Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Safe Schools Korea and tonight's episode of KBS's "Ssam."

After the arrest of child molester Christopher Paul Neil in Thailand in October, 2007, the Korean government introduced a number of measures to protect the children, most notably mandatory criminal background checks for E-2 visa holders. Many teachers, including me, objected to them not because the safety of children wasn’t important, but because they were being applied only to E-2 visa holders---and, from what I hear, only to English teachers on E-2 visas---especially ridiculous because Neil, who taught in Korea though who didn’t commit his crimes here, had neither an E-2 visa nor a criminal background that would have been picked up in a check. As Benjamin Wagner wrote in his report to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea titled "Discrimination Against Non-Citizens in the Republic of Korea in the Context of the E-2 Foreign Language Teaching Visa" (posted here with introduction and links) on pages 7 and 8, respectively:
The E-2 visa policy requirements were designed to "protect children and young students," yet these protective measures are not applied to the majority of teachers who teach children (under-inclusive) and instead are often applied to teachers who do not teach children at all (over-inclusive)

. . .
The E-2 visa policy was never implemented to achieve any of its stated goals; rather, it was deigned as a "show" to pacify the Korean public by proving an illusion of protection through a discriminatory and extra-legal crackdown severely violating the human rights of non-citizen residents.

I received an email from Safe Schools Korea a couple weeks ago, in which the founder pointed out this gap. Safe Schools was created by an former detective in the London police, currently living in Daegu, and is a service whereby schools can acquire checks on their foreign English teachers. I’m not in the business of printing emails without consent, but you will excuse me for quoting two little parts:
It seems that the Koreans, post Christopher Neil; think that sex offenders all have criminal records and fake degrees, and whilst you will find some offenders within this category, most, you would not.

. . .
What I am trying to do here is to raise awareness for parents, who are very trusting of foreigners as they invite them into their homes to teach privately as well as to send their kids overseas on homestays, yet they have very little understanding of things such as grooming.

I bring this up now because there will be a documentary on the KBS1 program “시사기획 쌈,” from 22:00 to 22:50, on sex offenders of children in Korea. You’ll find a preview of that documentary here, in Korean. Safe Schools Korea, he tells me, will feature in this documentary, as will a local lawmaker Yoo Seong-min from Daegu, who has noted the inconsistency and the potential for fraud.



As I told the founder of Safe Schools in a reply email, I hope this doesn’t increase the fear of foreign male teachers. The Safe Schools Korea site has practically no information specific to Korea, and continually refers to the United Kingdom; a gap I don’t think reporters of a certain bias will note when they’re looking to stitch together a hit-piece. Related to that, it doesn’t bring up any facts or statistics relevant to foreign child molesters in Korea. Off the top of my head, and I have a pretty good memory, I can’t recall anything beyond a few accusations that made the tabloids. If you look at the statistics posted on page 20 of Wagner's report to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, you'll see that 39 foreigners from the seven English-speaking countries eligible for an English-teaching E-2 were arrested for sex crimes in 2008, compared to 53,240 Koreans. That's for a little perspective, keeping in mind that those 39 were among all visa types for those countries, and that the numbers don't specify the crimes. It continues:
According to the Korea Immigration Office, as of September 2008, the total population of non-citizens from each of the seven countries was 152,301: U.S.A. (118,701); Canada (17,672); U.K. (4,808); Australia (6,362); New Zealand (2,596); South Africa (1,579); Ireland (583). The most recent census put the South Korean population at 49,268,928. Examining the data on arrests for sex crimes from 2008 (the most arrests recorded), for every 100,000 foreigners from the seven English-speaking countries, there were 25.6 arrests for sexual offenses and for every 100,000 Korean citizens, there were 108.

And, let’s remember this: here is an article I think I ought to bring up every now and again to highlight just how incomplete and biased those E-2 regulations were, and how hollow the protect the children line was:
A temporary teacher at a middle school in North Chungcheong Province was arrested for raping and molesting female teenagers, police said Wednesday. He had previously been convicted on seven counts of sexual assault and other crimes.

Police said the contract-based teacher, identified as Min, sexually assaulted an unidentified middle school student in February at a motel in the province. Police said the student was a runaway at the time and the 31-year-old approached her, saying he would rent a motel room to be used as a temporary ``shelter.''

He is also accused of molesting another teenage girl at a karaoke bar the following month, police said.
Police are widening their investigation to find out whether he committed other crimes.

