수능 D-Day, Stupid Foreigner Crimes and Painful Protests


To begin with an FYI, I have put in a final copy of my previous blog post “The Pitfalls of Half-Price Tuition” and it should eventually wind up at least over at Korea Business Central’s great “Economic Slice 2011″ series (and perhaps publication in other sources, but no for sure word on that). For now, here’s what has my interest this days:

Educational Thunderdome, 690,000 students enter – 690,000 leave…emotionally and mentally wrecked

Kpop star 지영 of KARA heads into the test, unfortunately booty dancing is not one of the electives

Well for over half a million young people, this is likely the most important day of their young lives, one that has been circled in their parents mind since the day they were born. Today an estimated 690,000 third year (senior) high school students will file into classrooms around the country to take the 대학수학능력시험 (College Scholastic Ability Test) and the exam forms they fill out over the next 7 hours will play a large role in the course of their adult lives. Essentially the countless hours of 학원 work, endless cram sessions and rote learning has been to get them to this point and any hopes of getting into a decent University (and job afterwards) rests almost entirely on the unforgiving examination. The pressure and weight placed on this exam can be clearly seen by the lengths the country goes to accommodate it. All government offices and banks didn’t open until 10am today to try to prevent traffic jams making students late to the exam and nearly the nations entire police force is out on the street and giving escorts to students, making sure they arrive on time. Additionally, last night was one of the busiest nights of the year for churches and temples as parents and family came to pray for good scores. So severe is the security of the test that the professors and teachers who wrote the questions will spend the day locked in a hotel room literally and technologically blacked out from the outside world.

Given what I have written previously, my feelings about this test and the educational system that revolves around it should be fairly clear and I won’t take the time to expand on them now. I’ll just say for now, good luck to all these young men and women. Regardless of what happens, they should walk out of the test with their heads held high as simply running the gauntlet of the Korean education system is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Two Foreigners, Two Crimes, Two Idiots

Artist depiction of an NSET enjoying a completely unheard of new drug

Not one, but two wayguk crimes have been reported in the past week that caught my attention. The first seems to happen every year, more or less, a teacher thinking they can be sneaky and just mail themselves illegal drugs. As you can read over at Gusts of Popular FeelingBusan Ilbo and later Yonhap have reported that a CanadianESL instructor was busted for shipping a package of drugs from back home to himself at school at the end of summer break. What’s interesting about this case is how the reports have described the substance as a “new kind of drug” – Hashish. I guess the media has a fairly short-term memory for this sort of thing as it was the same stuff that the infamous criminal mastermind Cullen Thomas was caught with a kilo of that he tried to send through international mail. Really, this is just more proof to point what K-bloggers have been saying since the beginning of time, if you really can’t go without using drugs, don’t come to teach in Korea. I have nothing against anyone who just wants to have a bit of harmless fun, but Korea does and I promise you are not likely smart enough to get away with it. Please take this story and all the others of people doing the EXACT SAME THING repeatedly as a warning and not an idea that you’re clever enough to get away with by putting the drugs in a cake or something.

The second crime that caught my attention was down in Jeju. The protests against the currently being constructed Naval base in Gangjeong have gone international (likely due to stories like this) and American Matthew Hoey was arrested last week for sneaking into the site and damaging construction equipment. According to reports, Hoey is a coordinator for the Save Jeju Island campaign, the minds behind this wonderful website, brimming with half-truths, baseless rumors and photos of little children who will obviously be blown to smithereens if this base is allowed. While I can agree that the government should have been a little more sensitive to location concerns, is too late for that now and the themes of the current protest (it will start an arms race, the US puppet masters are behind it, etc.) are complete nonsense. Like Hawaii for the US, Jeju is the best location for Korea to center its naval forces and protect its interests. These interests go far beyond simply North Korea and include the ROK’s very active role in piracy prevention, increased humanitarian efforts and yes, as a check against China’s increasingly aggressive moves in the Asian waters. Outside of agreeing that its probably a good idea, the US has no part in this equation what-so-ever and I strongly doubt that any American ships will ever call the base their home. Just some things to consider in case you were thinking about climbing barbed-wire fences with your bare hands and tear apart some hydraulics for yourself.

In some cultures its considered lucky to cut off your pinky twice, right?

As proof that South Korea needs absolutely no outside assistance in crazy protests, we have this story of a South Korean man who has been arrested for mailing a piece of his severed pinky to the Japanese Embassy after cutting it off himself (twice). According to this updated piece from Yonhap, the man named as Choi first cut off the little guy in April at a demonstration in from of the Embassy. After going through the trouble of having it stitched back on, Choi again nipped it off the very next month. Having been told by doctors that they couldn’t do the surgery again (my guess is they saw the pattern), this incredibly reasonable man did the only sane thing, putting the rotting bit of flesh and bone in a package and sending it out with the morning mail. Apparently doing such is illegal in this country (who knew?) and Choi has been arrested, although he now has a great conversation starter for the rest of his life. If you’re curious as to what spurred on this unusual form of protest, I’ll give you a hint in a fictitious quote I’d like to imagine Choi screaming as he was hauled away:

"You may take our pinkies, but you’ll never take OUR ROCKY OUTCROPPINGS!"


