Monday, December 19, 2011

Old photos of Jeollanam-do and Gwangju.

1941 Jeollanamdo Provincial Office
Taken in front of the Jeollanam-do Provincial Office, 1941.

Sajik Park
Sajik Park observatory in the foreground, Gwangju and Mudeungsan in the background.

Building Chosun University 1951
Chosun University under construction, 1951.

For a while I've been collecting old photos of Jeollanam-do and Gwangju---politically part of South Jeolla province since 1986---and recently started to put them in one place. Finding pictures of what southwestern Korea used to look like is generally much harder than finding old photographs of Seoul, and even Pyeongyang. Some local governments, schools, and charitable organizations have fortunately documented and preserved the photographic history of the region.

Suncheon English class.
English class in Suncheon under Japanese rule.

Suncheon fortress, South Gate
Suncheon Fortress's South Gate in the 1920s, at the present-day location of the entrance of the 중앙시장 in "Old Downtown".

1960s Suncheon
Aerial view of Suncheon, 1960s.

About 200 more, and growing, on the Old Jeollanam-do Flickr gallery. Sources have been cited when possible, though a lot of these have circulated on numerous blogs throughout the years and it's hard to pin down dates, details, and credits. Frequently Naver bloggers will take old photos, put big watermarks across them, and disable right clicks, leading visitors to believe the best way to preserve local history is to make it inaccessible to everyone else.

Bbong Bbong Bridge 1960
뽕뽕다리 across Gwangjucheon, 1960.

Chonnam University 1959
Chonnam National University campus, 1959.

Gwangju cherry blossoms 1955
Cherry blossoms in Gwangju, 1955.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gwangju ski lift

Three generations of doing the damn thing, at Gwangju's Hotel Mudeung Park lift, 1984. A neat picture by darklunacy found while looking for other stuff.

Inefficiently-used native speaker English teachers inefficient.

I would be remiss not to mention the big news among foreign English teachers in Korea: that Seoul public schools plan to phase them out.
* Gusts of Popular Feeling has a lengthy post on these recent developments and their coverage in the local Korean-language press.
* The Korea Times and JoongAng Daily have some coverage in English.
* Roboseyo has a round-up of some comments among teachers on blogs.
* I'm No Picasso has a thoughtful reply to an idiotic interview with a 24-year-old Korean that repeats a lot of the same xenophobic bias we've been reading about for years.
Really, the writing has been on the wall for years: with the hiring of Korean "lecturers" in practical English and the growth in Teaching English in English [TEE] plans, the development of the NEAT, the increased interest in Indian and robot teachers, the increase in online English classes and distance-learning, the non-renewal of public school contracts over the past few semesters, the attention to and focus on the "myth of the native speaker", and the wall-to-wall negative coverage in the local media. If anyone is surprised in 2011 it is only because there is a definite timeline for their phasing-out in place.

Unfortunately the NSET experiment in public schools was marred by poor implementation, disorganization, and disinterest, and it's no surprise that inefficiently-used native English speakers were ineffective and, well, inefficient in the classroom. Little thought went into how to use them, what the ultimate goals of their classes should be, or how to achieve those goals while working successfully with their Korean co-teachers. While papers and politicians can vomit countless anecdotes and articles about poorly-performing NSETs and "unqualified" teachers, few column inches are devoted to who has done the hiring, the rationale behind those choices, and why the goals of English education in Korea are ultimately incompatible with the strengths of thousands of young, untrained, and inexperienced foreigners.

English class in Gangjin county's St. Joseph Girls' High School, 1970.

Native speaker English teachers have been in Korean classrooms for decades, and there will presumably be places for them for years to come: young, inexperienced teachers will still find work in cram schools and English-immersion Villages, while those with experience and credentials may move to colleges, universities, teacher-training institutes like the British Council or the Jeollanam-do Educational Training Institute, or reputable hagwon.

Background reading:
* Are native speakers part of English here? Your thoughts on the 2009 GETA conference.
* A must read: account of teaching English in South Korea in the sixties. The .pdf file of a 1965 Korea Journal piece by Julian le Patourel, which details many of the same challenges NSETs continue to face 40+ years later, is available here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Submit your Gibberlish to the Korea Tourism Organization, win prizes.

