Friday, July 3, 2009

One teacher is not all teachers

Nobody likes being judged based on other members of their group, though such stereotyping behavior is, for better or worse, a deeply engrained part of human nature, I'd say.

And toward that end, I can understand why some English teachers are up in arms about the barrage of negative stories about English teachers (and other foreign residents) lately, including the most recent. Understandably, there is concern that bad press about a handful of pot smokers or some such will make native Koreans eye all English teachers with suspicion.

Okay, fine. I'm sympathetic to all that. Really. But then it gets into all kinds of stupid. First is the usual stupid logic that goes something like, "I hate being stereotyped! Koreans are always stereotyping us!" You see kiddies, that itself is stereotyping Koreans (I hope most of my readers would pick up on that without me pointing it out, but you'd be surprised how many people don't see the irony in their own statements and thought processes).

But then the second bout of stupidity is related to the title above. "One teacher is not all teachers" cuts both ways. It's a defense of the good guys when Koreans are confronted with volley after volley of bad press about some foreign teacher or something. But at the same time, it's an important reminder that not every foreign teacher or other international resident who ends up in the papers is being railroaded and deserves our sympathy.

And more to the point: Printing up a story about the person is not necessarily, as Brian put it, writing "about the foreign menace." Is the Korean media not supposed to write up drug stories or fake diploma operations because it might make some unrelated and totally innocent foreigner look guilty by association just by being a foreigner?

And then there's the third thing, the cognitive distortion that comes with getting a disproportionate amount of your Korea news from a K-blog. Simply, the K-blogs trade in foreigner-related news, which ends up getting highlighted in a way far different from how they would be seen by the average Korean. While each story is one of dozens if not hundreds that appear that day in the Korean-language media, they are treated by the English-language K-blogs as if they are the primary story of the day and Koreans think about them for days and weeks, if not months or years, to come.

How many Koreans have actually heard of English Spectrum or even Anti-English Spectrum, or even remember the infamous incidents? Maybe a lot, maybe a few. And then how many actually accept what's being said? I can't find the link now, but someone made reference to readers of a recent Anti-English Spectrum article, whose comments carried a theme of "Hey, isn't this kind of thing stalking?" or "Is this even legal?"

Anyway, here is the foreign menace of the day:
Its been a while. But heres the next step in operation illegal teacher. Korea is cracking down, its true! They have been for some time. I am going to be just fine though. The Korean government is too lazy to come into Haebangchon and kick me out. Which is weird cause a couple buddies of mine are now serving 30 day sentencing before they are booted out for working illegally. Oh well. Another burger at phillies.
China is booming right now, and I know many people that cant get into Korea are now infiltrating that country. Get on top of it while its hot. We are still selling degrees, and have signed 14 teachers to date with quality diplomas.Now they are teaching in schools all across the South Korean peninsula, making big money. Man …..,, these schools are desperate and willing to pay!

Also too, were looking to get our hands on some CELTA degrees soon. Just making sure they are looking top notch.
Im working on some new videos, and will be giving you guys some top advice on passport manipulation and a glimpse into what your new education will look like!

See you at the Seoul Pub
Oh, and of course there's more:
It seems that I have been shut down by the Korean Government. Im not sure why but its a bit of an issue to all my viewers and I apologize for it. Lets look on the bright side of things though, at least this blog is still going and everyone has a chance to peek the real side of the teaching industry.

Also, on another note. Fake degrees are now for sale. Anyone that wants one, you let me know. This is an opportunity to graduate from any university of your choice. Harvard you say? Absolutely! We'll have you set up and ready to go within days. Get the teaching job of your dreams.

Im currently wrapping up some of acting here in Seoul, and look forward to getting that off to everyone. Teaching isnt your only option here!

Best of luck to all of you in 2009. Hopefully I;ll see you at the Seoul Pub, and long live the HBC.
That link above includes a video of the guy saying pretty much the same thing about fake diplomas, lest anyone think some vindictive ex was setting him up.

And of course, there's more:
Its been a while since a blog post. Ive been real busy putting together a ebook about teaching in Korea. Its going to be ready real soon, and I can wait to share it once I have it together. They ultimate plan in getting yourself legit and working in a country even if you only have a couple years of elementary school behind you. Stay tuned, I'm going to refine this and get it edited out.

Also, I would like to congradulate the 3 new esl teachers we just got into Korea. They are excited about their jobs, and are even happier with the degrees they have. They are making some great money,and the world really is their oyster!
Cheese and rice, it's like the guy was deliberately trying to hit all the Anti-English Spectrum stereotypes, huh? This is all kinds of stupid, like the guys who Facebooked their high-profile poker game. Oh, and two of those geniuses apparently had taken drugs recently enough that they came up positive with a drug test. Brilliant.

