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Anti-English Spectrum Cafe targets English teachers in Korea
December 21, 2009 - By: - In: In the News / Awards - 11 comments

Having been an English-as-a-second-language teacher, I know all about the moral  character and after-hours habits of English teachers overseas.  There’s been a lot of ink recently in Korea on “ceaseless sex crimes committed by native speaker instructors working in foreign language” schools.

The accusations here are not from the cops, but the “Anti-English Spectrum Cafe” (불법 외국어 강사 퇴출을 위한 국민운동) (You’lll need Google Translate to read the page if your Korean is not up to snuff.)

This group, lead by Lee Eun-ung, is dedicated to the deportation of illegal foreign language teachers, who are the types most likely to engage in drug-fueled orgies with underage students, and unwilling Korean women, according to the group.  Among other claims, the group reports that 80% of foreign English teachers test HIV positive.

Lee’s quest has not been an easy one. “To track down the locations of foreign teachers using drugs he spent 150 days in bitterly cold weather, outworking the police, not going home. Many times he has asked schools to fire foreign teachers who make a hobby out of having sex at knifepoint, tracked down foreign lecturers who bring venereal disease, and warned security guards and cram school authorities about kidnappers.”

These stories are apparently playing big in the Korean-language press, and one can only imagine the damper it must put on parents sending their kids to English school. To say nothing of what your average disreputable English teacher must be going through when someone starts stalking him on suspision that as a foreigner he must be a criminal too.

And there isn’t much the teachers can do about it: The claims aren’t being challenged by the Korean government, which recently imposed drug testing and criminal-record checks on foreign English teachers, including those who have lived in Korea for years.

Xenephobic? You might say so, if you were an English teacher. But there is  also talk of a “Multicultural Korea.” and the government has introduced policies in recent years to support “multicultural families.” Author Scott Burgeson calls it “gendered multiculturalism.”

Gendered multiculturalism has only recently been embraced by the Korean establishment because it serves the interests of Korean men, which is to say the patriarchal structure here. This becomes even more apparent when we consider that the number of male migrant workers here from Southeast Asia and China is roughly four times that of “foreign brides” from these same countries, and yet the South Korean government continues to make it difficult for male migrant workers from developing countries to obtain permanent residency or citizenship here, and often they are deported in large numbers. Clearly, “multiculturalism” has a rather narrow meaning as far as official Korea is concerned, which is why I call it “gendered multiculturalism” in the service of Korean patriarchy.

So does it really boil down to “foreign women in” and “foreign men out in Korea?” If so,  the current situation in Korea seems more like a cultural universal or even evidence of our primate natures.

Whenever I think of gender and conflict, my wife immediately comes to mind, but then I think of the Chimpanzee Wars of Gabon in the 90s, where selective logging triggered ferocious warfare between different bands, with casualties reaching 80%. So what do chimps have to do with gendered xenophobia/multiculturalism?

Each troop is very close, forming bonds that last a lifetime. Animals groom one another, share food at times, and engage in play. Many members are genetically related to one another. Males seldom or never leave the community into which they are born, and siblings and pairs of male friends often travel together. Females, however, may leave to join another group permanently when in estrus (the time when females are fertile), moving freely between communities because they have not yet given birth, or may return to their original group after becoming pregnant.

Each chimpanzee troop is very close, forming bonds that last a lifetime.  Males seldom or never leave the community into which they are born, and siblings and pairs of male friends often travel together, defending and attacking other males in carefully coordinated actions. The males in each troop are all closely related. Not so the females.

Chimp females do not have the same lifetime attachment to the fatherland, and may leave to join another group permanently when in estrus (the time when females are fertile), moving freely between communities because they have not yet given birth, or may return to their original group after becoming pregnant, and are more likely to survive inter-troop conflict.
I was unable to find information in time for my deadline on the differences between human female and male linguistic exogamy (marrying outside your native language) but I’ve always been struck by high percentage of women who work in the translation business. Is this a social phenomena, related to the social status of translators, or does it reflect some primal genetic drive going back to caveman days?

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