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Take an English teacher’s blog, add plenty of spice, simmer with a heavy dose of foreigner-bashing yellow journalism and voila! You have the K-blog story de la semaine.
This saga actually began early this month, when Robert at “The Marmot’s Hole” (http://www.rjkoehler.com) poked fun at an American English teacher at a Seoul adults’ hagwon, or language institute, who was using his blog to make “amorous” remarks about his female students and colleagues, juxtaposed with steamy photos (but of different women, say other commenters). So irate was one (apparently foreign) commenter with said blog that in a burst of civic consciousness, he promptly forwarded its address to, among others, a Korean tabloid. Coincidence or not, fireworks ensued. “Affairs with High School Students, Spreading Nude Photos on the Internet,” thundered the headline on the vernacular Inside Story tabloid. After translating the piece, Robert wrote, “Teachers are only part of the problem. The real problem is the people who hire them, and what I find most amusing is reading hagwon owners [complain] in the media about all the losses they’ve suffered because of bad English teachers ― they’re only reaping the fruits of the system they built and run.”
“The root of the problem,” writes Chris at “Outside in Korea” (http://outsideinkorea.com/), “[is that] almost anyone can legally come to Korea to teach.” The solution? “Raise the standards for [teachers’] visas. Nothing less than a CELTA/DELTA [teaching certificate] or equivalent if the candidate is not university-educated to be a teacher. Interviews for those candidates, performed by people who understand English ... and who can (as few Koreans seem able to do) winnow out the scam artists and freaks.”
In a long post at “Scribblings of the Metro-politician” (http://metropolitician.blogs.com /scribblings_of_the_metrop/), Michael concludes this incident is indicative of a wider malaise. “If the media and the people who blindly follow it continue this pattern of racist, nationalist scapegoating ― the only people who suffer, in the end, are Koreans ... the effects are enormous and part of a larger pattern of mediocrity, pettiness and the inability to be truly self-critical that keeps Korean schools uniform, boring, and ineffective, while keeping Korean universities out of the top 100 in the world.” Ouch.
K-bloggers, generous bunch that they are, have been sharing some hard-learned pointers on how to handle oneself in awkward or unfamiliar situations here in Korea. First off, Jodi at “The Asia Pages” (http://asiapages.wordpress.com/), as a seasoned veteran of such outings, has some priceless counsel for foreign businesswomen going for group dinners or trips to karaokes with male Korean counterparts: Leave an empty glass under the table so you can surreptitiously ditch those unwanted shots of soju; and above all, when at the karaoke sing with gusto. And preferably Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive.” “There is just something about it that drives Koreans (especially businessmen) nuts. The effect it has on them is so powerful that every song you sing thereafter ... will sound like a church choir to these guys.”
Second up is Aaron at “Idiots’ Collective” (http://idiotscollective.blogspot.com/), who proposes a novel way of dealing with motorcyclists on the sidewalk. “Get hit by one of these guys on their 125cc Daelims. They’re not going very fast and ... the courts would certainly take our side. The way I see it, we get a few bruises (maybe a contusion, a fracture at worst) and a few million won in compensation ... pretty soon you're globetrotting on someone else's dime. I don't see the downside.”
Finally, “Yankabroad” (http://yankabroad. blogspot.com/) has the perfect method to “keep the doorbell-ringing ajummas [housewives] away”: “Answer the door in your boxers. I did this the other day, and the woman on the other side took one look at me and just disappeared... hopefully, she’ll tell all her ajumma friends there’s a pervert living in apartment 402. No more Amway, no more Bibles, no more needless visits by people wishing to improve my life.”

by Niels Footman
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