Thursday, December 27, 2007

Poor investors, they can't open a school fast enough in Songdo

Yes, let's everyone look to the UK for successful education models, ha. And that's what young learners in Korea need, more testing. Thanks for that, Simm.

And thanks to you, Kang, for promoting the privatization of public education. How very .. daring! You'll be an editor before you know it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

OECD ranks South Korea ahead of Japan in scientific literacy

The latest OECD International Student Assessment report is out. The report is published every three years, and this one focuses on "scientific literacy." Korean teachers may be relieved to find that their students rank ahead of Japan's, though Finland continues to dominate.

For those who like to give learners the equivalent of sports scores, the report can be found here (volume one is 390 pages).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dear Cho Jeon-hyeock

UPDATE: Cho is a member of LMB's transition committee. Of course.

Christ, professor, you need a lot of words to say nothing at all. A complex issue requires a return to “basics”? How insightful.

First: Korean students continue to score at or near the top in OECD achievement rankings in reading, writing, and mathematics. The patient is anything but terminal. You should know this.

Second: Many countries have centralized, bureaucratic, top-down public education systems. South Korea is hardly aberrant in this regard. You should know this.

Third: Name one country that allows entirely independent, unregulated schools to operate. I mean countries with functioning states, not Somalia.

Fourth: Most OECD countries allow for some local and democratic oversight of schools, e.g. “school boards” with members elected from and by the public. You should know this, but your elitist worldview blinds you to its significance.

Fifth: You’re an education professor, obviously able to write in english. I challenge you to publish something in a peer-reviewed journal to justify your refreshing neoliberal approach to education reform in Korea.

I’m kidding with this last, of course. Serious academics would shred your “arguments." Best stick with The Korea Times - and keep those transfers from the Center for Free Enterprise’s stipend account coming!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fucking weasel

"I will make a society in which poverty is not passed from generation to generation by ... creating two education systems. Specifically, wealthy families will have 100 more schools to choose from. To ensure that these systems are firmly divided, I will encourage universities to rank high schools. Teachers who resist will be evaluated into early retirement." So saith Lee Myung-bak.

And in the newsrooms of the nation, there was much rejoicing.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What's "Juche" in English?

KM Lawson at Frog in a Well, looking at a piece in the Chosun Ilbo by New Right intellectual Shin Ji-ho, notes
how easily the “New Right” can expose the hypocrisy and backwardness of the nationalism of Korea’s mainstream left, and champion, with apparent ease, the forces of tolerance, international cooperation, and cosmopolitan identities.
"English" obviously plays the leading role in the construction of "cosmopolitan" identities, and the NL Left wants nothing to do with it. (Never mind that "English" could help the movement make connections with communities of resistance elsewhere.) It's only response is to attack "English" in all its manifestations: the hagwons, the publishers, the foreigners who teach it.

This is a mistake, this refusal to engage with the discourses surrounding "English." People have invested enormous resources, financial and emotional, into Englishes. Desire, even when it is "manufactured," will not be challenged by denial, the absence of challenge.

NL intellectuals in the DLP need some new ideas, desperately. I think this is what 47% of the membership was in part telling them.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Education International sent quite a fierce letter to Roh this week, recommending that school management be more transparent, that the government lift limitations to collective bargaining, and that teachers be allowed to speak freely during election campaigns.

Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation recommends that the U.S. should:
Begin efforts to reach out to and win over the post-386 generation of South Korean voters who are more amenable to U.S. interests. Although not a yet a strong political power, this generation is a long-term "potential client" for the U.S.
Isn't it nice when folks make an effort to reach out?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hankyoreh and KCTU draw attention to ILO report

The International Labor Organization (ILO) cited South Korea, along with Cambodia, Colombia, Philippines and Iran, as a country in which workers' right to assembly is not well guaranteed.

Great company that, countries where labour activists are daily threatened, beaten, tortured and disappeared. I wonder how many workers will be imprisoned, or killed on the streets of Seoul this summer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Park Geun-hye vows to save public education - by killing it

It seems Park Geun-hye plans to dismantle public education in the country, so that "quality human capital" might be better produced - oh wait, she won't have to, since apparently it has already "collapsed."

She also says "deregulation" and the "rule of law" will allow Korea to prosper. Quite comfortable expressing nonsensical contradiction, is Park Geun-hye.

And about those tax cuts, Ms Park ...

The Korea Times won't provide an URL for the story, so here's most of it:

"Failed Public Education Undermines Economy"

By Kang Hyun-kyung
Staff Reporter

Presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye of the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) has diagnosed that failed educational policy has undermined the economy.