Re: 수능 D-Day, Stupid Foreigner Crimes and Painful Protests

I love how in Korea people can say "stupid foreigners" and it's not insulting or highly offensive to a group of people..

No, wait, yes it is.

Should we encourage this type of label? Do Canadians or Americans or British people read the paper, read an article about foreigners commiting a crime and say "wow, stupid foreigners..." If you said this in public people would think your a jackass, prejudice, or just plain ignorant. 

No wonder theres a group of Koreans who like to think of foreigners this way, with you, Cory (foreign name) so ready to label us as such as well.

Do you know what range of people you are referring to as "stupid foreigners"? The wide group of people referred to as "foreigners" implies that there are two kinds of people: Korean, and everyone else. I suppose we are getting closer to non segregation after all! Instead of 30 groups we now have two! (just a hint of sarcasm.....)

Next time I hear about some Korean crimes I'll label them as "stupid Koreans" and see what reaction I get from the Koreans at my school. 

Alas, this is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that I see this self-loathing foreigner act. You are entitled to your opinion of course. I just wish we didn't all have to suffer and be brought into the spot light of a few idiots. Foreigner? Canadian? American? Does not matter, they are people. When can we stop all the labelling and segregation and just become people? 

The guy on the bus in seoul became "the black guy on the bus." So, all black people must suffer in Korea for his mistake. You might not be doing this consciously, but now you want all foreigners to suffer for the mistake of these few. Canadians aren't drug addicts, and we don't need to be told not to ship drugs back home or "don't come if you can't stop doing drugs." 

Ok, that is the end of my rant.



edit: In addition, I notice how you didn't refer to the Korean crime as "stupid Korean" or "crazy Korean." Your blog is titled two crimes, two foreigners, two idiots. When in fact, your blog contains three crimes, not two. But we do need to seperate them though, as two are foreign and one in Korean, right?

Re: 수능 D-Day, Stupid Foreigner Crimes and Painful Protests

I have always found the CSAT a bit of paradox. I lived in Korea for 13 years up til recently, in a variety of "scholastic" and "not-so". and the pressure is real, I will grant that. but its strikes me odd. its college scholastic ability test. and to do well on the test would, by its title mean that the test takers "ability" is directly reflective of said test takers life sentence in school. That, to me, is the teachers responsibility. 

I've never taken these tests, I went to school in middle canada. Private school to boot. I wouldn't take these tests either. I don't think they do much good. Of course I wouldn't know since I never had to take one. I find the whole approach to testing a wee bit archaic and industrial.

Back to the point, I think.(I really hate essay questions)

I've found, particularly in the public school environment, and even the university world, that the approach to learning must absolutely be shaken from rows of students only speaking in unison when the teacher asks them to. After all the efforts of EPIK, and GEPIK, and everything else. I still saw teachers, doing it the same old same old:namely, preparing them for this format of learning so they can take this test, which again, pass or fail, is a reflection of the monkey who sat in the class coaching and drilling the monkeys sitting in the desks.(NO, korean teachers and students are not monkeys, its just my metaphor.

This last year, i've been in the trainer seat, showing teachers in Kuala Lumpur just what I'm referring to. and they test grade 6 students with as much zeal as they do highschool seniors in Korea. tests teach nothing, they provide statistics and rankings, i know we need a grading system, but drilling meaningless information that will never be seen again till midnight everynight for an entire 3 years of teenage life is an absolute waste of time.


Re: 수능 D-Day, Stupid Foreigner Crimes and Painful Protests

Canadians aren't drug addicts, and we don't need to be told not to ship drugs back home or "don't come if you can't stop doing drugs."


Well, I don't know about that. Here are some little statistics to freshen your mind:

Just released: 2009 Ontario Student Drug Use Study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

A recent national survey found that between 1994 and 2004, the proportion of Canadians who reported having used an illicit drug in their lifetime rose from 28% to 45%.

23% of Ontario students report that they were offered, sold, or given a drug at school in the last year. That's about 219,000 students.

42% of Ontario students surveyed have used an illicit substance in the last year.



Re: 수능 D-Day, Stupid Foreigner Crimes and Painful Protests

So, your reporting statistics of Canadians who have "used" an illicit drug to debate my statement about Canadians not being drug "addicts"?

Let's assume your statistic is 100 percent correct. 45% of Canadians have used an illicit drug in their life time. So your arguing that now an entire population of 34 million people can be labelled drug addicts because of this statistic you found? 

"Addiction" - to cause to become physiologically or psychologicallydependent on an addictive substance, as alcohol or anarcotic.

APPARENTLY I need to define my words, here I thought most of us were English teachers with a basic understanding of vocabulary.

It is amazing that Canada has a social structure at all! Doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, etc, with so many addicts!

I am assuming you work in Korea. So I will assume you graduated from University. If I learned nothing else, it was to not report a few statistics as defintive of a concept. Your attempt to "freshen my mind" has failed. I could find a few statistics about American gun violence, and then label all Americans as gunslingers with a penchant for violence. Would it make it true? Nope. 

