“Unqualified Foreigner Marijuana Hamburger… Zzzzt… Zzzzt… Drugs… Zzzzt… Sexual Harassment Overpaid… Zzzzt”

August 19th, 2008 · Education and ESL, Foreigners · 26 comments

I feel there is no shame in saying that I have no idea what point the author of this Newswire press release was trying to make, but clearly his anti-English teacher circuitry needs to be updated. I do have to say I really enjoyed the colorful metaphors used to describe the effect of those famous low-quality English teachers on Korean society.

The website, which introduces Seoul to the whole world via English, has opened a discussion forum for native-speaking English instructors. is currently in search of a new owner, but has also opened the forum to present solutions to the problems of English as taught by foreign instructors as they may have a large effect on society in the future.

The trend for early English education is not subsiding, and native-speaking English instructors have a lot to say about that. Though the number of foreigners currently teaching English here is not publicly available it can be surmised to be over 10,000, and though many of them work hard to educate children well, it is clear from newspaper reports that not a few of them have been arrested for sexual harassment or doing drugs such as marijuana.

There are even, it is said, some who come here on forged degrees who were selling hamburgers in foreign countries, leading to doubts about the quality of English they teach, and this may eventually lead to society-wide problems in the workforce. Moreover, recently some English teachers who are already here have formed a labor union and announced they will fight hard for higher wages, which implies that there may be new social problems in the future.

There are currently no strict requirements for the credentials of foreign English teachers, so their qualifications, character, and abilities are treated laxly, so to minimize these social problems their credentials must be subject to strict requirements and taken in a sound direction.

Furthermore, only college graduates who speak standard English should be selected, to eliminate fake degrees there must be a verification system, the number of work visas issued should be limited, and rather than just hiring teachers who can speak well, those who have the proper character and teaching ability must be chosen first.

But the more important thing is to treat those who come here just because they don’t like their hometowns, or just to make money, or just to enjoy meeting Korean women, as if they were poisonous mushrooms.

With their youthful, passionate nature they understand foreign countries and make friends, but there is the cost of hiring such young passionate people. I mean that while they are working, care should be taken so that the government and schools explain Korean culture to them and introduce them to nice Korean friends, so when it is time for them to return home they can have permanent friends in Korea.

I don’t know if there is not enough of a budget to verify all credentials or if supply can’t meet demand. But those are not the reasons credential standards are loose. It is important to do things meticulously even if that means more slowly. Hurrying to get our children taught English can mean importing viruses that create social problems.

Just as is a website introducing Korea to foreign countries in English, domestic websites are drawing people from around the world. Imagine if they would tell them that Korea needs many English instructors, and so any healthy young person of ability can be hired, and they teach our children while making nice Korean friends and learning about Korean culture so that nice relationships are formed for the future.

I’ve heard that parents who sent their children abroad to learn English are bringing them back now because of the economy, and since there are also many who never sent their children, there is a lot that they would like to say.

Quick summary of what this author doesn’t know: E-2 visas are contingent on having a verified college degree and passing a criminal background check; there is really no such thing as “standard English”; cultural programs are run for teachers working for public schools; the number of E-2 visas issued yearly is in fact publicly available information (those with a modicum of patience and Korean ability can see for themselves).


  • Why else would anyone come here other than if they were bored with their hometown or want to make money. Korea doesn’t have much to offer. Once teachers are here they are exploited and disrespected. The only thing keeping teachers here is the money. If you want quality, Korea will have to pay even more. Think $60,000 a year.

    Bill · August 19th, 2008 at 1:17 PM

  • meh.

    1. there is no longer any such thing as “standard” english — there is gramatically correct English, but who’s to say it MUST be called “Tube” instead of “Subway” — in 1850, sure, “The Queen’s English” was generally agreed upon as the standard.

    2. For the rest. . . all I’ll say is that I think Korea gets EXACTLY the English teachers it deserves, (maybe a little) better, certainly no worse.

    roboseyo · August 19th, 2008 at 2:01 PM

  • “But the more important thing is to treat those who come here just because they don’t like their hometowns, or just to make money, or *just to enjoy meeting Korean women*, as if they were poisonous mushrooms.”

    Ajeoshi suffering from libido issues alert! I knew he wouldn’t get through the rant without showing his true colours.

    So let’s see – I find my hometown rather dull to live and work in; I like making a decent salary; and I enjoy meeting Korean women. Ergo I’m a poisonous mushroom? In case he does’t know it’s possible to do all three and still “teach [Korean] children while making nice Korean friends and learning about Korean culture so that nice relationships are formed for the future”.

    Yu Bumsuk · August 19th, 2008 at 2:22 PM

  • There’s always an easy answer, which Koreans rarely ever seriously entertain:

    1) Pay people what they’re worth and don’t try to screw them, such that turnover is nearly 100% in many hagwons and schools.

    2) Allow teachers to actually have a stake in their teaching by actually taking input and rewarding effort.

    3) Separate the residency and work visas, and allow the market to separate good, experienced teachers (of which there will be many if Koreans actually followed principles #1 and #2) from the few bad apples.

