Anti-English Spectrum Cafe targets English teachers in Korea

by Translation Guy on December 21, 2009

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?


  1. Sandy says:

    This is racism, straight up.

  2. Well, I don’t have nor do I spread HIV/AIDS etc…, so go screw yourselves to those associated with racist hate at Naver and AES!!!

  3. Shirlything says:

    In a related story, Obama signs a U.S. bill allowing entry to those with AIDS/HIV. Of course S. Korea still bans those after they have arrived, then tested in country as well as after receiving a visa. They mean something like(but probably worse), get the f out!

  4. Max says:

    South Korea has a lot to learn…

    • Ken says:

      Is it fair to hold an entire nation responsible for the bad mouthing of a few whose voices are magnified by the Internet? The more shocking the story, the more digital ink spilled.

      I’m intrigued by the way South Koreans use the internet as a tool for social protest. Nativisit groups have used these networks very effectively and the link between online action and its realization on the streets
      is strong. Last year, after the signing of a trade pact that would finally relax the ROK ban on US beef, the streets erupted. Not fears of foreign AIDS that time, but mad cow disease. Check out the pics.

  5. Sizzler says:

    It’s easy to use the internet as a social protest especially in a country that doesn’t regulate or enforce civilized behavior Ken!

    • Ken says:

      Freedom of assembly is a fundamental human right but not a universal one. Interesting to see how different cultures enjoy and enforce those liberties.

  6. Zob says:

    This is scary

  7. Sarah says:

    After almost ten years in Korea, I moved on because of shit like this. 2002 was just the begining of their hyped up nationalism, this is a continuation.

    It seems to me that a good majority of Koreans don’t hate foreigners, but they don’t want them there…unless of course your a hot (usually white) female they can put on a TV show.

    When people ask me about Korea, I show them stories like this. I make sure I tell them not every Korean is xenophobic, but most are.

    If you doubt what I say, do some research on how biracial Koreans who are born and raised in Korea are treated. Pay special attention to their suicide rate and how many graduate from high school.

    If they treat biracial Koreans like crap, how do you think they’re going to treat foreign nationals?

    Here’s a website by a biracial Korean, check it out, especially the part where he was arrested.

    Am I being harsh? Yes and everyone else should be too, there’s no excuse for this kind of thing. Koreans don’t accept excuses when things like this are done to them.

  8. Sheldon says:

    The-anti English Spectrum is what I suspect caused me to feel a much greater sense of coldness from Koreans. I used to work there for 3 years.. Koreans are a very ethnocentric people, and because of that, they are highly likely to be gullible towards foreigners and what they think of foreigners. This allegation about 80% of native English teachers in Korea infected with HIV is a false allegation. Most Koreans would go for that allegation because most Koreans are ethnically and racially gullible. (Especially to a black person like me)

    Anti-English Spectrum is the KKK of Korea. All they do is persuade Koreans to practice hatred against foreigners. Not to mention how bad Koreans treat bi-racial Koreans. Koreans are literally worse than the white man. In fact I think South Korea is the most racist country in Asia that they even hate their own North Koreans.

    If Korean people are so xenophobic, perhaps I think it would have been better for Kim Il Sung to have taken over the whole entire Korean penensula (including Jeju Island) and see what the result would be like, even today under Kim Jeong Il.

    I love Korean people but as far as I am concerned, they need to open up and realize that they cannot expect things in the world to go their ways. Koreans may be different in their culture, but they need to stop using their pride as a copout to act like as if they are from another planet.

    Not all Koreans are racist. But I will tell you for certain that if the Anti-English Spectrum is not silenced, Korea will wind up repeating the mistakes of Nazi Germany, Old Southern USA and apartheid South Africa.

  9. I am doing research for my university paper, thanks for your brilliant points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.

    – Kris

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