Sunday, October 25, 2009

Help a Teacher in Need

2009 October 26: Teacher in Need(Gyeonggido, South Korea)—

The Association for Teachers of English in Korea (ATEK)is calling on it's members and all in the English teaching community of Korea to help outa fellow teacher in need.

Kenneth Hash, 46, is a US citizen who has been in Korea for almost 12 years and iscurrently working at a middle school in Namdae.In August of this year Ken was unfortunate enough to get an insect bite which caused amassive leg infection that required several surgeries and still to this day requires weeklytreatments. Ken’s hospitalization lasted for almost a month.

While Ken was hospitalized his school informed him that he would be fired if he did notreturn to work no later than September 11th, 2009 and that he would not be paid for partor all of the time he was hospitalized. The doctors wanted Ken to remain in the hospitaluntil September 18th, 2009 at the earliest.

His school managed to convince the doctors to release him early so they could put himback to work. Due to this early release Ken’s illness and treatment are still ongoing andhe has endured several complications due to not receiving proper levels of care andtreatment.

Because of the seriousness of his illness and the treatment methods required Ken’s out ofpocket (after insurance) medical bills have surpassed 3,000,000KRW. This has placed ahuge burden on him both mentally and financially, which has only been exacerbated bythe actions of his school.To pay the expenses for his treatment Ken has been forced to sell everything he owns andto borrow money from his co-teachers just to be allowed to leave the hospital.

ATEKwould like to ask not only it's members but everyone in the foreign teaching communityto make a donation: Even a small amount, such as 25,000 KRW or W50,000 KRW wouldgo a long way to helping Ken out, although larger donations are obviously welcome too.

Please remember that this tragic situation could have easily happened to any of us.Contributions can be made directly to Ken via direct deposit to his bank account atNongHyup Bank.

The account number is (two, three, five, zero) 8952 (zero zero six) 259. To contribute simply take this information (the name and bank account number) to your bank and ask them totransfer whatever amount you wish to contribute or alternatively transfer the money viaan ATM.

In the meantime ATEK will continue to monitor the situation and do everything we canto help Ken in these difficult times.Any inquiries on this matter may be made directly to John Wurth, Gyeonggido ATEKCouncil Chair, at

[wurthjt] --at-- yahoo [dot] (com).

--credit Dann Gaymer, press secretary but any errors in this blog post are mine.

Please repost! --DB

Friday, October 23, 2009

Korea Herald Joins the Hater Bandwagon

Recently, the Herald published a nice bit of filth:

"More sex crimes committed by foreigners" by Lee Ji-yoon.

First I must point out that, as there are over one million foreigners, and approximately 20,000 English teachers, the foreigner article should be barely relevant on visa policy for English teacher. But wait, I predict it will be. ("Korean critical thought" has proven itself an oxymoron regularly and I expect no exception. A debate in spring in the Times showed an immigration official citing "increased drug crimes" as a reason to increase E-level visa regulations. Problem was, the "increased drug crimes" were committed by Thais, not native English speakers. But I digress.)

Second, there is reason to suspect sexual violence by foreigners would be far more reported than that by Koreans. The Kinsey Institute estimates the sex crime reportation rate to be at 6.1 percent, a far cry from the approximately-40% rate in most OECD nations. ( Kinsey also points out that gender disparity is absurd in Korea, with men enjoying far more power than women in just about every arena. The Grand Narrative ( just put up a nice piece, "Playholic," which quotes a female K-blogger as stating that women are shy to demand contraception from men for being seen as promiscuous in their social clique. The relation? Would an assaulted Korean woman report a Korean man who is more powerful than her and can destroy her social life, or an outsider? Clearly the latter. Hence we should not be asking ourselves, "What are foreigners doing?" rather we should ask, "What are Koreans doing that we do not know?"