    Instead, they’ll make artificial and unnecessary requirements that will just keep out those with self-respect and better options from coming, anyway.

    e.g. HIV test to teach English? Come on.

    The Metropolitician · August 19th, 2008 at 3:49 PM

  • And there’d be no “fake credentials” problem if Koreans would simply pick up a phone and verify the people they hired. Who’s the real idiot — the one who writes that they went to ‘Harvord Colege’ or the idiot who doesn’t do basic confirmation of its employees?

    It’s called 대충, 빨리빠리, and unprofessionalism. These aren’t new problems. They just recycle and create new caveats to the original ones.

    The Metropolitician · August 19th, 2008 at 3:53 PM

  • this blog with all it’s knowledge and insight, it’s ability to pull back the curtain, really depresses me….although I generally feel happier (not sure if that’s the right word) to understand how others are likely prejudging me.

    nicknows · August 19th, 2008 at 4:48 PM

  • I agree Nicknows. I’m sort of glad I cant translate Korean in my head very fast after reading that.

    templar · August 19th, 2008 at 7:41 PM

  • while the writter talks about 10,000 (actually 17,000) english teachers living here sucking their country dry of money, and using their land for thir own gain I think i’ts interesting to point out that South Korean government estimated that 370,000 koreans are living illegally in other countries. At least 100,000 of these are in Canada,

    If there are 100,000 living in Canada ILLEGALLY, they are bound to be plenty also living legally. If that number of Koreans left to go to English speaking countries I don’t see what problems Korea should have with people they wanted and chose to come over here living and working in a difficult job and being underpaid.

    Anonymous · August 19th, 2008 at 8:28 PM

  • What’s the point of that site? The English-language one is weird, too.

    “As the demand was exceeding Supply, the recruiters didn’t mention on the qualifications but just saying on the certificate of College graduation, which may be strong possibilty of FAKE ONE.

    Now there is an rumor that more than 10,000 young peoples staying in Korea, mostly from USA, Canada, Australia, Newzealand, South Africa or Phillipines. But still demand is exceeding supply. Some guy, actually not qualified, have no other careers but sold Hamburger in home town, came to Korea and changed to be a Teacher.
    Well… It may be.. if he is qualified really…. ”

    “Most of the Portal sites in Korea, reported that http://WWW.SEOUL.COM started a Forum to discuss the overall issues related
    with the English Teacher as a Native speaker.

    Possibly, http://WWW.SEOUL.COM can study more, how to increase the effectiveness of the education.”

    um . . . okay?

    But how did that rant become a newswire piece? Is newswire actually a wire service? Doesn’t shit like this warrant a response?

    Brian · August 19th, 2008 at 11:43 PM

  • Anonymous:
    This represents the size of the (legal) Korean community in Canada, as of 2001. I am sure it has grown since then :)
    Canadians of Korean origin1 make up one of the largest non-European ethnic groups in Canada. In fact, the Korean community is the 7th largest non-European ethnic group in the country, after the Chinese, East Indian, Filipino, Jamaican, Vietnamese, and Lebanese populations. In 2001, just over 100,000 people of Korean origin lived in Canada. That year, they made up 0.3% of the total Canadian population.

    Pohang · August 19th, 2008 at 11:47 PM

  • Brian,

    Newswire is the “Korea Press Release Network”, so it’s a wire service but not like Yonhap. I’m updating the post to link to the original article, which has the author’s name and e-mail.

    Korea Beat · August 20th, 2008 at 2:07 AM

  • The “standard English” thing got me, too… Even when people speak with different accents and live in areas with dialects, we know that some of our phrases aren’t grammatically correct or understood everywhere, and I doubt anyone would teach students things like that, except to say, “Here’s an example of a dialect.”

    When I went to a Korean school, our teachers were from all over South Korea, but they all used the same textbooks. We didn’t have the “hillbillies” teach us “hillbilly speak;” they just followed the books, the same as our teachers from Seoul. And even though classes were for the military’s in-training linguists, it wasn’t like we could easily pick up on accents, anyway… They all sounded the same to us, even if they teased each other!

    But this is an interesting article, that’s for sure!

    Heather · August 20th, 2008 at 5:02 AM

  • Like Brian, I wondered about point of site (in between noting all grammar and other errors). And worry about all those “social problems” growing as I study in USA. But I really want to know who this Kirkpatrick is. Take pride in status as bilinguals? Speaking like a native American means identifying with America? PLEASE!! CRAP! As speaker of 3 languages, I have NEVER been mistaken for non-Korean. My face and slow speed when speaking foreign language betray me. Sad that many Koreans can’t grasp huge difference between speaking accented BUT properly pronouced English vs. Korea’s diluted, incorrectly romanized English. Many of my former classmates still say “o-ren-gee” (I really hate this!), and my cousin didn’t understand me when I said “opera” until I pronounced it the Korean way: “oh-pae-ra”.

    Basic rule in learning/speaking foreign language: say it the way the natives do (or as close as possible). I understand that some English words are difficult because Korean language doesn’t have certain sounds like “F”, “V”, “TH”, etc. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be learned. And it definitely means that substitutions should NOT be made for those sounds. It just continues the same problem.