Among others, she stressed that the next government should put top priority on public education.

``The collapse of public education and soaring household spending on private education are two core problems which should be addressed during the next administration,’’ the former GNP chairperson said.

Park claimed the poorly managed public education system has generated many social ills including a growing number of broken families.

Therefore effective programs for training quality human capital should be given primary importance as a key item on the national agenda.

Successful educational reform will pave the way for the prosperous economy and consequently job creation will follow, she said.

She pointed out that Koreans are estimated to spend some 31 trillion won per year on private education. English education takes the lion’s share of the spending.

Park, the eldest daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee, said her camp is reviewing various policy options to enable the government to support families to take free foreign language programs.

Park singled out tax cuts, deregulation and the rule of law as the three core elements that can revitalize the Korean economy.

She added these three elements will create jobs and improve welfare for low-income families.

Regulations hold the economy back, she said.

According to her, about 500 more regulations have been introduced during the incumbent Roh Moo-hyun administration.

Park promised to ease regulations, if elected president.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Korean teachers lodge complaint with the ILO

The KTU has submitted a complaint to the ILO. The ILO will ask the government to respond this month, but there will be no formal discussion of teachers' charges before November.

Calling on the KTU to support the academic and cultural boycott of Israel

Inspired by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Britain's National Union of Journalists and now the UCU, I am going to submit a motion to the KTU executive, that the union join the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. I realize it's a longshot ...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Free Trade will save your parents' jobs, and whiten your teeth too!

It wasn't easy to get - the teacher responsible for distributing stuff like this denied any knowledge of it - but I've uploaded the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development's 한미/KOR-US FTA propoganda (.ppt, in Korean).

Slides 42 and 52 will be of particular interest to educators. Slide 42 states explicitly that access to education as a public service remains to be negotiated. Slide 52 lists the "education service" areas that the Americans intend to discuss - in short, ALL OF THEM, from primary to tertiary and beyond.

I hope someone familiar with the agreement will find the time to comment on this material ;-)

Monday, May 21, 2007

... because Big Brother is Always Right

oh my!
"State-mandated net filtering" is in the news:
"What's regrettable about net filtering is that almost always this is happening in the shadows. There's no place you can get an answer as a citizen from your state about how they are filtering and what is being filtered."

The survey found evidence of filtering in the following countries:

Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burma/Myanmar, China, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

Of course, with a little effort, blocked content is very accessable.

Which reminds me, I must give a lesson on using proxies.

The filters are extra thick for school networks, and we're not talking about protecting kids from fisting in barnyards. About once a week, I have to call the local Office of Education and ask politely and firmly for access to sites that contain material good for young (and less young) minds, e.g. Common Dreams and Cryptome.

access denied
But I was refused access to!

(For the timorous: I was eventually able to confirm that downloading files from sites like the KCNA is not illegal, though the "distribution" of files containing content deemed too sympathetic to The North can get you jailed - unless you're singing in tune, of course.)

And here's a good article at ZNet: The Harsh Reality of Migrant Labor in South Korea

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ministry distributes FTA propaganda to schools

Well, isn't that a nice little effort in inter-ministry cooperation ..

From today's Hankyoreh:
The ministry sent documents to nationwide educational offices and colleges on April 30 - including 60-page promotional materials - urging them to cooperate in raising understanding of the FTA negotiations. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education then conveyed the message to regional [educational] offices to step up efforts to make teachers and students have "a correct understanding" of the FTA and to use the ministry's materials in instruction.

I'll try to get my hands on the material and post on it later.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Denying student agency in the adolescent rights movement

by Jeon Nu Ri
translated by Kim Seok Cho

Within the adolescent rights movement, teachers are known to share certain tendencies. These are assumed to be occupational symptoms. For example, they tend to speak for a long time in meetings or discussions, as if they were in a classroom. Another symptom, which is to be discussed here, is their ‘excessive responsibility’ for their students.

It’s natural for teachers to be responsible for their students in that they are educators who are capable of changing their students’ lives. However, this ‘responsibility’ sometimes strays from what teachers originally intend and can have negative effects on students who are working to improve school communities.

A few days ago, a student was caught and punished by the school authority for organizing a paper plane demonstration against hair regulations. When I visited the school to protest the disciplinary action, the teacher responsible for the case told me, “You can’t be responsible for his life, but I can.” I was angered by the remark. He seemed firm in his belief that he is responsible for the student’s entire life, so firm that he was mistaking the student for a lamb which is expected to obey its master. He failed to understand that his student could also fight for his rights as a human being.