Third, straight from the article: "While the nation's average indictment rate for sexual crimes was 45 percent in 2008, the rate for foreigners was 39.7 percent over the past eight years." This is followed by a cry for more indictment against foreigners. As a former defense attorney and prosecutor I can tell you, rapists are not not prosecuted (double negative intentional) just because they are foreign or leaving the country. However, a lot of sex crime complaints amount to lies (for attention or vengeance) or unprovable allegations. Would it be too much to ask the Korean government to rely on actual, proven guilt? Probably so, but I will nonetheless.

Finally, the article states that foreign arrests in 2009 are up over 40% from 2008. There is simply no explanation for this but selective enforcement. Consider: Group A and Group B both have 100 people and commit crime at a 10% (ten people) rate. The police, convinced Group B is deviant, monitor Group B's actions more closely by a factor of 2. At the end of the year, X (say 20%, 2) Group A citizens are arrested and 40% (4) of the non-law-abiding Group B citizens are. This gives rise to the statistic that Group Bs are twice as virulent as Group As. Rinse and repeat.

There has never, outside of riots or revolutions, been a criminal activity increase exceeding 40 percent. But the Seoul Police--who proudly gave an award to the overtly racist Anti-English Spectrum for citizen legal enforcement--could certainly be inept and biased.

I'd like to thank the Herald for running my piece, below. I'd like to not thank them for running the piece I just commented on.

If you follow "xenophobia" you'll see Sean Hayes' pointing out that this sort of idiocy is costing Korea money and visibility on the international stage.

Hey Koreans, do you want to be Japan junior (1) a lot longer or (2) no more? It's up to you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Seoul's Isolated Expats

[The title isn't mine but Editor Lamers did a fine job with it and otherwise editing.

If you came here from reading that, (1) thank you and (2) check out the "humor" tagged writings, they're generally the most entertaining.


WONJU, GangwonProvince - "You don't live in Seoul? You must feel so isolated."

This was a comment from a Brit I'd just spent a few hours with in Hongdae, Seoul. But what did I expect? He'd been here a few years and still struggled to say "Juseyo," with a heavy accent, "JOOOsayyo," after placing an order in English.

As we sat and had Quiznos subs with three Americans with whom we'd just played music, I learned quite a bit about living in Seoul.

My new friends had plenty of contacts, and plenty of places to go on the weekend, but they didn't really know any Koreans. If they went places where Koreans were, there wasn't much mingling. They had no trouble integrating, but what were they integrating into? Korea, or a foreign subculture, like Chinatown in a major western city?

I, on the other hand, live in Wonju. It's about 90 minutes from Seoul by bus. The population is about 300,000, and there are numerous mountains and a few rice-paddy laden villages reachable by transit. My city got one - count it, one - paragraph in the last edition of the Lonely Planet, mostly because it's near Chiaksan National Park.

I know less than a dozen foreigners, most of them teachers at my school. There are so few white (or black) faces here that we automatically greet each other when we pass on the street, even if we've never met.

But I'm not writing to talk about my isolation from foreign culture. I'm writing to talk about how much Koreans in rural areas will reach out to foreigners. How, until he became too busy at his new job, Tony (English name) used to wait in a coffee shop every Saturday for a couple of hours just to greet and teach English speakers, calling it "Korean Club."

"Korean Club" introduced me to "English Club," where Koreans gathered to practice their English and drink until three, or later. English club made more than half the contacts in my phone Korean. We went for lunches, dinners, and drinks. We played pool and went camping outside of Chuncheon.

Were they constantly practicing their English with me? Yes, because my Korean isn't much to speak of. Did I feel used? No, I felt like we were having conversations, about everything from travel to relationships to movies. I felt like I had to move really fast to pick up the check.

Most of the amenities of a mid-sized city are here, just not in English. I go to yoga every morning and practice the words for parts of the body and relative placement particles (like prepositions). What I don't understand I mimic, in classic monkey-see-monkey-do fashion. I've taken a similar approach to taekwondo, and have managed to advance a little bit in that sport as well.