    Oh! Fake degrees? Think that Korea invites (promotes?) such problems.

    Anonymous · August 20th, 2008 at 7:33 AM

  • I totally agree with you Anonymous! I really hate it when I hear people butcher other languages. I truly believe, though, that it is much easier for some people to pick up a language than it is for others.

    When words cross over to other languages, there are always mispronunciations/mistranslations. Should they be corrected? I think so… Are they usually? No… sadly.

    Ian · August 20th, 2008 at 11:15 AM

  • I have no problems with accents (saying the same word with slightly different sounds) I actually liie them, but konglisization adds ten to twenty extra syllables to a two syllable word.

    And come to think off it, I am sure that some of these hamburger flippers are more qualified to teach English then some of the Korean English teachers I have met that can feel to shy to speak English, or have students that spent a year overseas correcting them.

    nicknows · August 20th, 2008 at 11:47 AM

  • ….come to think about, it even totally different sounds are better then extra syllables.

    ….and even though hamburger flippers maybe more able to teach English, I don’t think that they would actually be suitable to work with children, but kids do like hamburgers.

    nicknows · August 20th, 2008 at 2:39 PM

  • Thanks for your translation efforts on my article.
    The Forum in just started, and need many supports from many peoples.

    Thank you again and work tegether for common issues.

    June · August 22nd, 2008 at 10:15 AM

  • thanks for translating these articles…
    I reaaally tired of narrow minded, uneducated, unknowing opinions of Koreans in regards to people teaching English here.
    Of course there’s a few bad apples, but generally most people have good intentions.
    And it’s not like all Koreans are the saints they make themselves out to be….how much bribery, cheating, dishonesty among other things happens here by Koreans.

    cuckoo for kimchi · August 23rd, 2008 at 2:09 AM

  • I forgot mention…that’s just the hagwon owners….the people who own the schools where the kids that we teach….where all of us pot smoking drunk womanizers work

    cuckoo for kimchi · August 23rd, 2008 at 2:13 AM

  • Why womanize when you work in a Hakwon.
    Didn’t anybody ever tell you why dairy farmers drink milk.

    Gary Glitter · August 23rd, 2008 at 1:14 PM

  • […] I translated their press release of August 18, which I and others criticized for calling certain foreigners “poison mushrooms” and […]

    Korea Beat › “We Are Not Anti-Foreigner” · September 2nd, 2008 at 12:32 AM

  • but you gotta admit that there are unqualified and pedofile teachers :/

    it sucks how few people can mess up a reputation for a group of people…

    korea… tsk.

    sb · September 2nd, 2008 at 8:49 PM

  • “there is really no such thing as “standard English””

    Up to a certain point, yes. But, context remains the key. Some say ‘standard English’ is the dialect known as the Queen’s English, but it’s obviously not the best way to make oneself understood by South African miners or Texan ranchers (nor is it the standard that most South Korean learners of English aspire to). Fact is, each linguistic community has it’s own standards. South African English speakers hold one of their dialects as their standard while Texan/American speakers of English view one of their own dialects as their standard.

    Tripod · September 2nd, 2008 at 9:30 PM

  • If they’re tired of foriegners they could just change their Enlish curricula so that they made sense. It’s a miracle that anybody can speak English here, given the material that they give themselves to work with.

    Jim · September 3rd, 2008 at 4:19 PM

  • Last year an African-American friend of mine with excellent qualifications and experience got turned down for several jobs in Seoul—because of his colour. Another got such a bad time—because of his colour—-that he left after only six months. Curious, I decided to carry out some sort of investigation into just who is being hired to teach English. Some preliminary results:

    * Skin colour (white), a degree (from just about anywhere), and being a “native” speaker appear to be the only criteria. Not surprisingly, many of the alleged English teachers here are jokes.

    * On other hand, the employers and the parents of the student seem quite happy to keep paying for above jokers, regardless of the fact that hardly anybody seems to be learning anything.

    This seems to be a win-win situation, in which nobody should be complaining about anything. I can’t understand why people who are near-unemployable in their own countries should be up in arms about any aspect of their Korean like; if you don’t like it, why not vote with your feet? Similarly, I can’t understand why the Koreans are unhappy with anything: what, with crappy wages, dishonest dealings in contracts, the lies, … and the fact that they hire on rather questionable criteria to start with.

    Regarding other matters, I think it is perfectly hardly surprising that young people, whether at home or abroad, should be partial to drink and sex. Add to that the willingness of a large segment of the Korean female population to give it up to just about any Westerner and you will inevitably have problems—especially from Korean men who feel that some of their share is being taken away.

    My last statement is going to seem shallow, but please reflect long upon it, and you may find a point. It is this: to make the most of your stay in Korea, (i) try to save some money, (ii) use it as base to travel to much nicer places (e.g. Japan and Thailand), (iii) enjoy as much soju (or whatever as you can), (iv) boff as many locals as you can.

    Zedder Bing · October 21st, 2008 at 1:55 AM

  • […] I translated their press release of August 18, which I and others criticized for calling certain foreigners “poison mushrooms” and […] “We Are Not Anti-Foreigner” | Korea Beat · March 20th, 2013 at 5:01 PM

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