This kind of thinking is exactly the problem. People finding a small amount of information and applying it to an entire population. You debate my statement about Canadians not being drug addicts? Are you (censored) kidding me?


Re: 수능 D-Day, Stupid Foreigner Crimes and Painful Protests


Well first off, thanks for the comment, I always support people disagreeing with me, but maybe need to just chill out a bit (but not with any mind-altering substances mind you, I would hate to see another crime and punishment article in the news). To address some of the issues you brought up, I do suggest we are different than Koreans, that is what makes us foreign by definition (and yep, I am 100% not Korean, can check over at my blog for photo evidense). Because there are such a relatively small number of us here in Korea, I tend to consider everyone who meets the "non-Korean" discription as part of mild collective, especially because that is how we will be viewed by native Koreans, for better or for worse. From that perspective, I have absolutely no qualms about calling out foreigners being stupid when they are, in fact, being stupid and making all of us look bad. Also you may notice I never called foreigners stupid as a group, but rather feel I specifically pointed out it was these two (not to mention the people who came before them). I also comment on the stupid actions of individual or groups of Koreans all the time to my (Korean) wife and typically she whole-heartedly agrees with me or has even stronger words for them. As for a couple individual comments:

I just wish we didn't all have to suffer and be brought into the spot light of a few idiots. 

Exactly my feeling as well. Also it would be great if the dumb actions of any non-Korean didn't skew perceptions of all foreigners in this country, but it does.

Canadians aren't drug addicts, and we don't need to be told not to ship drugs back home or "don't come if you can't stop doing drugs."

So no Canadian in the history of the country has been a drug addict? US, Canada, UK, South Africa, all have a small population of addicts of which an incredibly miniscule ammount try to come to Korea to teach. Apparantly these people (from all the countries) do need to be told not to try to ship themselves drugs because they still are trying to do it year in and year out, despite the incredibly high chance of arrest.

edit to your edit: Nope I didn't outright call the Korean an idiot, so if it helps: Yes, he's an idiot, more so than either of the foreigners mentioned. My hope was that the heavy-handed sarcasm I employed in the section would have been enough to show that I (generally) do not believe cutting off one's pinky is a sane and rational act.

Re: 수능 D-Day, Stupid Foreigner Crimes and Painful Protests

So no Canadian in the history of the country has been a drug addict?

The answer to this question is obvious. I did not intend to paint a picture of Canadians as cleaner than other nations. Any population will carry all extremes. I was not arguing other wise. Just that it is no more so than any other nation. However the other poster has been kind enough to provide us with some non-questionable statistics that can seriously challenge the statement that Canada cannot be described as a group of drug addicts.

Re: 수능 D-Day, Stupid Foreigner Crimes and Painful Protests

Agree with you, the only ability tested really is the ability to memorize (and get over sleep deprivation, that's a good skill).

I actually feel that these days most everybody KNOWS the test is bad and that the educational culture built around it doesn't give kids the skills they need to succeed, so why doesn't it change? Likely, I'm going to blog about this at some point (maybe around graduation day), but I think change isn't happening because the parents aren't pushing to make it happen. They are deathly afraid that by trying to go against the tide it will be their kid that is left to drown. Even if they don't like the path, they feel they have to follow it to secure their children's future. The big question is how to change this mindset.

Re: 수능 D-Day, Stupid Foreigner Crimes and Painful Protests

Well almost all countries have higher illegal drug addict rates than Korea, due to how tight the controls are and general lack of availability. Of course Koreans more than make up for that with other, legal addictions, namely alcohol (which on a personal note, I do believe to be more personally and socially harmful than a little weed, but that's beside the point)

And thanks again for getting involved with the conversation

Re: 수능 D-Day, Stupid Foreigner Crimes and Painful Protests

i agree with you, it became the utmost frustration for me, so i left, its the system thats wrong and its not necessarily a  korean school issue. i face similar challenges here. but here i face the teachers directly. not students. in ways its easier for an expat to do things in the class. but to change the larger structure requires those who underestand education (which i'm not formally trained in) to educate the current teachers, school admin, the politicians, the parents, the lords of the jungle(MoE)

FEAR?: False Expectations Appearing Real. and yeah it'll a cold day in he double hockey sticks before any significant changes occur, but i suggest, that any expat teacher who has the notion of improving, and not correcting the system as it is, but most importantly has the rapport with the teachers they work with required to instill change. thats what we do here in Kuala Lumpur. I know the system is F$%^#ed. I'm not a politician, but I'm not afraid to speak out. I think that is all they need. man up and tell the powers that be they're wrong.(which they know too, i'm sure,otherwise why would they let random people into public schools from parts unknown) i liked my time in public school, albeit briefly. but hogwonizing public school engilsh class is not the answer either. and more schools, worldwide need to sack the teachers, the principals who are underperorming. I recommend expatriate teachers find a copy of "waiting for superman" and sit with the teachers, they work with, and the admin if possible. sometimes. they need a smack in the face. and i was all to happy to give it to them. but my hand got sore. so i moved.