Somebody should submit this.

From, via Facebook friend Rob:
Looks like -- the snarky website showcasing error-riddled English signs in Asia -- won't be getting as many submissions from Korea.

How awesome is this? Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) is offering to reward photographers who submit snaps of muddled signs at tourist spots.

The prize? A gift card of ₩50,000 (approximately US$45) that can be used at any vendor that accepts credit cards -- otherwise known as free money.

Although there are no hard-and-fast rules about what constitutes a "tourist spot," you can't go wrong with the usual foreigner hotspots of Myeong-dong and Itaewon.
But of course:
Although the event site is only displayed in Korean, foreigners are also welcome to participate in the event.
The short article has a few more details on the noble effort in the works, I'm sure, to get some foreign-language material cleaned up before the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Thing is, will probably get just as many submissions from Korea as it always has: this contest won't be looking at Gibberlish on shirts, on menus, in businesses, and in K-pop.
[T]he event does not apply to mistakes on road signs, restaurant menus and guidebooks, due to the fact that these categories are overseen by other departments and this particular event is being hosted by the Tourism Service Improvement Team at KTO. The latter will then pay to have the signs fixed.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

NEAT (국가영어능력평가시험) registration time through December 12th.

From December 1st through 12th is the first registration period for the National English Language Test (국가영어능력평가시험), the English-language proficiency exam with the lofty goals of replacing the TOEFL, TOEIC, and other foreign exams in Korea. Registration is now for Level 1---the “adult”, Business English exam---and is limited to the first 4,000 applicants. The test will be held on December 17th, at 44 different sites around the country.

The test consists of four sections: listening, reading, speaking, and writing. It runs from 9:30 to 5, with three breaks.

Under the test information (시헙안내) tab on the test's website you’ll find a .pdf with some sample questions, like:
Good morning everyone, here's a piece of good news for our company. After years of talks the U.S. and Thailand have agreed on a double-taxation treaty that will put American companies already operating there on a more level playing field with our competitors. That means royalties paid by a Thai firm to a U.S. firm will be subject to a Thai withholding tax of zero to 5%, compared to a 15% tax for countries without a treaty. That means more profit for us.

Q: What change will the treaty bring?
a) more sports coverage
b) less tax on royalties
c) a 15% tax on royalties
d) less American investment
Click on the 시험안내 tab, then click 영역별 문항유형, then click the Adobe logo.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gwangju subway's second line coming! In 2022.

Hard to read map, via Newsis.

The Jeonnam Ilbo and Gwangju Ilbo have the latest news on the long-proposed second subway line in Gwangju (광주지하철2호선). Construction will begin after the 2015 Universiade, will proceed in three phases, and is expected to be completed by 2022. Specifics on the second line haven't been finalized yet, but the Jeonnam Ilbo shows roughly what it will look like:
도시철도 2호선의 당초 노선은 효천역~백운광장~남광주역~서방사거리~광주역~동운고가~종합터미널~시청신청사~풍암지구~백운광장이었지만 변경 고시를 통해 시청~운천역~금호지구~월드컵경기장~백운광장(~효천역)~남광주역~광주역~전남대~첨단지구~수완지구~시청 구간 확대 순환선으로 바뀌었다. 정거장 정차시간을 포함한 2호선의 속도는 38.8㎞/hr로 첨단에서 백운광장까지 약 30분이내에 도착할 수 있으며, 1호선과의 연계를 위한 환승역은 운천역과 남광주역으로 계획돼 있다.
For as long as I have been looking at Gwangju subway maps, I've read about plans for additional lines. The subway website even used to have a map showing lines two and three, but it reflected neither reality nor the plans announced in February 2010.

