E-2 Visa Restrictions
By Daniel Lalonde
As a native English teacher in Korea I would like to take this opportunity to respond to all the negative stories that have been appearing in the news about us lately. I'm frankly quite tired of seeing us portrayed as criminal, drug using pedophiles. The Korean media and indeed the Korean people in general seem to get some sort of perverse pleasure from seeing, and writing stories demonizing ``foreigners."
Before the Korean people look down their noses at us there are a few things I would like to bring to their attention.
The new E2 visa restrictions were supposedly added to weed out the criminals and drug addicts from the foreign teacher population living in Korea. This is a great idea in theory. Murderers, rapists, drug addicts and pedophiles have no place in a classroom. It should be noted that Christopher Neil, the pedophile who had been teaching in Korea had no criminal record in Canada and the new visa restrictions would not have prevented him from getting a visa. A student is far more likely to be groped on the subway or bus by one of the local perverts, or meet one of the infamous Korean ``Babari men.'' The Korean children and police seem to find them very funny. I don't. That's a future child predator.
In many English speaking countries the attitude towards drugs is much different than it is in Korea. Smoking marijuana is much more socially acceptable and Canada in particular has a much more relaxed attitude towards it. You are not likely to be criminally prosecuted for possession of small amounts. Canada recognizes that not all drugs are equally dangerous. In Korea the penalties are much more stiff.
When Canadians are in Korea they should respect the law of the land and refrain from smoking. Smoking doesn't make them immoral, or bad teachers. It only means they used poor judgment. A Korean worker who goes to a country that forbids alcohol and drinks a bottle of soju after work is no different. Teachers that are caught trafficking drugs in Korea get what they deserve, even if they are not selling to the locals. However, Korean police need to get their priorities straight. There are far more serious problems than an English teacher who smokes marijuana in the privacy of his own home.
The Korean attitude towards drugs is rooted in ignorance. Koreans drink alcohol. A lot of alcohol. Alcohol is a drug, and a dangerous one at that. Drunk driving in Korea is not only socially acceptable, it's almost encouraged. Korea has one of the highest levels of fatal traffic accidents in the developed world. Many of the victims are children. This is likely because Korean people seem to think it's a good idea to let their babies and children ride unrestrained in vehicles.
Its important to remember that when you are driving 50km/h, the people in the car are also going 50km/h and if you car comes to a sudden stop, the people inside keep moving at 50km/h. At that speed its like jumping out the window of a hagwon building. At highway speeds it's like jumping off the roof of an apartment building. The back seat is just as dangerous as the front. Air bags can kill children. Please, put them in the back seat and belt them in.
I'm not condemning the Korean people as a whole, I'm well aware that there are exception to every rule and generalization are dangerous. However what Korean parents need to realize is that the hour that their children spend with the teacher they suspect is a criminal, drug using pedophile is likely the safest hour they are going to have all day. Before condemning the ``foreign'' (Which is an insulting term in its own right) teachers for their immoral behavior, look in the mirror.
Korean pedophiles and perverts never make the news. Despite never having been accused of a crime in Korea, Christopher Neil not only made the news, laws were changed because of him.
Koreans arrested for drunk driving, even when they kill people, never make the news. English teachers smoking marijuana in their own homes lead off the evening news.
Korean people don't worry about their children being safely restrained in a car on the way to the hagwon despite Korea's awful traffic accident record. What they worry about is how much damage the teacher who has come halfway around the world to teach them English will do.
Where's the logic?
Most of the English teachers that come to Korea are everyday people that go to work, do their best and then come home to spend time with their friends and family. Just like the Korean people. We do a lot of good and important work here. We expect to be paid for it like everyone else and we want to be treated just like everyone else. Just once I'd like to see a story showing the good we do instead of portraying us as the bane of your country's existence.
The writer has been living and teaching in Pohang Since October 2000. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org