A simple blog interview with a young Korean university graduate has created a stir on the internet. On face value, she talks about concerns with English education in Korea. But for people following the media coverage of foreign ESL teachers over the years, she spouted most every xenophobic stereotype about foreigners that the media had been creating.
This coincides with the announcement that Seoul will no longer hire foreign teachers in its schools in the next couple of years. It cites budget concerns, but the conventional wisdom is that it’s on the tail of an ongoing anti-foreigner campaign led by groups like Anti-ESL Spectrum, a recognized hate group that was formed in 2005 when pictures appeared on the internet of Korean women dancing with foreigners in clubs.
Other than the complaints stemming from xenophobia, the main complaint has been the lack of effectiveness of bringing native speaking English teachers to teach in Korean public schools. Yet only now after Seoul has announced ditching the program do articles come out revealing that the reason they failed was the the schools themselves violated regulations. Instead of having Korean co-teachers in the classroom with the foreigners, the foreigners have frequently been left alone to maintain classes of thirty or more students with no common language between them. Foreigners, who have elementary Korean language skills at best, have been trying to teach classes to unruly students with less than elementary English language skills. That’s a recipe for disaster, and has been so. Yet rather than punish the Korean co-teachers who violate regulations, the foreigners who obeyed their contractual obligations get scapegoated.