Foreign English teachers living in Gyeonggi Province attended a supposedly mandatory seminar, referred to one teacher as the “Dirty Foreigner Seminar”. The teachers sat through lectures on immigration law, Korean culture, and teaching.
Throughout these talks, the teachers were reminded several times not to sexually harass students. Throughout the multiple ‘warnings’, the program failed to even provide proper instructions as to what exactly sexual harassment is and the measures required to avoid that kind of behavior.
One teacher, who has been teaching in Korea for many years, noted that these “reminders” came from the stereotype that “foreigners are by nature potential sexual predators and drug fiends”.
“This isn’t about career enrichment, it’s because of the stereotype that we’re all sexual deviants.”
— Joe McPherson, English teacher & permanent resident in Korea
The chairwoman of the Gyeonggi Foreign Hagwon Association said this training is necessary as some foreign teachers have “unintentionally caused some kids to feel sexually molested.”
Ironically, one of the Korean speakers who gave a talk on “how to be a good teacher” talked about how he wanted to learn English as a youth because his teacher had pretty legs and wore short skirts.
The chairwoman excused the speaker by pointing out that not one of the academy principals at the event had anything to say against the anecdote. She also assured that these were the “most eligible speakers” as the presenters were chosen by the foreign affairs police bureau.
According to a Canadian research of Korean history, media bias against foreigners was the cause of these kind of seminars.
The teachers at the seminar were told some of these media stories of foreigners who had worked in Korea and sexually assault minors or drug smugglers.
“In 2013, the story of a foreign teacher suspected of having sexually assaulted a minor who was extradited to the U.S. was covered by 80 news articles ― half of them TV news reports.
In contrast, the case of a Korean elementary school vice principal who was sentenced to six years in prison for molesting nine elementary school students appeared in only 14 news reports ― none of which were on TV.”
— Matt VanVolkenburg, Korean Historian
Teachers who attended the seminar agreed that the seminar had the potential to be useful, but simply missed the mark. They expressed that tips on basic child psychology or teaching techniques as well sessions on what kind of legal rights foreign teachers have would have been appreciated.
Instead, a handout telling foreign English teachers “nobody cares about your own loneliness” was passed around.
“The half-assed, ill-thought-out program which was interpreted by many attendees as ‘please love Korean culture, you potential child-molesting drug addicts’ may have indeed taught the foreign instructors something about Korea, but it probably was not the lesson the education authorities were hoping for.”
— Korean historian, Matt VanVolkenburg
The chairwoman of the Gyeonggi Foreign Hagwon Association said she will take the feedback into consideration in order to improve future mandatory seminars.