Even while reading Brian's post, I started "conversations" with all my Korean-Korean MSN Messenger contacts in South Korea who appeared to be online, and asked them about Anti-English Spectrum.
This one from "S," herself a hagwon instructor in the Seoul area, was typical (note that the times are Hawaii time, so the 11's should be 6's in Korea time, not long after Brian wrote his piece):
kushibo says: (11:20:04 PM)Sorry, that got long.
Have you heard of a group called "Anti-English Spectrum"?
[S] says: (11:21:04 PM)
no.. what is that?
kushibo says: (11:21:50 PM)
Have you heard of a civil group in Korea that is trying to find drug-taking English teachers, illegal English teachers, or English teachers who abuse Korean women and get rid of them?
[S] says: (11:22:10 PM)
kushibo says: (11:22:25 PM)
If I told you such a group existed, what would you think?
[S] says: (11:23:00 PM)
so.. the group is focused on Foreign Enlgish teachers in Korea?
kushibo says: (11:23:07 PM)
[S] says: (11:23:46 PM)
so.. the existence of it is..a problem?
kushibo says: (11:24:07 PM)
Before I answer that, tell me — off the top of your head — what your impression would be.
[S] says: (11:24:51 PM)
there are many foreing English teachers who belong to the category...that'd be my first impression..
[S] says: (11:25:09 PM)
otherwise.. why such a civil group exists?
kushibo says: (11:25:41 PM)
What makes you think there are many foreign English teachers in that group? (I'm asking; not saying you're right or wrong.)
[S] says: (11:26:27 PM)
see the last sentnece of mine..
kushibo says: (11:26:57 PM)
So you mean that the existence of such a group must mean that there are such bad teachers?
[S] says: (11:27:09 PM)
kushibo says: (11:27:29 PM)
I see. But what makes you think it would be "many"?
[S] says: (11:28:07 PM)
근데 왜 물어보는데?
[S] says: (11:28:16 PM)
그냥 한두명 불법체류자나
[S] says: (11:28:25 PM)
마약 중동자면.. 그렇게 시민단체를 만들어서
kushibo says: (11:28:27 PM)
It comes up in the media sometimes, and I'm thinking of writing about it, but I want the opinion of Korean-Korean friends.
[S] says: (11:29:02 PM)
외국인 강사 자격확인이나 채용 기준을 엄격히 하자고 안하겠지....I guess..
[S] says: (11:29:33 PM)
before those bad people created problems in this counry..
[S] says: (11:30:05 PM)
well I guess most Koreans thought that they are working on good favor... they would be nice people... who want to get decent jobs or love to teach..
[S] says: (11:30:06 PM)
[S] says: (11:30:53 PM)
some of them (I don't know how many) turned out to be ex-convicts... child-abuser.. or even with college degrees..
[S] says: (11:31:08 PM)
if they keep creating problems...
[S] says: (11:31:27 PM)
there muse be rules for those situations..
[S] says: (11:31:45 PM)
without college degrees..
kushibo says: (11:32:08 PM)
Thanks for your answers.
kushibo says: (11:32:12 PM)
Here's the problem.
kushibo says: (11:32:46 PM)
Many people (particularly English teachers themselves) feel that this group (Anti-English Spectrum) spreads a lot of *disinformation* about them in the Korean media.
kushibo says: (11:33:22 PM)
And makes people think that the social problems caused by English teachers are much greater than they really are.
kushibo says: (11:34:01 PM)
They also feel that this group is motivated by racism and sexism, particularly because the leader of the group doesn't like to see foreign guys and Korean women dating.
kushibo says: (11:34:12 PM)
That's the issue right there.
[S] says: (11:34:25 PM)
then its not about English teachers...
kushibo says: (11:34:45 PM)
What do you mean?
[S] says: (11:35:26 PM)
it is just about a group of Korean people who hate foreigners..
[S] says: (11:35:33 PM)
who are in Korea
kushibo says: (11:36:24 PM)
Probably. But what has a lot of people (especially English teachers) upset is that this group seems to have a lot of influence with the press, like the Korea Times and the Chosun Ilbo.
kushibo says: (11:36:46 PM)
And the Chosun Ilbo articles are in Korean, perhaps read by a lot of Korean people.
[S] says: (11:37:04 PM)
그런 기사는 언제나 있었는데...
kushibo says: (11:37:17 PM)
And that makes people angry and concerned.
kushibo says: (11:37:28 PM)
These stories have always been around?
[S] says: (11:37:37 PM)
kushibo says: (11:38:42 PM)
Before I asked you about this, what was your impression of English teachers (as a group, or as individuals)?
kushibo says: (11:38:58 PM)
Did you have any special thoughts on "bad" behavior or anything like that?
[S] says: (11:39:28 PM)
[S] says: (11:39:51 PM)
i think I told you before..
[S] says: (11:40:08 PM)
those stupid people who do something illegel are everywhere...
[S] says: (11:40:23 PM)
it's not simply foreigners vs Koreans..
[S] says: (11:40:56 PM)
I don't mean that all of foreign workers in Korea are like that
[S] says: (11:41:17 PM)
some of KOreans,they go abraod.. do stupid things...
[S] says: (11:41:53 PM)
so... IMO, i dont want to group people into such such categories..
Here's my (slightly self-serving) distillation of what she wrote. Before I asked her about this, she hadn't heard of Anti-English Spectrum or what they do. When I asked her about it, she imagined, well, yeah, maybe there are such bad people, but she doesn't think it's the whole group, since there are stupid people everywhere.
I guess what I'm saying is that this group is not as influential as they are being made out to be. From my experience in earnestly looking into this, it appears that most Koreans haven't heard of them.
That's not to say Anti-English Spectrum shouldn't be dealt with. I think a good case could be made that they're a "hate group," but what they've done recently should be concisely and dispassionately listed and presented in the form of a petition to the Korean Human Rights Commission. Don't make a list of stuff that rehashes things from four years ago; focus on the here and now [edit: I mean, in the petition, except for the particularly egregious things from the past; it's most effective to show that they are a threat now]. And if anyone has truly been damaged directly from this group, that person or persons should be supported in an effort to bring litigation or criminal complaint against the group.
Stop railing about it in the blogs and do something constructive.