It isn't always easy - most conversations involve the phone dictionary, lots of gesturing, and substantial frustration. But you actually get used to those things after a while, and they motivate you to study Korean a little harder, which is never a bad thing. The constant embarrassment actually makes it easier to approach Koreans you don't know when you need help, or want to start a (small) conversation.

In the meantime, I've learned you don't really need to say that much to have a good night, even a late night, or a good shared meal. I've been to a traditional jjimjilbang that got some airtime on Arirang, four-wheeling (in Korean), and a big potato festival.

Admittedly, there are benefits to living in major cities - more to do, more people to (easily) meet and chat with, more variety in restaurants and pubs. I haven't heard a single note of live music here, and certainly haven't enjoyed any spoken words in English or independent films.

To those who live in big cities and enjoy it, I understand your perspective and the appeal of a major metro area. But I must say: You live in Seoul? You must feel so isolated.

For more of Darren Bean's writings, go to - Ed.

By Darren Bean


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Half the Women in My Yoga Class Agree: I Need to Tighten My ..

.. sphincter.


Let me back up a bit. (No disgusting pun intended.)

As you may have read, my (now former) yoga instructor is pregnant. Recently she reached a point where the pregnancy disallowed her to teach us the more intense yoga poses and moves, so we have a new teacher.

I personally quite like the new teacher. She's willing to correct me quite often (needed) and a change of poses/methods is always good.

She specifically emphasizes breathing. Pilates-style, stomach contracted, slow, deliberate breathing.

To this end, we were doing a warm up exercise last week: While sitting on our knees with hands outstretched to the sides, we would ball our fingers into a fist, then release, breathing in when we clenched and out when we released.

The yoga instructor said something, looked at me, then looked at one of the women in the class who speaks very good English. "Tell him," she said.

And the English speaker said, "Darren, when you make a fist, you need to tighten your ..." and gestured with her hand along her abdomen and buttocks.

"Okay," I said, and tightened my chest and buttocks.

"No, she said, tighten your ..." and did the same gesture.

The instructor then said "kwalyeokgeun," and the English-speaker shrugged.

Thinking I'd understood, and the word was of no importance, I confidently said "Algessumnida." The instructor shook her head, and we proceeded with class.

After class I met up with four women: The English-speaker and three of the best yoga students. The English-speaker again said, "When you tighten your fist you tighten your, ..." I said, "chest, buttocks," and another woman intervened.

This other woman, who I will call Yoga Master, is amazingly strong and flexible. But I've never heard her speak English beyond "hello" and such. And so I was all the more surprised when she said:


After eight months in Korea I'm proud of the body parts I know. Arm, leg, body, head; more recently I've acquired nose, wrist, mouth, eye, thigh, and buttocks. Rectal locations (other than the butt which you put your hands under when doing leg-lifts) never ranked terribly high on my list of things to learn, but for some reason (I'm hoping she used a phone-dictionary) she knew this one.

The English-speaker, who was using her phone dictionary when this interruption occurred, concurred, "Yes, sphincter! Do you know 'sphincter,' Darren?"

"Yes," I said. "I do. I should tighten my sphincter?"

"Yes! Your sphincter!"

We confirmed that we were talking about the same body part using hand gestures that maybe we should've tried earlier, gestures I'm not going to detail here.

Then the five of us went out in the hall, and two or three of the women demonstrated the exercise.

We all had our hands out, extended fingers, and gradually balled them into a fist as the English-speaker said "Breathe in and tighten your sphincter," and the Yoga Master echoed, "sphincter," and I echoed, "tighten my sphincter." And then we released the fist, the English speaker said "relax your sphincter," and the Yoga Master and I echoed "relax your sphincter." And then we did it again, but this time all of the women chimed in: "Breathe in, tighten your sphincter." And we ended in perfect unison: "Breathe out, relax your sphincter."

[Of course there's no picture. ]