Currently, criminal records of those sentenced to less than three years in prison are removed after five years. As such, schools can't always ascertain the criminal record of would-be teachers.

I’ll repost that last paragraph again:
Currently, criminal records of those sentenced to less than three years in prison are removed after five years. As such, schools can't always ascertain the criminal record of would-be teachers.


Furthermore, the service raises some questions that I'm sure tonight's audience will want to answer. Are schools not doing enough to protect children? Is the Ministry of Justice not doing enough to protect children, when they are the ones who implemented the discriminatory checks in the first place? And, when we consider that the vast majority of teachers in Korea are Korean, and that the vast majority of crimes against children would be committed by Koreans, will the government guard against dangerous Korean teachers with as much vigor and enthusiasm as they do foreign ones?

I'll close with two other points. First, being mindful of a potential backlash against foreign male English teachers doesn't mean I'm not sensitive to victims of sex crimes, or that I'm placing my reputation above their safety. One foreign sex offender is one too many. But I think there is good reason to worry about another irrational panic against a certain demographic when that demographic is already stereotyped at times as drug-taking, AIDS-carrying, degree-forging sexual predators. Second, I have invited the founder of Safe Schools Korea to write something for this site to explain what his group is about, what popularity it's had so far, and what the response has been especially after the documentary. His initial email was informative and interesting, though his website doesn't offer much else specific to Korea.

20 comments:

Julian Warmington said...

Good God.

...

Brian said...

I want to point out, a few hours before this goes on TV, that there's no indication that foreign English teachers are the focus or even a large part of this. But with Safe Schools Korea---an organization looking at teachers from the "Big 7"---I assume they'll get some airtime.

Brian said...

I fixed the links on this post, btw. I wrote it on MS Word first and an extra space was added in the html when I pasted it into blogger.

Stevie Bee said...

From what I can gather from the link, I would suggest that the proprietor is looking to export UK-style paedo-steria to an untapped market and thus exploit the general air of suspicion and distaste towards foreigners with an eye to making a tidy little sum by selling background checks (there is one small mention of the service being not-for-profit, but the curiously uniform pricing structure makes me doubt this).

The stats quoted re/ prison populations and the potential number of paedophiles who might already be in Korea are thoroughly bogus and tendentiously and cynically presented. Honestly, what sort of a twisted cunt would operate a service such as this? He's working under the clear assumption that anyone who would challenge his motives or the validity or necessity of his service is immediately opening themselves to suspicion, and is detrimentally affecting the reputations of all foreign English teachers in the process.

Stafford said...

Indeed Korean parents would be better served if the rape and molestation statistics for each country listed were compared to the stats for Korea. (As Brian helpfully does).
That would add a bit more perspective methinks.

Stevie Bee said...

The Safe Schools Korea site is an extension of this private security/investigation site: http://www.discreet-services.com/index.html

The site owner apparently sees exploiting parents' fears of abuse by foreigners as a legitimate extension of his private security business. Quite a coup for him to get exposure on Ssam, then. His searchable database of 'known offenders' is quite amusing - it's just a collection of news reports that he's obviously spent a few hours cutting and pasting into Access. All that police training isn't going to waste!

(Incidentally, I wonder why he's no longer a copper...?)

Jason said...

Stevie Bee, Can you lose the misogynist expressions? "Honestly, what sort of a twisted cunt..."

In a human rights context and discussion it's kind of disheartening to hear someone using this sort of language to paint a perverted sexuality using female slang for genitalia as representative of an abnormal and dysfunctional embodiment of criminal behavior ...

"twisted cunt" paints the desires and genitalia of the male doing the negative behavior as representative of a sexuality/sex/gender in a dehumanizing discourse wherein lesbian desire is recoded as a perverted desire further recoded as pedophilic under the general discourse of all non-heterosexual/hetero-normative desire and gender identity within the hetero-social hegemonic norms as OTHER...

Let's be clear here and say that any PERSON desiring under-age children of any GENDER/SEX is a criminal and should be seen as such--let's be further clear here and say that lesbian and gay sexuality/sex/gender categories are NOT the same as pedophilia, and that poorly defined identity/desire categories and sexualities should not be confused with pedophilia ...

Using derogatory language that effeminizes male bodies and sexuality as aberrant female bodies/sexualities in order to make a point in support of human rights laws and policies kind of undermines the primary goal, doesn't it?

