TV Program Warms Up Foreign Teacher Controversy

    February 21, 2005 19:41

    Foreign teachers are once again the talk of the Internet. Saturday's edition of the SBS investigative program "I Want to Know That" reports English teachers in Korea engaging in sex with underage local girls, offering drugs to students and faking qualifications.

    English teachers have been under the spotlight since one posted demeaning comments about Korean women on the web early this year and risque pictures from a mixed party were released. There have been calls to expel all English teachers from the peninsula.

    The report, entitled "Is Korea their Paradise? Report on the Real Conditions of Blond-haired, Blue-eyed Teachers," reveals that teachers at some language schools engage in sexual relations with middle and high school students and offer their students marijuana. It says some teachers use fake academic records to get jobs with local private language schools, universities and businesses. The show includes fresh explosive comments by foreign teachers like, "I think only 5 percent of foreign English teachers in Korea are qualified," "Korean women are the easiest women to get into bed," and "I think of Korea as a big cash machine."

    Immediately after the broadcast, the bulletin board on the program's website was flooded with over 1,000 furious posts. "I was so infuriated after the broadcast that I couldn't sleep," one read. "I'm frightened to send my children to an English academy," read another. "Foreign language institutes must do some soul-searching," said a user giving their name as Han Seon-yeong. "We must quickly deport all those low-quality foreign English teachers who try to pick up girls near Hongik University or Apgujeong."

    The extreme nature of some of the attacks has led to concerns for the safety of foreign residents in Korea. "After watching the broadcast, I began to look differently at the native English speaker who teaches in the elementary school where I work and the Korean English teacher who works in the same classroom," a user giving her name as Yun Eun-hwa said. "I wonder if because of people like me, Koreans married to foreigners or those who have to work with foreigners might be afraid to go out in the street now." And indeed, user Im Mi-mi, who says she is married to a foreigner, said, "Since the show aired on Saturday, I've been afraid to go out... It's absolute nonsense that I should now look like a whore just because I live with a foreigner."

    The fallout of the broadcast has hit private institutes where foreign English teachers work. When critical posts began flooding the bulletin board of a famous language institute, the school on Sunday placed a notice on its website telling visitors that the broadcast had nothing to do with their establishment. SBS confirmed the program was not about the private school in question and suspended VOD service of the program on its website.

    (Kim Jae-eun, 2ruth@chosun.com)
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