[O]ur academy was supposed to visit the Paju English Village in northern Gyeonggi-do this weekend, but had to cancel our trip due to swine flu. According to our academy director, several students from a number of different groups that had recently gone to the English village were tested positive for swine flu. As a result, the place is closed for at least the next couple of weeks.
I'm going to guess this means the associated English teachers are (or soon will be) under quarantine
On the Paju English Village's "News" section is the following message, posted today:
안녕하십니까? (재)경기영어마을 입니다.
경기영어마을 파주캠프에서는 8월 18일 영어마을 교육과정을 이수한 교육생중에 신종인플루엔자 확진환자가 발생됨에 따라 추가 확산을 예방하고, 안전한 교육환경을 유지하기 위하여 2009. 8. 18(화)부터 ~ 28(금)까지 임시 휴장을 실시합니다.
금번 환자발생에 따라 고객분들에게 불편함과 우려를 안겨드리게 된 점을 사과드리며, 쾌적하고 안전한 교육환경 조성을 위해 더욱 더 노력하겠습니다.
The Village has gotten a couple bad reviews in the local media---translated into English by Korea Beat here and here---and gets bad write-ups on Dave's ESL Cafe all the time. Here's a post from July 31st:
I took my summer camp students to Paju English Village today. I thought it would be a great opportunity for the kids to go to a place where everyone speaks English and I thought they would be able to see some cool shows in English too. I thought it would be worth the 2.5 hour bus ride.
The place was virtually deserted. We had to book ahead and even pay extra for some programs that were substandard at best.
I had visions of the kids being able to go from place to place speaking English as they went. We had to book ahead for the bank, clinic, etc. Even though there was hardly anyone there they told us those places were booked out.
The musical was so sad. I felt really sorry for the "edutainers" who had to dress up in these homemade-looking costumes and perform a play that was poorly written and far from being professional. It was embarrassing to watch. It was clear they put together this show with next to no money or resources.
No one around me was speaking English around the village and the shop people would speak a little English to me, but not to the Koreans.
What a huge waste of money this place is. There are a lot of nice, empty buildings but what good are they if the programs they have in place suck?
My students went away from the place with long faces and some of them told my co-teacher that going there made them not want to study English anymore because it was so boring and too difficult to understand the Native English teachers. So what is the point of this place then?
And a response a couple days later:
I visited the place in 2006.
At that time, it was like the OP's description in some ways and unlike his description in some ways.
The place was hopping with visitors and hopping with employees.
That was when the place was new.
Since then, the employees have made their dissatisfaction known to the rest of the world.
Judging from Wylies' post, it looks like employees are treated just as badly now.
That could well be the reason that the place has downsized.
As a second language experience, we were as disappointed as the OP.
Koreans spoke Korean to Koreans, just as they do in English class.
There was a program in the amphitheatre which contained dance numbers and circus acts which were very nice, but not very instructive for ESL students.
Like the OP and his group, we had to spend a lot of time waiting.
While we were waiting to get into one of the pavilions, I took out a set of musical pipes from my handbag and had my English student play some songs.
Other visitors, who were also bored from waiting, gathered round and watched.
It speaks very poorly for an entertainment center if a visitor can compete that easily for the other visitors' attention.
As I understand, Paju English Village has shifted its focus to intensive classes for older students.
An employee in that program once started a thread on this forum, indicating that he was quite happy with his job.
The intensive classes use only a small portion of the building space, however, leaving the many unoccupied buildings which the OP saw.
So the program goes a short way toward recouping their losses.
The best collection of these kinds of posts is in the thread "Dancing like an English monkey at Gyeonggi English Village."
Yesterday a friend of mine and a Korean teacher from his school were up at the DMZ near Paju, and while in the area we decided to check out the new 'English Village' that has just opened there. Were we ever blown away. English theme park, English circus, white elephant, farce, and anomaly would all be suitable descriptions. I cannot fathom how much money has been poured into this place. Their athletic facilities are simply amazing - one would only find such equipment at the poshist gyms in the country. They have both indoor and outdoor swimming pools. I also couldn't believe how much staff was there working on a government holiday.
However, I also cannot for the life of me imagine what the pathetically low ratio of won spent to English learned will be. The place is nothing but entertainment attempted largely in English. Employees are dressed up in all manner of silly costume, and many of the service staff are not native speakers, but white people with an adequate level of English to take orders, give directions, etc. I never saw anthing resembling a classroom, and after wandering all over the place the only English instruction I saw was some very young, muscular guy with dyed hair in a studio room of some sort, who had a class of about 20 middle school girls crowded around him as he tried to keep order. Amid 70-decible schoolgirl babble all I heard was 'no, I don't have a phone number; no, I don't have an email address; no, I can't give you my phone number - I don't have one; no, I don't have an email, really ... ALL RIGHT!!! EVERYONE BE QUIET!!!!!'.
The English Village apparently gets more work as a filming location than it does an educational center.