November 28, 2009

And now for something controversial

The speed with which ATEK went from being a blog issue to being reported in the Korea Times speaks to the insular nature of Korea's English-language press. It reminds me a bit of my university paper, which was written by the people who read it, and the only people who read it were the ones who wrote for it. Reactions to articles and debates on letter pages were severe, but they were limited to the group of, at most, 50 people, who were part of the cliquish group of campus journalists and those with agendas to push.

Much of what gets reported about foreign teachers or foreigners in general might be true, but the better question, as advocates of English teachers often point out, is why it's reported in the first place. It's not entirely the sensational, often false reports that manage to link, however tenuously, an English teacher with disease or sexual abuse that this argument refers to. It's also the surprisingly regular articles or pictures showing foreigners wearing a hanbok or making kim chi at a department store.

Similarly, the campaign ATEK has launched against the Anti-English Spectrum, which to my knowledge has not harmed or adversely affected an English teacher in Korea outside of the Internet, is a little over-the-top. If harsh words against every minority in the West by xenophobes and racists merited this sort of attention, the Urdu and Arabic-language newspapers here would be filled with reports about the European-based Anti-Islam Facebook group, which has almost 3,000 members, and the Korean-language press would have a field day with the racist remarks on the de facto online home of English teachers in Korae, Dave's ESL Cafe.

The point is that not every slight, insult or slur is something to worry about or deserves a response. Presumably, most foreign teachers are white and have never been a minority that was abused by some members of a majority group. Immigration regulations like criminal background checks, as well as drug and HIV tests, which have been legally challenged, are simple compared to the six-page medical check that Canada requires. Entry to America, until very recently, was not possible for tourists who were HIV positive.

On the other hand, it would be ludicrous for a minority group to let itself be walked over, presumably a group that is well-educated, relatively wealthy and relatively well-organized (there's a message board, if nothing else). But groups representing ethnic minorities in the West don't squander their time, energy and resources protesting malicious but otherwise harmless websites. The effort spent trying to clean up AES could have been spent on the sort of lobbying that might bring about improvements, however small, in the lives of foreigners. The current course of action seems to indicate that many English teachers have simply never been insulted.


Janinel said...

Completely agree with you... and so many K-bloggers have such a chip on their shoulder!

kushibo said...

Adeel wrote:
Similarly, the campaign ATEK has launched against the Anti-English Spectrum, which to my knowledge has not harmed or adversely affected an English teacher in Korea outside of the Internet, is a little over-the-top.

Well, to be fair, they believe that AES is feeding Korean legislators and the press distorted or inaccurate information about English teachers' illegal activities or HIV rates, so there's that.

I'm thinking that what's really at work is not that AES is feeding these stats to those particular legislators, but that they're eating from the same trough.

And you do make a good point about the restrictions of foreigners coming in to Canada (or some other countries, including the US). But for many/most of the group in question, it is their first experience being a foreigner and a minority.

And that, Janinel, goes toward explaining part of the chip-on-the-shoulder of some in the K-blogosphere. I think, though, that a lot of the prominent members — The Marmot, Brian in Chŏllanam-do, Korea Beat, Popular Gusts, among them — may be critical at times, but I wouldn't describe them as having a chip on their shoulder.

A Deal Or No Deal said...

Combating the political influence of AES and similar groups would be a much better idea than trying to get a few racist remarks removed from Naver. I'm sure you and others could also come up with other areas where an advocacy group could make a difference.

By the way, shouldn't you at least write the name of Brian's blog with the Revised Romanization system? Otherwise, people who follow the new system can start calling you Gusibo.

Failing that, I'd like you to put that weird diacritic over letters it's not needed to make it look like Pinyin.

A Deal Or No Deal said...

And Janinel, thanks for reading!

Vancity said...

Hey Adeel,

The six page medical check that Canada requires. Is that just for entering Canada, or for a working permit?

A Deal Or No Deal said...

I believe it's for immigrating here.