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WEDNESDAY JUNE 24, 2009
News firms of questionable quality abound
By Rob Ouwehand
Not long ago, Yonhap News published an article titled “Native speakers of questionable quality abound” whose content was summarized by one commentator with the title, “Unfit, foulmouthed, drunken English teachers running rampant.” It distorted statistics, selectively chose details to cast foreign English teachers in the worst possible light, and then treated that anecdotal evidence as if it were typical of all English teachers. In the same week, Pressian used ex-girlfriends’ text messages as if they were reliable sources, and published an article calling English professors “vampires.” These two articles are far from the first of their kind. In fact, with growing concern and frustration, foreign teachers in Korea have seen a long string of such articles and TV programs appear. The Chosun, the
Joongang, the Hankooki, and others are also guilty of distorting or ignoring statistics, or using anecdotes and unverified incidents to portray English teachers as unqualified, drug users, HIV carriers, or worse. Actual statistics show just how irresponsible these journalists have been. Statistics from the Korean Institute of Criminology and Korea’s Supreme Prosecutor’s Office show that foreigners from English speaking countries have a lower crime rate overall and a much lower sex-crime rate than Korea’s general population. Translation: English teachers are statistically less dangerous than most other demographics in Korea. The rate of drug use for people from English-teacher-eligible countries from 2005-2008 was less than 0.14 percent; hardly cause for national panic. Yet these reassuring facts were ignored by media outlets who prefer hearsay and rumors, and write inflammatory headlines like “Beware the ugly white English teacher” (Sports Chosun). Yellow journalism won over
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cold, hard facts. It is easy to pick on foreigners, and English teachers in particular. Because most cannot read Korean newspapers, many are unaware we are being attacked. We are less likely to respond than unions, civic groups or political parties, because we can’t speak Korean, either. Our silence makes it politically convenient to blame us for all kinds of social ills. But those who criticize English teachers unfairly are wrong to think we are a perfect target. Blaming outsiders might be
emotionally satisfying, or politically popular, but it is intellectually lazy and socially irresponsible. It increases ignorance and fear of outsiders at a time when Korea is trying to be a global power, and when Korea’s declining birthrate has led many Korean leaders to recognize that without help from outsiders, Korea’s future prosperity is in danger. It also risks national embarrassment in a world of instant communication. Koreans are no longer the only ones who can read or speak Korean: biased articles and other media are translated and
posted online in English for everyone, from any country, to read. People searching the internet to learn about Korea easily find these irresponsible, onesided articles. Korea has always been concerned about its international image: National rankings and comparative surveys always catch the public attention. It reflects poorly on the entire country when Yonhap News, Korea’s international news source, publishes stereotyped rumors about English teachers. And where are the articles from other news outlets criticizing Yonhap? This kind of media criticism is common in other countries when a politician or a media outlet makes ignorant or irresponsible comments, and it creates an atmosphere of accountability, enhancing professionalism. To an interested observer trying to learn about Korea, the lack of protest from civic groups, citizens or other media might look like tacit approval of this kind of race-based reporting. The result is this: in the same way a few Korean journalists take isolated incidents and cast English teachers in the worst
light, their race-based reporting is being reported in English, and casting Korea’s media, and indeed all of Korea in a bad light. This should be a cause for serious concern for members of the Korean media, and for Koreans in general. Any expat in Korea knows that Korea is full of globalminded, cosmopolitan Koreans who find racism and antiEnglish-teacher bias offensive. Many of Korea’s leaders and lawmakers share that openminded view: President Lee Myung-bak plans on “Building an open society where Koreans and non-Koreans live in harmony.” While such lip service sounds nice, sensationalist articles about English teachers running wild undermine those goals. Many English teachers have had enough. There are about 20,000 people in Korea right now on English-teacher visas, and many are tired of the media calling us criminals, drug-users, AIDS-carriers and sexual deviants. When we go home, this is what some of us report, to our family and our friends, and a negative image of Korea spreads by word of mouth.
Millions of dollars of tourism promotion cannot cancel out the disenchanted ex-English teachers — thousands per year — telling anyone who asks how unpleasant it was to live under suspicion of being drug-using perverts. The media distorts facts to make us look bad, abusing the public trust, and the country’s image in the world suffers. If Korea’s own people, and Korea’s own media, do not call outlets like Yonhap News and Pressian to account for their yellow journalism, it will be the international media, or an international watchdog organization that does, in a report that will be much more embarrassing for Korea than if Koreans take care of this problem domestically, and demand more responsibility from their media in-house. Robert Ouwehand occasionally contributes to the community blog koreasparkle.com and his personal blog roboseyo.blogspot. com The opinions expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of The Korea Herald. — Ed.
In focus: What is the Seoul Photo Club?
The Photo Challenge is sponsored by Hyosung Camera (English: 010-7203-9599) and Babo Shirts (www.baboshirts. com). Winners of the weekly competition receive a 50,000 won store credit at Hyosung Camera and a Babo Shirt. To take part in the competition, simply upload your photo at www.flickr.com /groups/seoulphotoclub — Ed.