Even some members of JeonGyoJo, whose goal is chamgyoyook or ‘True Education’, are not free from this ‘excessive responsibility’. When JeonGyoJo launched a ‘Saving-Students Center’ last July, people in the movement supported the project, as teachers were finally showing an interest in the issue of students’ rights. However, the name of the project itself is revealing. It implies that students are merely premature beings who need the protection and care of adults. In other words, students can’t be responsible for changing their realities, but rather are objects to be taken care of by adults.

In fact, this attitude towards students is easy to find even in schools which have a lot of union teachers. Speaking to a student engaged in a one person protest, a union member told him, “It’s time to leave your protest to us.” This attitude tells students that even union members don’t regard students as companions and partners in the True Education Movement.

It’s difficult for teachers, out of love and care for students, to avoid ‘responsibility’. But is what we call ‘love’ for our students a love truly for living human beings? Is it not more like ‘raising cattle’? What kind of ‘education’ requires that students develop and grow only under the control of teachers, ignoring the students’ own needs? This may be due to teachers’ arrogance, a result of the mistaken legacy of Korean education.

True Education should overcome the problem of ‘excessive responsibility’. This will be possible only if teachers and students work together, and help each other grow. This is the True Education we have pursued.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Private school teachers critical of Uri cowardice

Here is the very sexy Hwang Hyeon Su, engaged in a one-person demo (common in S.Korea, as demos with two or more participants must be approved by local police) against the weakening of legislation to make the administration of private schools more accountable.

The sign can be translated as: "Will the Uri Party, which is trying to form an illicit connection with the Hannara Party in rejecting democratic changes to private schools, be like the Hannara Party, which always supports private school owners? [Publicly-supported] private schools should be transparent and democratic."

Hwang Hyeon Su, who teaches at a private high school in Incheon, has this to say: "It's the conservative Christian groups that are forcing Uri lawmakers to reverse changes to the law. They claim that Jesus doesn't want the administration of private schools to change."

Well I say, if the Good Lord was happy with the way schools were being run, then the blasphemous changes made by the Uri government must surely be undone!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Memo to English Teachers: English-Only Lessons are a BAD IDEA

Or, Why My Korean Should Be Better.*

That's right, this "Native Speaker" thinks that all English, all the time is a BAD IDEA. Allow me to offer a brief summary of all the things that Korean provides language learners and teachers in any given English lesson, in any given school in Korea.

At the Micro Level

Classroom Management
Teachers use Korean for dramatic or rhetorical effect. When it's used, students can't pretend that they don't understand a directive: Korean means that the teacher "means it." Korean is also used to show solidarity with students. It encourages students: it warms, it mitigates, it reduces inhibitions. Korean is used to discuss community happenings: teacher asides, gossip, references to current events, all are done in Korean, as its more "personal," with the sense that teacher and students are members of a community, and not only an institution.

Lesson Content
Where students and teachers possess competence in both languages, both should be used, as this facilitates learning. Switches to Korean are often unconscious, but have valuable pedagogical results. Korean is used to explain language points, and to provide repetitions, definitions, reformulations, clarifications, qualifications, and exemplifications. Korean provides the "crucial bits." Code-switching allows Korean and English to complement each other. Korean can be used to provide examples, anecdotes, and illustrations, so that teachers can delve into local knowledge to clarify lesson content, and fill the gaps between the classroom and the world outside it. The use of Korean allows greater detail, depth, and complexity, which is what any lesson is supposed to provide. The use of Korean taps forms of knowledge that students already possess.

Underlife Language
Korean is used in students' private exchanges, in order to explore lesson content in greater depth. Students use Korean to prompt correct answers, translate phrases and sentences, repeat the teacher's questions and directives, and clarify content. These uses have obvious pedagogical consequences. Should students really be punished for using Korean in these ways?? If, as I believe, students learn more (and more efficiently) from their peers than they can from their teachers, depriving them of the use of Korean will only inhibit learning.

Language socialization
Code-switching, either inter- or extra-sentential, develops students' competence in either language, and develops meta-linguistic and meta-cognitive competence. I'll try to provide examples from a classroom shortly. Further, the Ministry's proposal encourages the mislabeling of content or conceptual problems as language competency problems, and so leads to teachers' linguistic insecurity. Which, I imagine, pleases the Ministry.

At the Macro Level

The Monolingual Fallacy
The English-Only proposal supports the erroneous assumption that a learner's first language "interferes" with second language acquisition. This is known as the "monolingual fallacy." And while it was originally propagated by linguists who had little understanding of the bilingual experience, it is now, ironically, largely maintained by bilingual teachers, who really should acknowledge that a learner's first language assists language learning, in that it provides strategies that can facilitate communication, in situations where communication would otherwise be difficult or even impossible.

