us that:
After this, through efforts at self-purification, it was settled on that our group would have the educational purpose of protecting our children from unqualified native-speaking teachers. However, foreign teacher organizations and foreign media still focus (only) on the issue of foreign men dating Korean women, which stood out at that time.”
Perhaps the focus on that is due to the fact that it was only early in 2010 that they removed their original statement of purpose from their site, a statement which included such things as:
Until the degradation of Korean women by English Spectrum stirred an uproar, we were just common citizens of the Republic of Korea. … one day, we witnessed English Spectrum’s arrogant and base statements degrading Korean women and we felt something beyond rage, a feeling of unendurable humiliation. And so, because of our burning consciences, our ‘active consciences,’ that we just could not ignore, we are gathered here together.
They also say that they are “waging a wearisome and very difficult fight against English Spectrum, a group that has debased the image of Korean women in such a dirty and humiliating way that is enough to have soiled the country’s national brand, and also against illegal, low-quality English instructors who prevent proper English education from happening in this land!”
In fact it was in late October 2005 that they changed their name to “Citizen’s Group for Upright English Education,” though posts thoroughly criticizing baekbba (“white groupies,” or women interested in sleeping with white men) continued into late 2007 (with discussions using the term taking place at least as late as mid 2009). I’ll save a closer look at how AES members identified, targeted and shut down site they deemed a baekbba site for another day.
Also, after Anti-English Spectrum tried to get Scott Burgeson fired from his teaching position at Hongik University in 2007 after taking offense at things they read about his book Daehanminguk Sayonghugi, in July 2009 a member of Anti-English Spectrum posted personal information about him and a quote taken selectively from this conversation at Dave’s ESL Cafe about dating in Korea, suggesting their “efforts at self-purification” (supposedly aimed at putting a stop to focusing on relationships between foreign teachers and Korean women) were not particularly strenuous. Also, in an email Scott noted to me that at that point he had stopped teaching a year-and-a-half earlier, “so why they even mentioned my post, made by a non-teacher at the time, underscores the fact that their rhetoric about ‘championing quality teaching’ is often more of a smokescreen.”
Then the Dong-A Ilbo claims that “They [ATEK and foreign media] also claim that the compulsory criminal record checks and medical certificates instituted as native speaker conversation instruction (E-2) visa requirements in late 2007 discriminate against foreigners.”
No, ATEK claimed the drug and AIDS tests were discriminatory – they did not say that medical certificates were in and of themselves were problematic. As for criminal record checks, in his report to the NHRCK, Ben Wagner in fact wrote that “Teachers of children, however, should be required to submit criminal background checks of sufficient scrutiny and authenticity rather than the current pro forma requirements.” That same opinion had already been offered in January 2008, when Kookmin University law professor Sean Hayes wrote in a Korea Times article that requiring only a “local police station” criminal background check would allow a “smarter than immigration ‘pedophile’ [to] simply request a record check from a town police department in a state where he has no criminal record and [he] would then receive a clean ‘no record’ statement.” So in fact you had the report to the NHRCK – which ATEK cited – arguing for stricter criminal record checks (put in place this July), which is the opposite of what the Dong-A Ilbo stated. Anything to make things easier for AES to explain away, I guess – or just plain laziness on the part of the Dong-A Ilbo reporter – or both.
Lee then says he doesn’t understand why teachers consider the health exams to be discriminatory, saying that,
Our (Korean) physical examination includes tests for sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis, and teachers are even fingerprinted. Also in the case of hagwon teachers, it’s necessary to verify that there are no sex crimes against children in their past.
Since syphilis (매독) tests often are a part of of government employee tests, including public school teachers (on this form, above where it says “기타” and you will see “매독”), it is fair to say that “public school teachers are tested for syphilis”. However saying they are tested for “sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis” is being disingenuous, as syphilis is the only STD tested for (The government used to test for hepatitis-B (간염), but this was a human rights issue and in 2003 the NHRCK recommended to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security that they alter this policy, and in 2005 the hepatitis B test was removed). Also, the Deputy Director of the NHRCK’s Human Rights Division, who was quoted in this article in June, said, “I am positive that immigration authorities would be advised to revise the controversial visa regulations regarding the AIDS check-up.”
You can read the rest of the post, complete with more photos, at Gusts of Popular Feeling.