If you had written, "Honestly, what kind of a twisted cock...." comment I suspect that your point would be lost in the ensuing discussion of your man-bashing rhetorical style ... funny how anti-women's bodies/sexualities/gender identities comments doesn't seem generate much commentary...

Stevie Bee said...

Stupid cunt.

Stevie Bee said...

PS Jason - in British English, 'cunt', when used to refer to a person, simply means 'bad sort', much as cock, fuck or prick would.

Please stick to the subject at hand and don't come your undergrad nonsense. I teach critical theory at university here and I've never heard such bloody rubbish as what you just came out with.

Jason said...

Stevie Bee,

You might want to try and update your reading and literary theory concepts . . . the field has expanded since the 1950s . . .

You sound like a KKK member arguing that "nigger" is just a word used to describe 'dark skinned people' or that 'Nelly' is just a word to describe ' men who act like women and/or gay men' . . .

Derogatory race, gender, and sexuality terms use very similar modes of power and knowledge . . . and that these terms evolve over time. You might want to do some reading in Feminist Theory first year anthologies, Post-Colonial theory anthologies, and Queer Theory to name a few ...
Maybe I'm expecting too much from an academic operating outside of North America ...

Considering you don't know my academic background you might want to reconsider your ass-umptions . . .

I always find it so amusing when old school academics are so shocked by literary theory terms and concepts that they've 'never heard of'--maybe if they actually tried to find a balance between reading old dead white guy's stuff with the 20th and 21st century writings they might not be so shocked . . .

Stevie Bee said...

Oh, do be quiet, Beginners'-Guide-to-Judith-Butler. I'm quite au fait with feminisms, thank you. I just don't regard 'cunt' in this context to be a strongly gendered term. I have no qualms about calling people dicks, arseholes, tits or wankers either.

Talk about the topic at hand, please, viz: Safe Schools Korea and tonight's episode of KBS's "Ssam".

Stafford said...

I love it when Jason gets all self righteous on it.
So cute.
How's this for twisted sex organs: validation word "werwede"
Hahahahahahahaha!

ROK Hound said...

Oh, Stevie Bee, my ears are burning from such bad language. Please stop using "cunt" (Ow! It burns! It burns!) and instead use "hoo hoo". Have mercy on my virgin ears.

Brian said...

I'm going with Stevie Bee on this one. It doesn't carry the same meaning in British English than it does in American, and perhaps Canadian, varieties.

That said, from here on out let's keep it on topic.

Stevie Bee said...

Did anyone see this documentary?

matt said...

I just checked emule and found that the last three episodes (and a dozen more) of this show can be found there. I imagine that this latest episode will turn up there in a few days (emule was my source for English teacher episodes of 그것이 알고싶다 and Sexy Mong).

While Korea could stand to be more street smart, as Brian rightly points out, such caution should be applied across the board, and not just at foreigners. I don't really think we need to see people become so anxious here that they see everyone as a possible threat to their child as people seem to do in the west (with examples like this from England in 2000 standing out - an attitude satarized by Chris Morris here.

And I think Jason's concept of people being criminals whether they act on their desires or not - called 'thought crime' in fascist or communist states or 'heresy' during the inquisition - to be a dangerous one.

Brian said...

In the Korea Times today: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/special/2010/02/177_60568.html

Stevie Bee said...

I don't like this guy one bit. He seems to be deliberately spreading suspicion and alarm just to create a market for his training and security services. That, to me, is the behaviour of a cunt.

Puffin Watch said...

The result, says Hegarty, is that "Korea has become more attractive to pedophiles."

Based on what evidence? Yeah I agree with Stevie. He sounds like the "satanic kidnapping experts" of the 1980s and 1990s or the household radon gas detector experts of the 1990s. Use alarming language, point to a couple real cases, never refer to actual stats, and then call yourself and expert with the solution. Kaching!

Seriously this guy shows up no where on google save for the KT article and his own site. Remarkable for such an expert.

Geez look at his web site:

http://www.safeschools.co.kr/Eng/index.html

Aside from the amazingly crap layout, does that banner image prejudice much?

He has "a degree in Risk & Security Management from Britain’s leading university for Police and Criminal Justice Studies"

So which school?

Stevie Bee said...

Also, it's nice to note that according to the article, Korean Immigration and the British Embassy have both told this seedy chancer to go fuck himself. It's a shame that the Korean media can't also see through his opportunistic facade, along with one or two bloggers and online personalities that have also swallowed his bullshit.