So here's a guy selling fake diplomas, which is a story the press would eat up even if it had nothing to do with foreigners. Should the Korean media not print it? Given that one function of punishment is deterrence, isn't it prudent to demonstrate that the authorities are indeed cracking down on things, even when they involve foreigners?

Nope, because by reporting crimes by foreigners, they make foreigners look bad, right? Right?

The foreign community needs a collective wake-up call that the Wild Wild Westerner mentality that is so prominent among a growing segment of the English-teaching population (and others) is adversely affecting the reputation of everyone else, particularly in terms of professionalism and — if this is important to you — marriage prospects.

I was recently forwarded a query about motorcycle riding in Korea:
Hey there folks, I am thinking about buying a motorbike in South Korea that is not registered. I was told that the cops really try to avoid foreigners and so I have little to worry about in terms of getting a fat ticket.. is this true? Can anyone give me some tips on motorcycling in South Korea in general?
Many thanks friends,
Like our diploma-milling friend, this guy is falling for and perpetuating the idea that, hey, if you've got a foreign-looking face then you don't have to worry about obeying the law. True, I suppose, but only up to a point. If this guy were involved in an accident — even if he were not at fault — they would come down hard on him. And then, I suppose, he would turn into a WAAAAAHgugin™ complaining that he's being picked on because he's a foreigner. And so would his buddies. And so would Dave's ESL. And so would the K-blogs.

Sigh. We must learn to stop stupidity before it happens.

Ah, being Cosbyesque earns me the label of apologist. People would rather not face up to their group members' culpability in these matters and instead convince Koreans that pot is harmless — Less Harmlessful Than Soju™ — and that writing about foreigners committing crimes is hypocritical (because Koreans also commit crimes) and racist or xenophobic.

It's human rights abuse!

Tell me why you should give a rat's ass about the press highlighting the diploma-forging Colonel Fernandez. Not only is he breaking the law, he's making all kinds of English teachers look suspect because, realistically, it's plausible that any of them could have a fake diploma. And yeah, he is reinforcing the meme that Korea is a place for dishonest people to come and make money. This is not a meme Koreans collectively pulled out of their ass.

And in the end, if you're an English teacher, isn't this guy affecting your livelihood? Is it better for you if anyone can come in and throw some money his way and get a degree?

There's your foreign menace right there.


  1. Thanks for posting that dude's blog. I was over at Korea Beat and became extremely curious about this guy. He is truly offensive. I am not a fan of the Choson Ilbo's reporting style, but this dude is a poster child for their arguments.

  2. You make a lot of excellent points and I linked this post in an update I did. (I put it up yesterday evening and didn't realize it was being discussed on Korea Beat.)

    I don't like to sit here and pretend to speak for all the other teachers. I mentioned in my closed-commented rant on this last weekend that, contrary to popular belief, I don't pretend we're all upstanding citizens or even good teachers. I do believe the media is distorting our image by fixating on the bad apples, but logically if I'm going to be offended by a media that says we're sexual predators, I have to be offended by the sexual predation (word?) as well. And in my four years I've certainly met enough people to give me a bad impression of the teaching industry, though of course the bottom line is that schools and companies aren't investing the time and effort into checking up who they're hiring. So my first thought when meeting some prick isn't "you're a teacher?" but "who in the hell hired YOU?"

  3. Brian, if it seemed by linking to your site that I was picking on you in particular for anything, that was never my intent.

    You have made it quite clear on many occasions that you don't see all English teachers as "upstanding citizens or even good teachers," and I'm glad you make that point. I share your concerns about media bias, and I think for the most part your presentation is well thought-out and balanced.

    But it seems so many K-blog readers are of the mindset that just about any criticism of NSETs or other foreigners is xenophobia and racism and that all the issues are media-generated b.s.

  4. One other thing that I keep thinking but don't say enough is that, it seems, many people think the media is driving public impressions when, to some degree at least, it is the other way around.

    The media started focusing on drugs because people were getting arrested for drugs. Stories of pedophiles in the classroom were bubbling into discussion — despite many arrests — long before Christopher Neil claimed to have killed Jon-Benet Ramsey.

    While Ben Wagner and Tony Hellmann see the E2 regulations as "human rights abuse," I see them as a chance to present a squeaky-clean record. And moreover, to put up a sign that says Korea wants serious teachers only.

    (Of course, reform must be done in other areas, but this is as good a place to start as any.)

    I know that's not the popular view, but in the long run the law-abiding residents will benefit greatly from it.

  5. I'm half black and half Korean, born in Seoul, and just returned from a 15 month break from my usual job in the States to teach English in Korea.
    I left absolutely disgusted by the country and I cut my plans to spend a few years in Korea short. My main problem tended to be the vilification of foreigners.

