Thursday, January 04, 2007

Will 2007 be about the hagwons?

In 2006 we read many stories about bad foreign teachers making trouble in Korea. The first article on the subject I saw this year lambasted Jeju International English Village and its director, Mr Lee (full name given in the article, isn't that unusual given Korea's libel laws?)

The Herald's article is either poorly organized or the whole story is riddle wrapped in an enigma covered in crap (I don't remember Churchill's exact quote but this story is messy and confused).

My summary of case 1:
A teacher had enough trouble at work to call the police. Officers showed up and said there was a sting going on and could she please wait it out. At the end of her contract, she was told there wasn't time to get her money back before she had to fly out of the country. Soon after, the Herald reporters called the officer who denied any knowledge of wrongdoing. The officer claimed he was checking passports and documents. The Herald called the Immigration Department and was told police don't do that kind of inspection. Jeju police (presumably not the officer in question) then said, 'Yes, we do." Finally Director Lee stated that no police had ever visited the village.

I'm trying to figure this out. I can believe both that a teacher might try to cause trouble for a school s/he was leaving and I can believe some hagwon directors are corrupt. I think the latter is more likely.I also believe a hagwon director might be in cahoots with a police officer. Could the Provincial Police Managers really not know the limits of their authority or could the Herald have called a third conspirator?Finally, could Mr Lee and the police officer not keep their stories straight or are they deliberately creating confusion?

My summary of case 2:
Mr Lee also operates "the Oxford English language hagwon in Seoul" where he is accused of tax fraud, forging signatures and non-payment of salaries. Immigration confirmed that the man is under investigation but may be hiding and has refused invitations to come to the Immigration office for questioning. Mr Lee was interviewed by the Herald and stated that he had not moved nor had he been asked to answer questions.

The whole story simply creates more questions.

Concluding the article:
It is well established that Lee and the highly questionable way he conducts his English teaching enterprises have been brought to the attention of the authorities on several occasions. The lack of initiative shown by the police, labor, and immigration departments to conduct a thorough and coordinated investigation is nothing short of disgraceful.

My own conclusion is that I was unduly harsh on the Herald staff. The article seems to be as well organized as possible and I look forward to learning more.

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