Thursday, November 19, 2009

Your daily anti-Anti-English Spectrum reader

The Korea Herald has a piece in the November 20 edition that makes the case that Anti-English Spectrum is a hate group. An excerpt from the article:
An issue many have with Anti-English Spectrum is its past use of racist language, such as referring to foreigners as "Black pigs," saying that foreigners engage in "sexual molestation," and that they "target children."

Another AES action that has gone further than your friendly neighborhood watch involves them engaging in types of vigilantism. The group's administrator admits to stalking foreigners. "Whenever I have to prepare a policy report or embark on the pursuit of an illegal foreign lecturer, then I end up working until dawn because I throw myself into it, braving fire and water. Then because I have to be at work in the morning, I don't get any sleep, and therefore am physically very tired." They have also stored information and photographs on their website of non-Koreans they have followed.

As for charges of racism, Anti-English Spectrum's host, said they have received no complaints. The PR department for Korea's biggest portal stated that even though the cafe is rather large -- having 17,000 members -- prior to being contacted by The Korea Herald a representative said she was unaware of the group. When asked about the "black pig" comment, the representative stated that "in this case 'black pig' is definitely a racist comment."

"It is hard to detect all offensive comments. What's more important here is the measure we take against such actions ... If anyone reports to us about wrongdoings that are going on in this cafe, we will take measures and give sanctions to them."

And in the November 18 edition of the Korea Times there's a focus on the efforts of Andrea Vandom, supported by ATEK, to get Naver to remove offensive from the AES website. I've already given my opinion on this effort, but for the sake of brevity I'll just say that it's akin to having the sirens go full blast on the way to a raid.

As I've stated here and here, Ms Vandom and ATEK in particular should be using their clout to go to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) to get AES investigated as a hate group in order to erode their clout with lazy legislators and sloppy journalists.

Anyway, here's an excerpt from the KT piece:
Andrea Vandom sent a letter to the company's CEO claiming that the online community, which is also called the "Citizen's Movement to Expel Illegal Teachers of Foreign Languages" with over 17,000 members, violates Korean Law and Naver blog's operating principles.

"Considering NHN's obvious commitment to being an international and diverse corporation, it is very difficult to understand how NHN can offer its services as a communications network to a racial hate group," she said in the letter. Vandom has already filed a petition with the Constitutional Court against E-2 visa regulations that require native English teacher applicants to undergo AIDS/HIV and drug tests.

In the letter, she requested the NHN to remove articles saying foreigners are targeting Korean children in order to molest them and that some foreigners are seeking to infect Koreans with AIDS or other diseases.

She also called for deletion of content that involves vigilante activities such as the tracking or stalking of foreigners and those promoting racial hatred.
One thing I don't like about the Korea Herald article is the way the author subtly makes the jump from talking about "illegal English teachers" to English teachers in general, a blurring that is reflected even in the materials of the anti-AES posts on various blogs. This is ironic because the conflation of "illegal" English teachers with English teachers in general is one of the complaints about AES.

And frankly, I don't like the way this is all getting muddier and muddier. On the one hand we have lazy journalists apparently reprinting wholesale the claims of AES founder Mr Lee (I say "apparently" because it's possible AES and the lazy journalists are both getting their "information" from a third source), and now on the other side we have journalists in a different camp parroting blog posts opposed to AES.

Sigh. This is all the more reason to take it to the NHRCK and have them make a judgement: It will have weight, it will be authoritatively conclusive, and it will be clear.


  1. As I understand it, this group is xenophobic and somewhat racist. It's somewhat like the white supremacist site Stormfront, which is infinitely more hateful than AES, but fully legal.

    I know that Korea does have a very strong libel law which I don't fully understand, but why is the use of racist language a legal issue? People on major, mainstream American websites do it all the time, not to mention the online group used by ESL Cafe, where there's all sorts of abuse hurled Koreans.

  2. Adeel, you make a good point, and I plan to mention something like that when I post about this KT article stating that Naver is rejecting the demands that stuff be removed from AES.

  3. I also believe it's safe to say that when certain expats say really stupid and uninformed things about Koreans on the internet, it doesn't help their cause. Making friends and allies is the nature of minority politics and expats are a minority in Korea.

    Their posts and comments do get translated into Korean and Koreans do read them.

    Considering that they are foreigners and guests in another country, you'd think that some of these yahoos would be a little more smarter about it.

  4. Making friends and allies is the nature of minority politics and expats are a minority in Korea.

    This is possibly going to be stupid, but I'm going to say it anyway. Korea has numerous shortcomings when it comes to dealing with foreigners, particularly the less-desirable sort that aren't tall, white and good-looking, but I think the passion of an activist group that goes after something as minor as the content of a website comes from having never been a minority before.

    There are many other far more productive battles that could be fought than trying to remove offensive content from a website.

  5. Adeel wrote:
    I think the passion of an activist group that goes after something as minor as the content of a website comes from having never been a minority before.

    Indeed. I've said as much before, which may be why I get treated like a pariah.

  6. Well... the point of a lot of k-blogs (not all, but too many) is not to learn about Koreans or have an intelligent discussion about Korea, but it is to have fun by pointing out how different Koreans are to Western countries and poking fun at it.

    I mean, being stuck in a country where you don't know the language and have few friends is a very disarming and humbling experience. Plus, I will admit, Koreans do tend to be an insular and abrasive people sometimes. But most people who come to America from different countries just grin and bear it, but these expats (again, not all expats, but too many) lash out by being "bitter" and instead of make a real effort to understand a country with 50 million human beings who have strengths and weaknesses, they they just make the highly arrogant and culturally myopic observation that because Koreans aren't more like Americans, Australians, New Zelanders, South Africans, Englanders, Canadians or what have you that they are a pathetic lot.

    Kush, you are trying to ruin their fun... so it doesn't matter if you are making any sense or being logical. Your point ruins their ability to point at and gawk at Koreans without conscience, restraint or responsibility. Thus, you are a pariah.

  7. @Edward

    Because Koreans would NEVER gawk at a non-Korean without conscience, restraint or responsibility.

  8. Ha... yes... but there are 50 million of them and a couple 10's of thousands of you.

    Expats are a minority in Korea and that's already a strike against them. When you are a minority, discretion needs to be exercised, but so little is in their community.

  9. There are many other far more productive battles that could be fought than trying to remove offensive content from a website.

    The website is a red herring. This has nothing to do with the website and everything to do with the group behind the website.


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