AFEK opens membership to E-series visa holders
The following press release comes courtesy of AFEK‘s Mike Yates, AKA ‘The Web Guy’:
AFEK, a group for expats in Korea, is pleased to announce that the leaders have opted to shun grand titles for the 2nd year. Despite a worrying trend amongst smaller organisations for the people at the top to assume titles such as “President,” “Vice-President,” “National Internal Communications Officer”, or collective titles such as “National Council,” and “National Executive” the people behind the scenes of AFEK have opted to stick with the collective title: “The Mods” with the 2 leadership positions filled by “The Web Guy” and “The Membership Guy.”
When asked about the decision, Mike Yates, The Web Guy at AFEK said “although our organisation has more verified members than any other in Korea, we just don’t think these silly titles are worth the hassle. It seems everytime somebody gets one, some kind of scandal follows. We get a greater sense of pride from the fact that none of our members have been involved in any kind of public scandal than any fancy title couldever give!”
T.J., The Membership Guy, adds: “You know, the problem with appointing people titles such as ‘National Internal Communications Officer” or ‘National External Communications Officer’ is people aren’t always sure who to talk to when they have a problem. At AFEK, people who have a problem with the web site talk to The Web Guy, people with membership issues talk to The Membership Guy, and for any kind of moderation issue, you simply talk to a mod. Perhaps it’s a little simple, but you know… it works. We don’t ever have a problem where the association is unable to act because a position is empty. We just kinda do it.”
When asked to comment, The Mods released this statement: “We feel that the leadership of any expat organisation in Korea should have a very real understanding of the country, and our small team has almost 120 years combined experience of Korean culture, language, history, and life in Korea. It’s only natural that an organisation led by ‘experts’ experiencing their first or second year are going to need many more leaders, and I guess the fancy titles are needed to keep track of them all.”
Despite now having over 500 verified members and a website that boasts a library containing hundreds of documents (and perhaps more importantly, accessible by all), the AFEK structure is quite simple. Mike explains: “Well, at the top, there’s me. Next up, there’s The Membership Guy. Then there are a team of 7 mods. After that, 490-odd users or so. If I want to do something, and it won’t upset people, I just do it. If it may upset people, I ask the mods, and if there’s a real chance of upset I ask the users. Then I do it anyway. The Membership Guy and the Mods deals with the members. I don’t really get involved in that stuff. It would be unethical.”
“We’ve just decided to open up most of the site to every expat in Korea. [emphasis mine] We figure that people would like a chance to join an organisation that doesn’t have a complicated structure, doesn’t impose strict controls on channels of communication, and prides itself on responding to member’s concerns within a few minutes rather than a few days or weeks. We don’t do advocacy stuff. There are smaller expat organisations that waste their time on that. We just offer advice to people and help make lives better. We may be daft, but we think most expats are educated enough to sort things out themseleves once they have been shown where to go, and they don’t need their hand holding every step of the way.”
“Although we aren’t a teacher organisation, 85% of our members are teachers. That’s great as it means 15% are not. We offer a greater breadth of experience than any dedicated teacher group, and even if you exclude our non-teachers, we have 3 verified teachers to every one of theirs! We are a more representative group than any other group out there, and we don’t claim to represent anybody!”
And does he see any problems in the future? “We may need another Mod. I hate beaurocracy!”
AFEK was founded in May 2009.
Although much of the Association of F-class Expatriates in Korea has been hidden behind a log-in and membership requirements, the veil seems to be lifting itself. You’ll need to send in one (or maybe two) pictures of your ARC as proof of your legal visa status. Directions are on the website. If you have a F-series visa (typically those with longer-term connections to Korea), you’ll have access to the full board, which offers some more options from the open-access board.
Some of you might be asking ‘OK, so what’s THIS organization all about?’. As you might have figured out from the tongue-in-cheek press release above, it’s about people helping people. No fancy titles getting in the way, no hard-to-navigate websites, and no confusion about who to ask for help. There probably won’t be any scandals to burn up the blogosphere, but who needs those anyway?
It’s still in that ‘just launched’ phase, and there isn’t (yet) a whole lot of activity on the open boards that were recently opened up. While I think it’s great that the organization has opened itself to non-F-visa holders, the biggest concern is whether those in the ‘in’ club will come out to play with us mere mortals still holding working visas. From what little I’ve heard of the ‘in’ club, it sounds like a pretty hopping place.
http://www.afek.info – if you’re living in Korea, check it out.
© Chris Backe – 2011
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