Line 1 opened in August 1996, and the Naver encyclopedia entry says that before the "IMF Crisis"---the Asian Financial Crisis---there were five lines planned for Gwangju, but by 2000 they whittled it down to plans for just two more. The Korean Wikipedia page tells us where those five lines would've gone:
최초 계획

* 1호선(20.60㎞) : 동구 소태동 ~ 금남로 ~ 상무신도시 ~ 광주공항 ~ 광주송정역 ~ 평동산업단지 (1996년 착공 후 2003년 개통 계획)
* 2호선(13.70㎞) : 남구 효천역 - 송암공단 - 백운광장 - 금남로 4가 - 말바우시장 - 북구 문화동 (2004년 착공 후 2009년 개통 계획)
* 3호선(24.00km) : 장성군 월정리 - 광산구 첨단지구 - 양산지구 - 국립광주박물관 - 광주문화예술회관 - 유스퀘어 - 농성 - 백운광장 - 남광주역 - 광주역
* 4호선(28.15㎞) : 광주역 - 전남대학교 - 북구 오치동 - 일곡지구 - 양산지구 - 보훈병원 - 광주시청 - 상무 - 서구 금호지구 - 월드컵경기장 - 금남로 5가 - 광주역
* 5호선(16.60㎞) : 장성군 월정리 - 하남공단 - 광산구 우산동 - 유스퀘어 - 금남로 5가
Because I love subways that would've been awesome, but excessive. And nowadays the buses do cover a lot of this ground, above-ground.

First subway in Gwangju, by 양광삼 기자.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Comparing the value of Korean and foreign English teachers.

The Korea Times writes "[t]he majority of Korean parents think foreign English teachers are needed in schools despite the government’s move to gradually reduce their number," but adds:
About 53.7 percent said the most effective type of teachers was “Korean teachers who had excellent English communication skills and taught well.” Only 29.7 percent answered positively about native English teachers. This was attributable to the low interaction between students and teachers and the difficulty in understanding the foreign educators.
And in the Hankyoreh:
parents prefer capable Korean teachers of English over native speaker assistant instructors, a Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) study found.

The report released Sunday by the SMOE found 62.2% of 12,150 student parents and 53.7% of 28,761 students taking part in an online poll describing the most desirable type of English teacher as “a Korean teacher who has excellent English conversation skills and teaches effectively.” The rates were higher than the preference for native English speaker assistant instructors, which stood at 26.9% for parents and 29.7% for students.
. . .
In-depth interviews were also conducted with English teachers on the native speaker assistant instructors. Among the factors cited as strengths were the “new cultural experience” and encouragement of student curiosity and interest regarding English. But teachers also voiced negative opinions about the instructors’ individual qualifications and the cost of their employment relative to the learning benefits.
Here's a July 2010 post about native speaker English teacher evaluations, including the questionnaires then given to Korean co-teachers. Here's a lengthier post inspired by the Busan Office of Education's decision to evaluate their NSETs. And last month, Seamus of Asadal Thought shared a questionnaire going around to parents in Gyeonggi-do who were asked to evaluate the performances of their children's NSETs.
3. 원어민 영어선생님을 활용한 영어수업을 통해 귀 자녀의 의사소통능력 향상에 도움이 된다고 생각하십니까? Do you think that your children’s comprehension/understanding is helped through the English classes that utilise the native speaking English teacher?
1. 매우 도움이 된다. It helps greatly.
2. 도움이 된다. It helps.
3. 잘 모르겠다. I don’t really know.
4. 별로 도음이 되지 않는다. It doesn’t really help.
5. 전혀 도움이 되지 않는다. It doesn’t help at all.
We are in turn left to evaluate how, um, qualified parents are to judge the usefulness of their kids' foreign English teachers.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that "capable" Korean English teachers are preferred or considered more useful. The biggest reason--bigger than shared language and culture, and bigger than their significantly-greater staying power--is that they don't lead weekly or bi-monthly conversation clubs, they teach and review the exercises that appear on the all-important standardized tests. Even though the National Curriculum has nominally placed an importance on "communicative competence" for a decade, English is still overwhelmingly a subject rather than a language, a subject where limited proficiency in spoken and written English is enough to do the trick.

For more data and commentary, take a look at today's Gusts of Popular Feeling post.