The Native Speaker Fallacy
The proposal also supports the "native speaker fallacy," where "Native Speakers" are seen automatically as the best teachers of English. This fallacy is clearly at work in Korea, as evidenced by the Ministry's determination to provide a "Native Speaker" in every middle school in the country.

US English, Please?
An English-only policy strengthens the dominance of "standard" dialects of English, and puts into question the validity of newer Englishes - tantamount, according to one author, to "linguistic genocide." Korean students are not attempting to mimic centre-based English speakers. Were a Korean to use an idiomatic expression like "out of left field" during a conversation with someone from New Delhi or Johannesburg, she would likely receive a look of confusion or pity from her interlocutor. After all, Korean students want to be functional in the communicative norms and purposes of English, but English as an "International Language" or as a "Lingua Franca," and NOT the English that is spoken among cottagers in Connecticut. I hope.

The policy will very likely lead to a greater reliance on materials developed in the centre, and thus inhibit the development of an endonormative Korean English, which is still in its infancy. The policy also serves to strengthen the dominance of centre professional circles of ELT.

Lessening Shock and Awe
The use of Korean reduces the degree of language stress and culture shock experienced by students, and therefore increases students' openness to learning English.

In short, a shared L1 is an invaluable resource for language teachers, and denying access to this resource will have serious pedagogical and political consequences. The government's plan, as with any plan that denies resources to teachers, must be resisted.

*Thank you, Suresh Canagarajah!

"un accord qui dérange"

Note to le Monde diplomatique, because I'm sure that its editors are avid readers of this blog:

I wish you had noted that people were demonstrating against the agreement even though these demonstrations had been declared illegal.

I wish you hadn't suggested that the Korean peninsula has been a "strategic zone" for the White House only since 2002.

And I don't think "Parlement" is the best translation for 국회 - I suggest "le Gukhoe."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Vote Samsung for president!

That's right, Eric Werker, Harvard Business School professor, says it's time for corporations to run for election!
This is not just the privatization of services, the [Forbes] article asserts. Instead, private corporations could actually hold a local position, such as mayor, offering credibility and, of course, making a profit from the taxes .... While many may argue that we already have such a system in place, the deliberate substitution of human thought and action with profit-seeking entities further extends the ideology that all human interaction be based on exchange rather than social good.
Yes, an HL-S5679W on every corner in your community! Imagine the Possibilities!

In other news, the OECD is to decide next week on whether to continue its Special Monitoring Process of labour conditions in South Korea. Don't give the government the stamp of approval it so desperately craves, you fuckers.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

English for the masses

... because Roh has trouble flirting with the wait staff in European cities:
"During visits to foreign countries, I don't have any problem in communicating with heads of state thanks to interpreters. But during my free time after summit meetings, I have a problem as I'm not fluent in English."
What to say. Robert Phillipson has pointed out that the British empire was not interested in teaching English to the majority of its subjects. Language training was limited to small local classes of imperial coordinators. That changed following WW2, when the British Council and various US state agencies began spending huge sums to promote the use of English worldwide. (Socialist governments tended to resist, for example the Freedom Party in Sri Lanka excised English from the curriculum when it took power.)

Propaganda had really come into its own during WW2. So did they foresee the spread of mass communication? Hell yes, and they didn't need crystal balls. The first color TV was patented in 1942. An honest expression of what the US (military) elite had, has and will always have in mind might be something called From PSYOP to Mindwar: The Psychology of Victory, published in 1980. Excerpts here. The authors, one of whom now a military analyist for Fox News, knew their Gramsci and le Bon.

Yeh I know, folks aren't thoughtlessly reproducing the discourses that have accompanied "globalization" to Korea, at least not all of them. But after more than 3 years on the peninsula, I can say with confidence that most language teachers most certainly are. Mention critical literacy and you get a blank look. Tell them what it involves and the look changes to one of confusion or distaste. "I teach reading" you will be told. "I teach listening" they will say. "A teacher must be neutral." But what the fuck are the kids reading and listening to? How about encouraging them to ask some questions about the texts that are steam shoveled into their heads? Fuck VOA, fuck CNN. If you must use this shit, then put on some gloves and examine it with your students. If "grammar" and "vocabulary" is all you know how to teach, then get some books.

