Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Korean Expat Blogosphere, Mum

"English teachers get a bad rap," said my new friend Jim, sitting next to me at Seoul Pub in Itaewon. He's a copter pilot who said he just made Lt. Col., on his third tour of the ROK, because he likes it here.

He is quite right, of course: there are lots of reasons to love living in Seoul; and, foreign English teachers have an unearned reputation for illicit and immoral behavior. The Korean media is relentlessly negative, and often factualy incorrect, when reporting on events and episodes involving foreign English teachers (and expats in general)--you can find loads of blogs that review, debate and generally preoccupy themselves with such stories. The Seoul Patch will not be one of those blogs--it is about one person's experiences and observations, nothing more.

By and large, I do not encounter much xenophobia in Korea, and when I do, I have duly commented on it here; but I'm not going to obsess on the wrongs done me. As I said in my very first post, my motto is, as much as any complicated, deep-thinking, forty-something can be said to have a motto:
Pay the thunder no mind; listen to the birds. --Eubie Blake

For example, some bloggers complain that foreigners here are not allowed by law to organize or be politically active. Never mind that the exact same thing is true of non-citizens in their countries of origin, by and large.

I just checked around at some of the blogs that are typically up in arms about this, only to find that not a single one has mentioned the story below, carried in Saturday's Korea Herald:
The Education Ministry yesterday decided to fire 22 unionized teachers and suspend 67 who led an antigovernment campaign last month.
It also seeks a prosecution investigation into their alleged violation of the law that bars them from any collective action and political activities.
The ministry and local education offices met to discuss disciplinary measures for the 28,635 teachers who signed the statement issued by the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers' Union on July 19.
The progressive group berated the Lee Myung-bak government's educational policies for driving students into fierce competition for tests at the expense of sound public education and rising private education costs.

If this story were exactly the same, only the teachers involved were foreigners, the outrage, anger and dirty-word blogging would be through the roof.

Apparently, we in the Korean expat blogosphere are only supposed to be concerned about wrongs done to white-skinned teachers, and poor policy and prosecution when directed at our little coterie. Think of it as reverse xenophobia.

Bonus Photograph:


SuperDrew said...

You know how I feel about the Korean blogosphere, Steve, so I won't comment on that part. However, the Korean Best Toilet...classic!

I'm no Picasso said...

I just had a conversation about this. Actually, two. One with my Korean co-teacher, who's facing some pretty serious issues directly related to this, and one with a younger Korean friend who had no idea it was going on. It all sounds extremely serious, and wide-spread. I hope to God it putters out without ruining too many lives.

Chris in South Korea said...

A thought on the K-blogosphere, from the K-blogosphere (or at least one person from said institution):

Perhaps we *are* more concerned with our own kind than others, if for no other reason than no one else seems to be. While it seems premature to call it 'reverse xenophobia', consider what it means to be a blogger in the first place. We get to blog about what we think is important - which more often than not are things and people close to us. That's not to say we don't care about Korean teachers; but then again, they have unions - honest to God UNIONS - that have some power within the Korean political system to protect them. The average foreign English teacher has, um, few if any people or places backing them up against an employer who might try firing them for any tiny reason.

Another thing to consider is whether the K-blogosphere is even the appropriate group of people. For better or worse, we do tend to keep our readers in mind when it comes to what we post about. That's not to say we don't post about something unpopular; rather, we tend to stick to our own fairly tight themes and topics.

Tuttle said...

I see your point, but I disagree. The bloggers I am referring to scour the paps for stories about waygookin being treated "unfairly"--differently from Korean teachers, or Korean teachers treated differently from "us".

I think it is only fair to cover stories where Korean teachers are treated the way "we" complain about. Not to mention it serves the larger cause. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less for it as well as if a promontory were, and all that.