The Seoul Shinmun recently interviewed Mr. Lee Eun-ung, a member of the Anti-English Spectrum Cafe that works for the deportation of English teachers who are either unqualified, do drugs, or have sex with Korean women. Link includes video with further portions of the interview, including an accusation that some foreign teachers commit sexual assault.

Hat tip to The Marmot’s Hole.

Anti-English Spectrum Cafe Interviewed in Seoul Shinmun“Carrying a gun into war is not the only way to love your country. Our goal is to ferret out illegal foreign English teachers to create an English educational environment that our children can trust and be safe in.”

39-year old Lee Eun-ung of Anti-English Spectrum, a group dedicated to the deportation of illegal foreign language teachers, began to explain his thoughts on the need to deport them, saying, “we must catch all of the illegal foreign teachers who come here by various illegal methods to teach foreign languages.” His thoughts fill his words. “I have decided to sacrifice.”

But it has not been easy for him to work his office job and this one, as he has for over four years. To track down the locations of foreign teachers using drugs he spent 150 days in bitterly cold weather, outworking the police, not going home. Many times he has asked schools to fire foreign teachers who make a hobby out of having sex at knifepoint, tracked down foreign lecturers who bring venereal disease, and warned security guards and hagwon authorities about kidnappers.

The group was founded in January of 2005 amidst great anger at an online community site for foreign lecturers staying in Korea. The site had been receiving societal criticism for having posted photographs of half-naked Korean women in a nightclub and members had written boastingly of having sexual relationships with middle school students and married women.

Angered citizens, prominent among them Mr. Lee, who investigated those postings by foreign lecturers and understand the truth of them, founded the movement to deport low-quality foreign lecturers. “What kind of foreign lecturer takes drugs?” “Who can do such a terrible thing?” they wrote, but unqualified foreign lecturers frequently live in a different place from that registered with the Immigration Office.

Because of this, even when they make a report to police it is difficult to catch illegal foreign lecturers. The members of Anti-English Spectrum follow them in disguise and make a report to police or other authorities once they have gathered enough information.

Mr. Lee said, “on one foreign website that encourages UK citizens to come teach English Japan is described as ‘dating heaven’.  It’s so awful that foreign lecturers think Korea and Japan are the same.” Mr. Lee gave this interview while showing pictures and videos given to the police.

▶What stages has the illegal foreign lecturers’ deportation movement gone through since it started?

-In 2005 photos and writings which degraded Korean women were posted on a community site for native English speakers teach English here. I confirmed that these native speakers had a corrupted perspective on Korea and carried on sexual relationships with minors and married women and realized that we could not entrust our children to such people and the movement was begun. We want a system to improve English education while stopping the harm that these native speakers do to Korea.

▶It must be difficult to be involved in the movement while also working your office job.

-I prepare some policy reports or pursue an illegal foreign lecturer, braving fire and water and working until past midnight. And after my office job I don’t sleep, I feel tired all over. Some of our members collapse from the exhaustion. There are some funny times, like when we report a foreign lecturer to the police for doing drugs at his workplace but the people there actually didn’t realize he was doing drugs. And some of our members have quit their jobs because of the time they spent on the movement.

▶It’s demanding of you to work these two jobs but you’ve been doing it for four years. What results have you seen from it?

-We are determined to do this as a sacrifice. Through our sacrifice we can prevent our children being taught English by unqualified lecturers and achieve the deportation of foreigners who commit crimes, and our willing sacrifice is our principled stand. We work harder than anyone knows and feel a keen sense of duty. People who join our movement are bound together by our willingness to sacrifice to change the English education environment for their children.

▶Don’t you worry that this movement could lead to nationalism or intolerance of foreigners?

-This is our most important boundary. Our first obligation is to avoid a one-sided view of all foreign lecturers as bad. We recognize the role of foreign lecturers in English education in our country. So on our website we introduce good foreign lecturers and avoid one-sidedness.

There are times when foreign lecturers come to use to ask for help. They tell us how they have been harmed by their hagwons. If we were so one-sided they wouldn’t come to us like that.

▶ In September Kathleen Stephens became the US ambassador to Korea. Didn’t she first gain affinity with Korea through being an English teacher?

We only present the problems created by foreign lecturers who violate the law. It is difficult to punish unqualified foreign lecturers because they live in places other than what they have registered with the Immigration Office. Most foreign lecturers who come to Korea are in their twenties, and there is no way to stop them from enjoying their youth. But we must expect them to conform our society’s laws and to behave as gentlemen.

▶What must be kept in mind in order to prevent the damage done by unqualified foreign lecturers?

-These days in the Gangbuk area of Seoul there are foreign lecturers who get paid in advance for private lessons and then never show up, and when parents report them to the Immigration Office or the Office of Education the authorities will immediately investigate. In the end those lecturers apologize and return the money. The truth is that no policy can prevent this kind of thing.

To prevent this kind of harm, parents must spread the word on internet sites that private tutoring is illegal. All private lessons are illegal for foreigners staying on an E-2 visa, and those with F-2 visas must report their lessons to the Office of Education.

In the last four years Anti-English Spectrum has achieved the deportation, arrest, or fining of over 80 foreign lecturers. The group has over 6,000 members, over 300 of whom are directly involved in activism. Most of them are office workers or parents in their thirties. It has begun a campaign to deport all illegal foreign lecturers from the over 4,000 schools in Seoul. Mr. Lee said, “when you look at the harm done by illegal foreign lecturers with forged degrees, you want to know when they will be gone.”

Anti-English Spectrum Cafe Interviewed in Seoul Shinmun