(ECE teachers, kindly ignore this rant, keep teaching social skills.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

More Koreans to lecture Koreans in English

the ministry plans to require universities to raise the amount of English-only classes to 3.1 percent by 2010 from the 2.19 percent level in 2006.
Oh, you'd rather not talk about, say, Korean history in English? That's fine:
The ministry will also require each university to hire more foreign professors in order to raise the number from the average 3.67 percent of the faculty at Korean universities in 2006 to 5.0 percent by 2010.
But education is not to be "opened" by the FTA.

That's nice.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Respect for Teachers Diminishing

From the Korea Times:
There is nothing we can do as we are closed out of key discussions and decision making that could make the quality of education better. And we are forced to connect with our students only under a big, machine-like process that has the single purpose of sending them to a four-year college in Seoul, which makes our job similar to goal-oriented sports coaches
said high school teacher Huh. AMEN.

The ILO recognizes that the worsening social status of teachers and teaching is a global phenomenon. Education has been commodified, and teachers are service providers. Not happy with the service? Well then the teacher is responsible. The Ministry will happily provide you with a teacher evaluation form, rate her service as you see fit.

The irony of course is that teachers must, in the end, accept responsibility for what, why and how we teach. If we fail to organize, if we're unwilling to demand substantial structural changes in every area, then we will deserve the contempt of students and parents, and maybe even the occassional slap.

Note to staff reporter Kim Tong-hyung: the inclusion of KTU in stories like these would help the cause. KFTA, not so much.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Korean economists in denial

Owen, aka kotaji, left a great post over at Lenin's Tomb. As Angry Arab would say, read it NOW.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


1. Yoo Ki Soo, KFCITU General Secretary.
Pohang Local Union Strike (August 9 Rally). Sentence: 2 years. On appeal.

2. Cho Ki Hyun, Daegu Local President.
Daegu Local Union Strike (June 2006), Extortion/Bribery in signing CBAs. Sentence: 3 years.

3. Kang Woo Seung, Daegu Local Member.
Daegu Local Union Strike (June 2006). Undergoing Trial.

4. Lee Ji Kyung, Pohang Local President.
Pohang Local Union Strike (Sit-down demonstration at POSCO). Sentence: 3 years and 6 months. On appeal.

5. Jung Eun Sik, Pohang Local First Vice President.
Pohang Local Union Strike (Sit-down demonstration at POSCO). Sentence: 2 years and 6 months. On appeal.

6. Jung Seung Jong, Pohang Local Vice President.
Pohang Local Union Strike (Sit-down demonstration at POSCO). Sentence: 2 years and 6 months. On appeal.

7. Kim Byung Kyul, Pohang Local First Organizing Director.
Pohang Local Union Strike (Sit-down demonstration at POSCO). Sentence: 2 years and 6 months. On appeal.

8. Sim Jin Bo, Pohang Local Second Organizing Director.
Pohang Local Union Strike (Sit-down demonstration at POSCO). Sentence: 2 years and 6 months. On appeal.

9. Kim Myung Seun, Pohang Local Strategic Director.
Pohang Local Union Strike (Sit-down demonstration at POSCO). Sentence: 2 years and 6 months. On appeal.

10. Kim Bong Tae, Pohang Local Campaign Director.
Pohang Local Union Strike (Sit-down demonstration at POSCO). Sentence: 2 years and 6 months. On appeal.

11. Kwon Young Dae, Pohang Local Campaign Leader.
Pohang Local Union Strike (Sit-down demonstration at POSCO). Sentence: 1 year and 6 months. On appeal.

12. Ji Kap Ryul, Pohang Local Vice President.
Pohang Local Union Strike. Sentence: 2 years and 6 months. On appeal.

13. Choi Kyu Man, Pohang Local General Secretary.
Pohang Local Union Strike. Sentence: 2 years and 6 months. On appeal.

14. Jin Nam Soo, Pohang Local Strategic Director.
Pohang Local Union Strike (August 17 Rally in Seoul). Sentence: 2 years. On appeal.

15. Byun Moon Soo, Remicon Truck Drivers Local Team Leader.
Woori Remicon Strike (2007). Undergoing Trial.

16. Han In Koo, Dump Truck Drivers Local Branch Director.
Pyeongtaek Demonstration. Undergoing Trial.

17. Chang Seuk Chul, Kyonggido Local First Vice-President.
Extortion, Bribery in Signing CBAs in Kyonggido Region. Undergoing Trial.

18. Jung Seung Hoon, Kyonggido Subu Local Organizer.
Extortion, Bribery in Signing CBAs in Chunahn Region. Undergoing Trial.

19. Park Hae Wook, Ulsan Local President.
Ulsan Local Union General Strike (April to June, 2005). Imprisonment. 2 years & 6 months.

