Tuesday, June 06, 2006
This is what happened.
A Korean-American teacher at the English Village in Seongnam (allegedly) assaulted primary school students while they were on a nature walk. Not long after, a Korean teacher at the English Village in Ansan (allegedly) assaulted middle school students in their dormitory.
Sohn Hak-kyu, the governor of Gyeonggi (where both Villages are located), apologized for the incidents and promised to improve supervision at the facilities.
This wasn't good enough for the Gyeonggi KTU office, which issued a press release entitled "It is not enough to increase supervision of sexual assault." The release claimed that the governor was ignoring "structural problems" with the Villages:
(1) teaching positions do not require a degree in education, and so underqualified people are hired;
(2) foreign teachers have a "free attitude" to sex, which a few hours of cultural education cannot remedy;
(3) foreign teachers are merely tourists, in Korea for the money or the "experience," and so are not suffiently devoted to their profession; and
(4) with 40 students in a classroom, teachers cannot conduct effective lessons.
The solution, the statement concluded, was to stop spending money on these Villages and to invest instead in public education.
First, I'll attempt to explain what I think Gyeonggi KTU was doing with the release.
The English Villages in Gyeonggi were founded by Governor Sohn, who is an important member of the conservative Hanarra Party. Public education is not a big priority for Sohn or Hanarra, and the KTU used the publicity surrounding the incidents to score some easy political points against Sohn, and to promote public education. Worthwhile goals, in my opinion.
But this is NOT an apology.
Gyeonggi KTU is cynically exploiting the currents of xenophobia that exist in Korea, to its own ends. The release deliberately targeted ill-informed and biased newsreaders, and I was shocked that teaching professionals would do this. The statement attacks EVERY FOREIGN TEACHER IN KOREA.
Unfortunately, despite appeals from various union members and foreign teachers, the Gyeonggi office has refused to retract their statement.
As SOMEONE must accept responsibility for this inane and hateful piece of propaganda, I will resign from the KTU.
This causes me a great deal of pain, as I have made many friends in the union, teachers who are wholly committed to their students and to their profession, and I still believe in the stated goals of the organization (even if the meaning of '참' continues to elude me).
At least now I'll have more time to indulge in my depraved sexual pursuits. Oops, I mean I'll have more time to learn proper, Korean attitudes to sex.
The horror ...
p.s. My apologies for all the CAPS. I'M ANGRY.