Near the top of the Chosun Ilbo website this morning, accompanied with the three Choi Hui-seon articles, is news that "drug-taking foreign English teachers" have been busted in Seoul for gambling and, well, taking drugs. This has been circulating on some other blogs, so visit The Marmot's Hole, Monster Island, and Korea Beat for more discussion. Michael Hurt, the man behind Korean Media Watch, has interviewed those busted, and posted the .mp3 here. Monster Island has blogged his reaction to interview; an excerpt:
The audio is all kinds of stupid. The supposedly objective "Korean Media Watch" is feeding lines and editorializing, and if it's the interviewer's voice I'm hearing, offering at least a little inaccurate information.
You've got the professional poker player saying that's what he does for a living — bad move. You've got them admitting inadvertently that they have played these games in the past, perhaps regularly, and they have a whole set up (extra decks of cards to replace missing cards) that indicates it's a serious endeavor.
And then there's the whole part about how the Korean police should understand that Texas Hold 'Em is common in North America, no big deal, and they should understand the culture.
And then there's the whole thing about how "we're foreigners" so we can gamble anywhere in Korea anyway.
Ignorance and arrogance, driving a self-serving justification of having done something illegal. But it should be okay, though, because they're foreigners.
Indeed, the interview, and the things I've seen from Korean Media Watch thus far, are anything but unbiased. Robert Koehler's take:
Busting guys for a home poker game seems rather petty, but I really could have used less of the whole “Oh, the Koreans don’t understand Texas Holdem/concept of a tournament/poker is a game of skill” stuff. They don’t have to understand — it’s the accused that need to “understand” whether or not Korean law regards poker as gambling.
I’d also say they made some pretty major accusations against the police. Would like to hear what the police have to say about it.
These accusations include falsifying drug tests and forcing the suspects to make false confessions.
The first news of this trickled out a day earlier, as The Ruby Canary wrote that
Jim went into Seoul to hang out with a teacher friend he made in an interesting transaction buying a motercycle. He learned some interesting news about a group of teachers that work at his friend’s school. Apparently one of the guys had set up an “event” on facebook inviting other teachers over for a rowdy game of poker. They were halfway though the game, which did include some wagers of won just between friends, when a fully decked-out police force entered the apartment, arrested the guys playing the game, and the last we heard they had been in jail since Friday night. The friend heard they are being deported for illegal gambling.
So the word is out that the cops troll facebook for things to nail foreign teachers with. I have a hard time chalking this one up to cultural differences. I don’t think there many folks besides extremely conservative religious types who would consider an inside game of poker true gambling.
I've listened to the interview and read through most of the commentary available, and I have to say that while I've demonstrated a sympathy to foreigners being mistreated by the authorities, this group seems excessively annoying, ignorant, arrogant, and imbibed with a sense of entitlement. Around 10:50:
Also, I'm here right onw on a tourist visa, and I have a plane ticket to leave the country in two weeks to go home, and the offier said that because of what happened I'm not allowed to leave the country, I have to change my planet ticket, and just stay here until they feel the investigation is over. Which obviously I can't do, I can't just sit around not working, waiting for them to ask me questions.Around 15:40:
[Interviewer: And all this for essentially a poker game.]
Yes. Amongst friends.
One of the questions that they asked me was "Did you know this was illegal in Korea?" And I said, "I gamble in the casinos, I'm a foreigner. I saw no reason why I wouldn't be able to gamble with my friends at my house, we're all foreigners."Around 16:00:
They didn't understand that it was a small stakes game. Korea sensationalizes gambling in their television and movies and they didn't understand that, like, tons of money wasn't going itno the pot every hand. So, basically, I told her "yeah, I gamble all the time. I gamble at my friend's house."
It remains to be seen the role Facebook had in this, but it bears repeating that you should be careful what you post to the site. Drinking, partying, and dating don't disqualify one from being a good teacher, though we've that foreign teachers at a bar can make national news. Hell, go run a Naver search for 원어민강사 and look at the first image result. I won't preach to you, because you're all big boys and girls and you've all read that employers back home use google to find out more about their employees and applicants. There have been articles about objectionable content on teachers' forums like ESL Cafe, English Spectrum, and Korea Bridge in the news in recent years, so it shouldn't be surprising that authorities are clued-in to Facebook. I'll leave it up to you whether you want party pictures of yourself available for the public to see, whether you trust your Facebook friends to keep them private, though it should go without saying that you shouldn't advertise your illegal activities, or become indignant when these illegal activities are punished.