20. Choi Seuk Young, Ulsan Local Union Delegate.
Ulsan Local Union General Strike (April to June, 2005). Imprisonment. 2 years & 6 months.

21. Kang Sang Kyu, Ulsan Local Union Member.
Ulsan Local Union General Strike (April to June, 2005) Imprisonment. 1 year & 6 months.

22. Kim Hyun Ho, Film Industry Union, KPSU Policy Director.
Protest Against the Tripartite Agreement. Sentence: 1 year.

23. Kwon Soo Jeung, Hyundai Motors Asan Subcontract Workers Local, KMWU Former President of Union Local.
Hyundai Motors Asan Subcontract Workers Union Struggle. Sentence: 8 months. On appeal.

24. Park Jung Hoon, Hyundai Hysco Irregular Workers Local, KMWU President of Union Local.
Hyundai Hysco Irregular Workers Union Struggle. Sentence: 1 year and 6 months.

25. Hwang Woo Chan, Korean Metal Workers’ Union, Chair of KMWU Pohang Branch.
Pohang Local Union Strike. Sentence: 2 years. On appeal.

26. Kim Moon Young, Korean Metal Workers’ Union, Union Delegate.
Pyeongtaek Demonstration. Sentence: 1 year and 6 months.

27. Hong Jin Seung, Korean Metal Workers’ Union, Union Delegate.
Pyeongtaek Demonstration. Sentence: 1 year and 6 months.

28. Kim Ki Young, Korean Metal Workers’ Union Organizing Director.
Anti-KORUS FTA demonstration. Undergoing Trial.

29. Kim Moon Seub, Korean Metal Workers’ Union, Union Delegate.
Anti-KORUS FTA demonstration. Undergoing Trial.

30. Bae Eon Gil, Korean Metal Workers’ Union Branch Director.
Anti-KORUS FTA demonstration. Undergoing Trial.

31. Ryu Bong Sik, Korean Metal Workers’ Union Former Organizing Director (Kwangju).
Anti-KORUS FTA demonstration. Undergoing Trial.

32. Yeon Jae Il, Korean Metal Workers’ Union, Fired Workers’ Union Struggle Director.
Protest Against the Tripartite Agreement. Sentence: One year and 6 months.

33. Kim Chang Geun, Korean Federation of Taxi Workers Union General Strike Campaign Director.
KCTU General Strike (November, 2006). Undergoing Trial.

34. Kim Mang Kyu, Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union Reunification Director.
National Security Law. Undergoing Trial.

35. Choi Hwa Seob, Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union Previous Reunification Director.
National Security Law. Undergoing Trial.

36. Hong Jong Seon, Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, Union Member.
Jaechun Asia Cement Struggle. Sentence: 8 months.

37. Park Kyung Yeon Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, Union Member.
JaeChun Asia Cement Struggle. Sentence: 8 months.

38. Seung Ki Seuk, Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, Union Member.
KCTWU General Strike (December, 2006). Undergoing Trial.

39. Kim Dae Yoon, Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, Union Member.
KCTWU General Strike (December, 2006). Undergoing Trial.

40. Kim Tae Sang, Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, Union Member.
KCTWU General Strike (December, 2006). Undergoing Trial.

41. Park Jae Ho, Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, Union Member.
KCTWU General Strike (December, 2006). Undergoing Trial.

42. Son Yong Choon, Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, Union Member.
KCTWU General Strike (December, 2006). Undergoing Trial.

43. Lee Sang Deuk, Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, Union Member.
KCTWU General Strike (December, 2006). Undergoing Trial.

44. Eom Ki Hyun, Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, Union Member.
KCTWU General Strike (December, 2006). Undergoing Trial.

45. Choi Sang Jin, Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, Union Member.
KCTWU General Strike (December, 2006). Undergoing Trial.

46. Lee Tae Jin, Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union, Union Member.
KCTWU General Strike (December, 2006). Undergoing Trial.

47. Cha Hyun Ho, Korean Chemical Textile Workers Federation General Secretary.
Keunkang Chemical Struggle. Undergoing Trial.

48. Hwang Chi Kyung, Korean Chemical Textile Workers Federation Union Member.
KCTU General Strike againt KOR-US FTA. Undergoing Trial.

49. Hwang Byung Seon, Korean Government Employees Union Previous Branch Director.
KGEU Campaign to stop forced closure of union office. Undergoing Trial.

50. Kim Byung Il, KCTU: Kyongbook Regional Branch, Branch Director.
Pohang Local Union Strike. Sentence: 2 years.

51. Lee Seung Geun, KCTU: Ulsan Regional Branch Organizing Director.
Protest of passage of Irregular Legislation. Undergoing Trial.