    Nobody on either side is trying to say that foreigners committing crimes is a good thing. You mention "'s an important reminder that not every foreign teacher or other international resident who ends up in the papers is being railroaded and deserves our sympathy." but nobody said that either.
    It's possible that we're reading different articles, but it seems that people are complaining that there are ambiguous articles being written about alleged crimes being committed by foreigners. These aren't verified convictions, these are just allegations. Any group would feel attacked if this happened repeatedly, despite the fact that the average Korean is 3 times more likely (via Korean National Police Agency) to commit a crime in Korea than a foreigner and there are 50 million Koreans.
    Do you think the media coverage is commensurate?
    That said, when you have a group of people that all believe in Han, take pride in being homogeneous and freely describe themselves in broad generalized terms, forming generalizations about them is slightly different than about "all foreigners." In my opinion anyway.
    When I say "Koreans believe in fan death" I obviously don't mean my Korean American neighbors, I mean the Koreans described above.

    A bit off topic, but I did a search for "Korean Music Video" today and the first result was this video:

    Note around 1:00 when a group of black guys attempt to mug this Korean girl. Do you think that this sort of portrayal of foreigners is normal, or even okay? It's in almost every Korean production. Remember in The Host when the white scientist forces the Korean man to pour chemicals down the drain?

    p.s. I like your blog, i was a first time visitor today.

  6. James, to fully answer your comment would take a lot more time than I have now.

    I have a completely different perspective — and one with much more sympathy — on how Koreans view Blacks than how Koreans view Whites.

    There are still some appallingly unfair, unjust, and unwarranted negative stereotypes and attitudes that exist in Korea toward Blacks — particularly in regards to dating and employment — but I have also seen a lot of change. Much of it is eroding, but there's still a long way to go.

    I grew up in Compton and moved to Orange County, and I slowly found myself having a very different view of Blacks than did most of my White neighbors in OC. It was surreal, especially the two-faced way in which some would turn on and off their viewpoints depending on who was around. I still see a lot of that, and that's partly why I sometimes find myself rolling my eyes when I hear Whites complaining about "racism" in Korea, especially when "most racist country I've ever seen" is spouted.

    That America is still full of closeted racists who spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to be kept away from minorities as much as possible doesn't excuse the treatment of Blacks or other other minorities, particularly people of mixed heritage who grew up in Korea. I'm not saying that at all.

    And now I see I've gone completely off-topic.

    About the stories, yes, there are often examples where K-blog commenters complain someone is "being railroaded and deserves our sympathy."

    When the case of Mark McDowell came out, one commenter at Marmot's Hole said:

    I’m certainly not defending the scumbag but we all know how skewed reports of this nature can get in the Korean press. We don’t know the details of the case (though I would be curious) and if a judge in the US ruled the case to be “minor” (I’m guessing this means actually it was ruled a “misdemeanor” or something) then perhaps we should take a step back and perhaps the offender is a regular poster here and would like to comment.

    ... For all we know this whole case is total horsewash. We all know how the press can change a few words and make a felony child molestation charge out of a youthful impropriety with an overzealous pubescent ... I would take the whole case with a grain of salt.

    That one comes to mind because I took the time to blog it.

    Remember in The Host when the white scientist forces the Korean man to pour chemicals down the drain?

    Yes, I do remember. And I also remember the White American GI being the only one helping the Song Kangho character — and ending up dying for it. The movie was far more balanced and far more nuanced. One American was bad and another was heroic and sacrificing; at the same time the movie took potshots against Korean society big time.

    And that's the thing here. My comments about cognitive distortion are quite appropriate: these stories are not the only ones in the media, their not the only stories about foreigners, and many or most Koreans take them with a grain of salt.

    Okay. I have to get going now.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Kushibo:

    There is one reason I think the press should NOT go after this guy:
    Because, video notwithstanding, i think when the S*it hits the fan, there's now way that this is a real blog of someone in HBC, who frequents the Seoul Pub. I think this blog is fake.

    Let's use our heads here, if someone was resourceful and intelligent enough to forge documents, why would he then stupidly blog about his illegal activities for the world to see? There are stupid people, there are smart people, but he's gotta be either one or the other.

    Also, does this sound like the words of a forger, who is trying to help illegal teachers? (from a post, November 2007):
    "Citizens angry by the nakedly sexual talk and actions of those kinds of white foreign teachers are voluntarily trying to improve things. The 14,419-member strong Anti-English Spectrum ( is actively organizing a “citizen’s movement to toss out illegal English teachers”, requesting police and prosecution action. Site manager Lee (ID 엠투) said, “this year, too, we are focused on the issue of low-quality, lecherous, unqualified foreign teachers."