By Aaron Raisey
When I am out there with my camera and get talking to people, I always get questions when people find out I am the administration guy for the Seoul Photo Club. This week, I would like to field a few of those questions and let you know what is coming up for the club in September. Q: So, what exactly is the Seoul Photo Club? A: The Seoul Photo Club is an online community for anyone who is keen on taking, sharing, thinking and talking about photos and photography. The club was set up with the express purpose of facilitating discussion
PHOTO CHALLENGE — winner — Near Cheonggyecheon, central Seoul, street performers take a wellJerry Sam earned break before the next show.
and communication between expat photographers here in Korea. We are always looking to improve our photography through giving some considered comments on other members’ photographs, accepting a few constructive thoughts, and discussing anything photo-related. Q: I want to join, post and view photos, and get some tips to improve my photography,
where can I find the SPC? A: We are on Flickr at www.flickr.com/groups/seoulpho toclub. Just visit us and join up. Q: It is called the Seoul Photo Club, so do I have to live in Seoul? A: No, we have members from all over Korea - literally from Paju to Jeju and most points in between. You should live in Korea when you join us though,
and any picture you post to the group must have been taken while you were living in Korea. Of course, where you currently reside does not preclude you from partaking in any discussions. Q: I am a bit shy to post my pictures or comment. I am also a little intimidated by all the high quality photographs. A: You and me both. Seriously
though, most people have those doubts when they first join the club. I know I did. But we have some of the best, highly knowledgeable and most helpful expat photographers in Korea. In the SPC, we have access to a vast store of practical knowledge and experience from people, working or teaching here, just like you . From landscape to macro photography, from raw street photography to studio lighting, we have members that cover it all. You will gain a lot from participating. Q: You mentioned September earlier, what is happening then? A: Big news. Weekly, a picture from the club pool, and monthly, the themed competition winners get published on the Expat Living page and receive a couple of prizes. This fact gets mentioned every week in this column. But in September, all the winners so far this year take part in the fully sponsored Korea Herald Seoul Photo Club Photo Exhibition. If the idea of having one of your photos in the paper, collecting a couple of prizes and taking part in an exhibition appeals to you, you now know where to go. So get out there, get shooting, and we will see you online. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PHOTO CHALLENGE — runner-up — Namsan Korean Folk Village, Cami Beaudry Seoul
A selection of international restaurants in Seoul
Sujiís Gramercy Kitchen
Itaewon COEX Sinsa-dong Itaewon Seodaemun Station Gangnam Samseong Seolleung Station Itaewon Itaewon Sinchon Samcheong-dong Hongdae Itaewon Jonggak Itaewon Myung-dong Gangnam Daehakro Kyunghee University station Itaewon Itaewon Itaewon Itaewon Sommerset Hotel, Insadong Sommerset Hotel Hapjong station Hongdae Gangnam Apgujung Hongdae Coex
(02) 797-3698 (02) 3467-8508 (02) 512-1046 02-790-0793 (02) (02) (02) (02) 779-2756 533-6888 565-0607 563-5570
Shinchon Gwanghwamoon Itaewon Itaewon Dongdaemun Yongdompo Dongdaemun Hongdae Shinchon station Chungmuro Station Hyewha-dong Dongdaemun Hongdae Daehakro Apgujong (Main) Gangnam Mokdong High parion Yeoido Yonsan Park Hongdae Myeong-dong Gangnam Bundang- Suhyun station Itaewon Apgujung Itaewon Euljiro 1ga Shinchon Ulsan ?Daldong Busan- Seomyeon Apgujeong
(02) 324-0682 (02) 734-9225 (02) 790-4433 019-840-9630 (02) 795-9441 (02) (02) (02) (02) (02) 766-8850 3667-8848 3672-1566 6052-3989 338-4343
www.gramercykitchen.com Middle Eastern Petra www.tonysitaewon.com Moroccan website in construction Nepalese http://club.cyworld.com/zelen
Tony’s Aussie Bar and Bistro Ipanema Brasilia
Marrakech Nights Everest Namaste Shanti Mankamana
www.marakechnight.com www.everestfood.com www.himalayan.com www.shantifood.com www.mankamana.com
Bulgarian Canadian Chinese European Greek French Indian
Zelen Bulgarian Restaurant Rocky Mountain Dong Seong Yangkkochi 8 Steps Greek Joy Santorini Le Saint-Ex Taj New Delhi Chakraa
(02) 749-0600 010-7196-0857 010-3643-5392 (02) 334-2678 (02) 738-5838
www.rockymountaintavern.com North Korean Philippine Russian Jin Go Gae Philipino market Gostiny Dvor Albaizyn Il Madre www.taj.co.kr www.indianfood.co.kr www.chakraa.co.kr Taiwanese Din Tai Fung (02) 2267-0955 www.trekkerslodge.com /filipino-market.aspx (02) 2269 7505 (02) 334-5841 (02) 334-5841 (02) (02) (02) (02) (02) (02) 3444-8697 2051-8697 2646-1224 783-7777 796-1233 336-2773 www.cyworld.com/albaizyn http://www.il-mare.co.kr/
(02) 338-2100 (02) 790-3474 (02) 739-4418 (02) 794-3834 (02) (02) (02) (02) 776-3463 569 6907 745-6900 957-7955
Iranian Irish Italian Japanese
Persian Land The Wolfhound Sortinos Sushi so
(02) 797-7109 010-2955-7109 011-295-4551 (02) 797-0488 (02) 730-5396 (02) 6730-8888 (02)-334-6836 (02) 3141-2386 (02) 93-5904 (02) 542-3446 (02) 322-3677 www.dostacos.co.kr www.ontheborder.co.kr www.wolfhoundpub.com www.sortinos-seoul.com www.somersetpalace.co.kr Vegetarian www.latinfood.co.kr Vietnamese Little Saigon Loving Hut Thai Buddha’s Belly Thai Orchid
(02) 771-2778 (02) 569-2778 031-705-2778 (02) (02) (02) (02) 793-2173 517-1135 795-3338 772-9926 www.buddhasbelly.co.kr www.thaiorchid.co.kr
Latin American Cusco Mediterranean Shim’s Tapas Mexican Dos Tacos On The Border
(02) 333-8088 052-267-7173 051-808-7718 (02) 547-9050
www.zenkimchi.com www.seouleats.com http://www.seoulstyle.com/city_taj.htm
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