From a couple days ago. Source.
Jesus Tapdancing Christ. Source.
So first we had that hate group the "Anti-English Spectrum" (ha!) run their mouths about foreigners in the Korea Times---and then show their true colors on their Korean-language homepage. Then the Korean Association of Foreign Language Academies trotted (trut?) out the usual stereotypes in that same paper. Now, another loony fringe organization has come out with wall-to-wall anti-beef coverage of the same hue and with the same single-minded determination. Oooh, wait, that's not a fringe organization, that's the 400,000-strong Korea Teachers and Educational Workers Union (KTU), and these photos are from their newspaper 교육희망, sitting on my desk today.
Sort of related, a few weeks ago I wrote an opinion piece for the Korea Times asking why people were spending so much time worrying about dying from Mad Cow Disease when the realities of being a pedestrian and a driver are so much more dangerous. That was just after two Suncheon high school students were killed on a field trip when the taxi driver driving their school bus lost control while coming down Hallasan. Anyway, I got into a bit of trouble at my school for that piece. A few of my coworkers read the English-language Korea Times, saw the article, and eventually translated it into Korean and passed it around. No serious damage, but it did make for an awkward couple of days. I'll give you three guesses as to why some coworkers were upset with the piece. No, it wasn't because I was exploiting the deaths of students to counter anti-American rallies. No, it wasn't because I was pointing out that Koreans are bad drivers. And no, it wasn't that I was making fun of a popular TV show. It was because I criticized the KTU, of which lots of my coworkers are members. I was a little harsh on them, and was probably off-base with some of my comments, especially since I don't have access to Korean-language media because of my limited Korean skills. But I don't think I was necessarily misinformed, and I was bothered that my colleagues focused on such a small part of my larger argument. In the piece I wrote:
The notoriously xenophobic and anti-American KTU has been given many opportunities to spout off against American beef imports.
While encouraging discussion among able students on topics like the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and beef imports being unhealthy [is fine], to coerce students to attend rallies and to brainwash them with ultra-nationalistic propaganda is irresponsible, to say the least.
A few of my coworkers were pretty upset, and one of them---the man who translated the article in Korean---printed out and gave me the union's "Founding Manifesto" and "Platform," both available online, to dissuade me that the organization is anti-American. Both are worth a read; here's a couple excerpts from the former, promulgated on 19 years ago yesterday, May 28th, 1989:
The KTU is the best classroom, wherein teachers themselves can be living examples of democracy, for students who must be raised as democratic citizens. Because we know that the democratization of society starts with the democratization of education, we 400,000 teachers will be unable to talk about democratization, unable to teach students democracy, unless we replace our antidemocratic educational system and change our reality, a reality that is destroying harmony and meaning in the lives of students and teachers. This is why we have organized the Teachers and Education Workers' Union, a concrete act of the democratization movement.
Meanwhile our dictatorial regime and its selfish educational profiteers, such as MoonGyoBu [the former Ministry of Education], DaeHanKyoReon [the former Korea Federation of Teachers' Association] etc. have distorted our intentions and trampled on us remorselessly. With their irrational behavior, they are on a wild rampage, intent on impeding the advance of history.
Comrades! Let's unite and fight for our students' smiling faces!
Comrades! Let's work together for the democratization of education, the democratization of society, and reunification under the banner of the KTU!
For Korean education! For democratic education! For humane education! For solidarity with the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union!
The pro-democratic stance---later edit: I mean that in the sense of positioning themselves opposite dictatorial regimes, not in the "democratic" we might know it today---of those two documents stand in stark contrast to how some of the union's activities have been portrayed in, say, the Chosun Ilbo, and while I'm not sophisticated enough to understand the ins and outs of the Korean media, the. In fact, as regards both the union and the anti-beef stuff, my coworkers dismissed any articles I presented from that paper, claiming that it, the Dong-A Ilbo, and the Joongang Ilbo were spreading lies. In fact, the big reason that my colleagues didn't accept the rest of my article, at least to my face, was that they thought it was built on a false premise influenced by the wrong papers: a he said (PD Diary) vs. she said (everyone else). Fair enough, and perhaps those papers have axes to grind, but it's not as if the union doesn't have an agenda, or hasn't been prone to bouts of anti-Americanism. And while I realize that protesting American beef isn't the same as protesting American culture, and that these rallies shouldn't be read as anti-American in spirit, I do question how appropriate it is for teachers to be so actively political. Everybody has their own cause, and I'll admit I wouldn't be so upset if, say, students and teachers protested human rights abuses in North Korea, or walked out of their class to protest a near-fatal beating handed down by a teacher, or protested something like the No Child Left Behind Act. But the things with which the union apparently takes issue go well beyond food safety, and encouraging students to participate either by coersion or by example seems unusual and over the students' heads, but these quote-unquote educational opportunities are apparently in line with the KTU's motto.
Anyway, you can find some Chosun Ilbo pieces on the union here and here, and it's easier to just say to click on all the "related articles" rather than linking to them myself. And, here are a few other cartoons I found on their site, without too much poking around:
Source. This has nothing to do with anything, but I found it amusing.