Foreign English Teachers Held for Drug Abuse

    October 24, 2006 11:28

    Police have arrested a group of foreign and overseas Korean English teachers here for allegedly taking drugs. Seoul police detained seven and booked five others teaching at private language institutes in the capital’s affluent Gangnam area and Anyang, Gyeonggi Province for abusing marihuana, the amphetamine-like prescription drug Philopon and cocaine. They also booked a job broker identified as Kim (44) on charges of finding them jobs and forging their college degrees for W300 million (US$1=W960).

    The teachers stand accused of “habitually” taking marihuana or Philopon while working as teachers for private English language institutes in 2000. Seven Korean former U.S. residents among them were allegedly members of ethnic Korean gangs in the U.S. but were stripped of their permanent residence for manufacturing drugs, illegal arms possession and burglary and deported. They came to Korea and with Kim’s help found jobs teaching English, police said. One Korean American identified Han (33) was named lecturer of the month at a language institute in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province.

    Officially, there are some 20,000 overseas English teachers working here, but the number could be as large as 30,000 including those moonlighting on travel visas. Due to the growing demand for such teachers, not all are vetted carefully and many lack bona fide qualifications. Some 5 percent of the foreign English teachers have a criminal record in their home country or committed crimes here, the founder of Korea Foreign Teacher Recruiting Association Choi Hyuk says. “Their crimes are mostly document forgery, but there are some convicted of burglary or sex crimes.”

    Then how do they get their jobs? Choi says the Justice Ministry does not have the authority to look at their criminal record. All they need to teach here is a college degree, and there is no mechanism to examine their qualification. He warns employers to beware of applicants whose resume looks too good or who report earning absurdly high or low current salaries. “If they graduated from very prestigious universities or their academic backgrounds are too excellent, you should check on their diplomas,” says Net Korea, a recruiter of overseas English teachers.

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