    We can't be certain now, but NO, the press should NOT report on this, until they can verify it. I doubt that this Supposed "evil-English teacher" will ever be found. And that the man in that video was put up to it. If you take a minute to think about this blog, and everything the guy writes, its clear that something doesn't add up.

    If this can be verified, then of course, go ahead, report it, vilify him, jail him and deport him. 100%. But I'm pretty sure that's not what will happen.
    Journalism is about reporting the truth... investigating and verifying sources.

  9. I'm glad you've written this post, it's very refreshing to get this sort of outlook in the Korean blogosphere - it seems that tensions have been rising recently with some of the news articles that have been blogged about.

    The first thing I want to mention is that, at least among the Koreans I know, none of them have an ounce of respect for anything the Chosun Ilbo says anyway, and from what I can gather that's a common viewpoint among Koreans. The following links to an old bbc article that shows that only just under 20% of Koreans view newspapers as the most valuable news source anyway:

    They did do a newer article that said basically the same thing but I can't find it. The point it, as Kushibo said, the non-Koreans who write and post on blogs naturally focus on news about non-Koreans - nothing wrong with that, but it means they have a different perspective of the Korean media than most Koreans do.

    When I think of my encounters with Koreans, they are almost always kind, polite and friendly to me. Like many others who might read this, I'm in a long term relationship with a Korean, and not once has anyone she knows ever asked her whether it's wise to be with a foreigner, seeing as how I'm surely a lecherous, drug-taking pervert, or even anything of the sort. I just think most Koreans are too wise to pay any heed to the overly-sensationalist news reports, and savvy enough to accept the ones about genuine idiots and criminals (like the one that's the subject of this post) as not being representative of the whole group.

    Just as the native-speaker teachers who commit crimes and are generally bad eggs are obviously the minority, so too the Koreans who would think worse of native-speaker teachers as a collective as a result of the actions of those bad eggs are the minority.

    Finally - and apologies for the overly-long comment - I think it's absolutely true that if all foreigners in Korea make themselves aware of the laws, obey them, act responsibly and show that we aren't any of the negative depictions seen in some reports, the risk of being stereotyped and discriminated against will decrease. Also, the younger generations in Korea are increasingly more progressive and liberal than those who went before them. Sooner or later there's going to be none left from the generations who were educated about the "pure bloodlines" and homogeneity of Korea, and who would taint us with the actions of the few, whom we also reject.

  10. I'm confused. So you disagree with Wagner's NHRCK report?

    It says:

    “Clear standards for teacher qualifications must be established instead of repeatedly profiling and stigmatizing foreign English teachers as professionally and ethically ‘unqualified.’ Foreign English teachers are recruited by the government and private institutions on the basis of their marketable appearance as authentic ‘native speakers,’ and are then criticized for these same qualities. If the government is interested in establishing academic qualifications beyond appearing to possess ‘native speaking ability,’ it should indentify, articulate and promulgate the appropriate standard.” (PAGE 61)

    Are you saying that the media "repeatedly profiling and stigmatizing foreign English teachers as professionally and ethically ‘unqualified’" is a good way to motivate the government to set up standards?

    But Wagner's approach is a bad way?

    Please explain.

  11. (The question above was directed at blog poster)

  12. This is a great post. A lot of great insight in this whole affair. I am actually very surprised that a Korean paper actually picked up my blog! It looks like it does troll a series of websites frequented by the expat community. What I found even more hilarious was the fact that the post on Korea Beat prior to the translation on my blog site showed a photo of me while I was in Singapore.(Pink Tshirt.White watch.Scorpions). I applied for another job recently with that photo cause It brought out a casualness in my character. Looks like people are fishing for foreigners photos to exploit. But oh well, looks like I just did that to myself. Anyways Kushibo, thanks for the post.
    Heres the link for anyone who is interested.

  13. Hey, Colonel...

    Since a lot of people are starting to think you're either (a) not real or (b) not in Korea, is there anything you'd be willing to do to prove to them that (a) and (b) are not true.

    Next week after I could meet up with you at a location determined by you. Doesn't have to be Seoul Pub (not even sure where that is). I'll do a little interview, if you'd allow it.

    And you have my word that I will not alert the authorities or any angry blogger as to your whereabouts. And if I were to break my word, I'd be vilified — even more than now — so that's not really an option.

    Drop me an email (through my Blogger profile) and let me know what you think.

  14. We might be able to work something out.Email me at my blog address.

  15. Colonel, I haven't been able to find your email address on your blog or in your profile. Could you go to my profile and email me, por favor?


    Thats where you can find me.


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