Posted on 09 April 2010.
This editorial, which appeared in the Daejeon Ilbo on March 25, comments on the “never-ending” crimes of foreign English teachers:
“The country where murderers and drug criminals teach English”
In Korea the illegal and law-evading activities of foreign language teachers is never-ending. Some thoughtless teachers get into trouble because of their illegal and law-evading activities, and now gang activity and murder have shockingly been uncovered. It’s incredible that such a brutal criminal and drug addict could play such a role and teach English to young students.
A Korean-American teacher who was exposed and arrested a few days ago was wanted by Interpol for murder. In 2006 he killed a Korean-American in the U.S. and fled to Korea where he habitually did drugs and taught children. Another Korean-American named Lee who worked as a teacher at a famous hagwon in Gangnam was arrested in a similar case. An LA gang member, who was deported for attempted murder, came to Korea and worked as an English teacher and was arrested for smuggling, dealing and taking drugs. In 2008 a teacher on the FBI’s most-wanted list for murder was arrested, and 13 English teachers were arrested for gambling and habitually doing drugs. There are also foreign teachers who get into trouble because of their disorderly private lives or molestation.
It’s not easy to keep problematic “low-quality teachers” like these out . Under current law, for hagwons that employ foreign teachers, the owner must report the teacher’s personal data to the education office within one week. For people from English-speaking countries to receive a conversation-teaching visa (E-2), they must submit a criminal record and infectious disease certificates and their addresses in Korea. However, for foreign teachers who have come to Korea, fake diplomas or documents are difficult to verify. Moreover, there is no system to filter out undeclared instructors and instructors from non-English speaking countries.
At the end of July last year there were 21,498 E-2 visa holders in Korea. If we include those illegal teachers who came to Korea on tourist visas there are 50,000 foreign teachers. At Seoul public schools, among native-speaking English teachers 16.2% are licensed teachers, and only 38.8% have TESOL or TEFL certificates. Teachers at private hagwons fall far beyond this level.
In the era of globalization, the need for foreign language education is an undeniable reality. As long as foreign language education is unavoidable the entire system should be improved. We must find a way to raise quality standards and block law-breaking foreigners at the source. At this time, we also wish that we could confidently check the conditions of private foreign language hagwons in Daejeon and Chungcheongnam-do.
So, we’re told that “It’s not easy to keep problematic ‘low-quality teachers’ like these out,” which is then followed by unrelated information about registration of teachers and the E-2 system (incorrectly – infectious disease certificates and their addresses in Korea must be submitted to get an alien registration card, not the visa) and talk of fake diplomas and “undeclared instructors and instructors from non-English speaking countries” who cannot be “filtered out” (forgetting that there are over 1,000 non-English teaching E-2 visa holders). There is nothing about F-4 visas, however, which is the visa those caught in these most recent cases were on. As always, Korean-Americans are treated according to the “Korean-American + ‘good’ or ’successful’ = Korean, Korean American + ‘bad’ or ‘criminal’ = American/foreign” equation. The editorial betrays a total lack of knowledge about these visa issues, and seems like it was just a chance for the writer to crusade against the long-standing “foreign English teacher problem” and their “never-ending” crimes in order to “protect children.”
We’re also told that there are “50,000 foreign teachers” if illegal teachers on tourist visas are included (are there even that many of such illegal teachers these days?), which is 30,000 above the number of E-2 visa holders. It’s quite an exaggeration, and one meant to frighten (golly, are there really so many possible “brutal criminals and drug addicts” out there?).
Then we’re told that, “At Seoul public schools, among native-speaking English teachers 16.2% are licensed teachers, and only 38.8% have TESOL or TEFL certificates.” While it sounds similar to comments in this article attributed to Song Kwang-yong, the president of Seoul National University of Education (“Currently, only 20.5 percent of native English-speaking teachers (at schools) have teaching licenses (according to data from the Education Ministry, November 2008)”), what’s interesting is that neither a Google or Naver search turned up any other article referring to those stats except this one.
The article lists examples of “never-ending” crimes by foreign English teachers (“끊이지 않고 있다” is not an uncommon way to describe them – see here).
Not to excuse the crimes that are committed, but something that should be pointed out is that a few groups could scrutinize the way foreign English teachers are depicted by the Korean media and come away looking good.