52. Kim Jong Soo, KCTU: Kangwon Regional Branch, Branch Director.
Anti KORUS FTA demonstration. Undergoing Trial.

53. Cho Han Kyung, KCTU: Kangwon Regional Branch Organizing Director.
Anti KORUS FTA demonstration. Undergoing Trial.

54. Kim Young Soo, KCTU: Kangwon Regional Branch Organizing Director.
Anti KORUS FTA demonstration. Undergoing Trial.

55. Kang Seung Chul, Fired Workers Union Previous Acting President.
Protest Against the Tripartite Agreement. Sentence: 1 year and 6 months.

56. Byun Wae Seung, Fired Workers Union Previous Executive Committee President.
Protest Against the Tripartite Agreement. Sentence: 1 year.

57. Park Sang Gil, Fired Workers Union Director of Organization.
Protest Against the Tripartite Agreement. Sentence: 1 year.

58. Kwak Young Soo, Fired Workers Union, Union Member.
Protest Against the Tripartite Agreement. Sentence: 1 year.

59. Kim Nam Myung, Fired Workers Union, Union Member.
Protest Against the Tripartite Agreement. Sentence: 1 year.

60. Lee Ki Woong, Fired Workers Union, Union Member.
Protest Against the Tripartite Agreement. Sentence: 1 year.

61. Kim Seung Hwan, Samsung Ilban Union President, Samsung Ilban Union Struggle.
Sentence: 3 years and 5 months.

Note: Kim Seung Hwan has been declared a political prisoner by Amnesty International.

Source: Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, January 2007

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Well that's a bit strange, innit?

This has to be the most surreal bit of video I've ever seen ...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Private schools to remain fiefdoms

teachers set up a tent opposite the national assembly
Surprise, surprise, Uri lawmakers have agreed to abandon their extremely modest gesture toward making the administration of private schools more transparent and accountable. This is bad news for teachers and students, but great news for GNP politicians, many of whom rely on "donations" from private school directors to fund election campaigns.


Note to Jung Sung-ki and the Korea Times: when combatants (e.g. sergeants in an occupying military force) are killed, they are NOT "victims of terrorism," even if it is sad. When NON-combatants are killed, THEY are victims of terrorism. You newspeaking weasel hacks.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Educational International protests the detention of unification teachers

EI sent a letter of protest this week to president Roh over the continuing confinement of two union teachers.

From EI, below are the posters that the Ministry of Love, sorry, the Ministry of Justice felt were a threat to National Security, paired with posters available on other sites in Korea:


On the left is a poster available at, a Chosun Ilbo site. On the right is a poster that the teachers uploaded. Maybe it's the glossy guns? The woman in uniform?

juche posters
To the right are posters available at a Ministry of Education site, on the left are posters uploaded by the teachers. Attention spooks: I don't like any of these, I prefer propaganda from the Spanish Civil War.

When classes resume, I'll have students try to guess which posters are legal. Those who choose the wrong posters will be sent to the school dungeon, where they will think about their crime. Harsh, perhaps, but some of these kids want to be prosecutors, and they should learn something about how the system works.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

EI sends letter of protest to Roh

Education International, the global federation of teachers unions, has issued a protest to president Roh. EI is responding to the use of police intimidation, as well as the government's continuing avoidance of meaningful dialogue.

[2007-02-22] Korea: Korea: government should involve teachers in social dialogue

EI has written to the President of the Republic of Korea, expressing its concern about the disciplinary action taken against the 430 teachers who publicly protested against the imposition of the teacher evaluation system.

The government has refused to involve teachers in the development and implementation of a teacher evaluation system, prompting widespread criticism from the teaching community.

The 430 teachers took leave and rescheduled their classes to voice their protest by assembling outside the Ministry of Education.

However, they were forcefully taken away by the police, and were forced to accept financial penalties.

EI affiliate the Korean Teachers and Education Workerts Union - Jeongyojo communicated to EI that when the disciplinary committees of district education offices convened on 25 January, the teachers were refused the right to respond to the charges. Jeongyojo also reported police intimidation and the summary dismissal of the committees while teachers were delivering statements.

In its letter dated 21 Feb, EI asked the Government of Korea to involve teacher unions in the preparation and implementation of all education policies, and the penalty imposed on the 430 teachers be lifted.

Below is the content of EI's letter in English:


H.E. Mr Noh Moo-hyun
President of the Republic
Korean Presidential House
Republic of Korea

By fax: +82-2-770-4937

Brussels, 21 February 2007

Dear Mr President,

Education International – the global union federation of teachers representing over 30 million members in 169 countries which has the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union, KTU or JeonGyoJo, as one of its affiliates – is very concerned about the lack of social dialogue and attempts by the Korean authorities to restrain the activities of the teacher union.

