Friday, September 10, 2010

Same Story, Different Day

As is so often the case, Kang Shin-who gets the wrong end of the stick and runs with it. Kang is the (English) education reporter for the Korea Times responsible for the [Exclusive] story in today's online edition headlined Taxpayers pay for foreign schools, for what?

Kang traces the monies, establishing that the government's claim, via the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, that "nearly 50 billion won in taxpayer money had been spent to finance the construction of nine international schools between 2003 and 2009" is a lowball figure. When real estate considerations are included, the figure rises considerably. Or does it?

Just one school, according to Kang, the Yongsan International School-Seoul, was "provided" in addition to 13 billion won, some 48 billion worth of land. Provided turns out to be a key weasel-word, as a visit to the YIS-S website indicates the school does not own the property (and is non-profit):
In June 2006, the school was selected by the Korea Foreign Schools Foundation to serve as the operator of a newly constructed, state-of-the-art school facility located in Hannam-dong. [emphasis mine]

So, actually, Mr Kang, we need to add that 48 bil back to the bottom line, and do some calculations about the lost revenue relative to other uses. But, let's move on ...
Whether such a huge sum of taxpayer money has served to attract more foreign investors or not is a big question.
Since the only reason Korea needs high-quality, modern, English-language education is to educate the children of weygookin CEOs.
But it’s a tall task to answer the question because foreign schools are reluctant to provide key information needed to measure the impact they have had on attracting overseas investment.
I mean, they have this in an Excel spreadsheet on the secretary's computer, but no one knows the damn password. It used to be Sparky, her dog, but she changed it after Gloria the Registrar put the Chippendale Dancers for her desktop picture as a joke.
A research team, commissioned by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, sought to find how many schools are educating children of foreign investors over the past years, but failed as they refused to provide the team with information.
Yep, no one provided any data on this, so Kang had to make up the following statistics he provided in the article:
Still, the research paper found that most of the foreign schools are crowded with “Korean students.”
According to the paper, 34 percent of YISS students were students with foreign citizenship as of last year. GSIS has 107 foreign students and 432 Korean students.
It also said that fewer than 10 percent of the total are foreign students at the Korea International School (KIS).

Hmmm. Let me look at this that you have written again, Mr Kang. So, your complaint is that Korean taxpayer money is being spent on these foreign schools when a mere 70 percent of the students benefitting from these programs are actual Koreans? Do I have that right? Instead of being outraged over 50 billion won, you should outraged about 14 bil?

But that point, valid as it is, is not my real objection to Mr Kang's "reportage". Early on in the "news article" he makes the kind of statement an editorial writer might make--and get pilloried for in most countries: the idea that our governments should treat us differently based on national origin or race or gender or sexual orientation.

It is one thing, a quite acceptable one, to question your government's policies, choices and expenditures--I am quite impressed with Korea's democratic ways. On the other hand, for a "professional journalist" to start with a bias against a policy, refuse to visit readily accessible webpages, fail to recognise the impossiblity of a school's ability to quantify it's value of foreign investment--that is not acceptable. Especially when one answer to to the "For What?" question is "over 70% participation"!

On the other hand, back in the US, the "Tea Party" asks Why are my taxes so high? when for almost everyone, taxes are lower than they have been in living memory. The highest marginal tax rate under Republican Dwight Eisenhower was 92%. Of course, you got more for your money back then.


Chris said...

Speaking of school and land, I am reminded of an article I read earlier in the year that just shocked me:

Let's ignore the turf battle about which the article was written. The "fact" that 33% of the land in Seoul "belongs" to Seoul National University is amazing.

I did the math, and actually 0.2% if Korea's land works out to be 50% of Seoul, so I'm guessing they must have considered the entire metropolitan area, which I can believe would put the number back to 33%.

But still something doesn't seem right...

Tuttle said...

I guess SNU is its own industry--I know they have their own brand of Makkeolli, for instance.