Education International is alarmed by the disciplinary action of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development against 430 teachers who assembled to publicly protest against the imposition of the teacher evaluation system. This action was prompted by the refusal of the Ministry to involve the teacher union in the development and implementation of the teacher evaluation system.

Social dialogue is a cornerstone of democracy. Korea, as a member of the tripartite International Labour Organisation, is well aware that workers’ organisations (including teacher unions and associations) need to be consulted. The main goal of social dialogue is to promote consensus building and democratic involvement. "Successful social dialogue structures and processes have the potential to resolve important economic and social issues, encourage good governance, advance social and industrial peace and stability and boost economic progress," states the ILO.

Education International shares KTU's concern that the Ministry of Education developed a teacher evaluation system without input from teacher representatives. As education policies shape the present reality and future opportunities of students, these policies must be implemented only after careful, considered, and comprehensive discussion.

The Republic of Korea ratified ILO Convention 135 on Workers' Representatives which states "Workers' representatives shall enjoy effective protection against any act prejudicial to them, including dismissal, based on their status or activities as a workers' representative or on union membership or participation in union activities, in so far as they act in conformity with existing laws or collective agreements or other jointly agreed arrangements."

On the basis of the information provided by the KTU, Education International believes that the 430 teachers have respected the law of the country: they applied for legal holiday and rescheduled their class so that there would be no disruption of the school timetable. The disciplinary action against them, in the form of financial penalties, can be considered as unfair labour practice.

In addition, when the disciplinary committees of district education offices convened on 25 January, teachers were refused the right to respond to charges. KTU also reported police intimidation and the summary dismissal of the committees while teachers were delivering statements.

Education International invites the Government of Korea to authorise collective action by the teacher unions as long as the national law and Korea's international labour commitments are respected.

Education International respectfully asks the Government of Korea to involve teacher unions in the preparation and implementation of all education policies. Education International also asks that the financial penalty imposed on 430 teachers be lifted.

Education International sincerely trusts that this message is one your Government can support.

Sincerely yours,

Fred van Leeuwen
General Secretary

Sunday, February 18, 2007

You WILL kneel before my god

More evidence of the political power of the directors of private school foundations, if more evidence were needed.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Update on detained teachers

A judge rejected a union application for a review of the legality of the confinement, and sent the teachers to Seoul Prison. National Security triumphs. The union is suing the Chosun Ilbo for libel.

Economic theory as taught in high schools?

Today I learned something rather revealing from students in my discussion group.

Apparently, first year students attending the elite Gyeongju High School get some odd ideas from their economics teacher. They learn that:

  • Adam Smith was a libertarian,
  • a mixed economy is one where governments "referee" producers,
  • government intervention is the sole cause of "market failures,"
  • Marx failed to anticipate technological advances, and
  • a "free market" is the best way to achieve equality!

    When this last bit was revealed, I could no longer contain my hilarity, and was forced to apologize to a very sincere young man for interrupting his introduction to the wondrous merits of capitalism.
  • Saturday, February 03, 2007

    Gibson and Ross on standardized testing

    At CounterPunch a thorough, devastating critique of No Child Left Behind. You may decide which of the following might also apply in the Korean context:

    Here is what we think is a reasonable litany of objections to the NCLB, its national curriculum, and the attached noose, high stakes exams.

  • High-stakes standardized tests, an international phenomenon, represent a powerful intrusion into classrooms, often taking up as much as 40% of classroom time in preparation, practice testing, and administration;

  • The tests are flawed in technical adequacy. They invoke a fallible single standard and a single measure, a practice specifically condemned by the Standards on Educational and Psychological Testing;

  • The tests are implemented and used to make high stakes decisions before sufficient validation evidence is obtained and before defensible technical documentation is issued for public scrutiny;

  • The tests are employed without credible independent meta-evaluation;

  • The tests are flawed in accuracy of scoring and reporting, for example in New York in 2000 when thousands of students were unnecessarily ordered to summer school on the grounds of incorrect test results;

  • The tests pretend that one standard fits all, when one standard does not fit all;

  • These tests measure, for the most part, parental income and race, and are therefore instruments that build racism and anti-working class sentiment against the interest of most teachers and their students;

  • These tests deepen the segregation of children within and between school systems, a move that is not in the interests of most people throughout the world;

  • Inner-city families and poor families are promised tests as an avenue to escape the ghetto and poverty, when the tests are designed to fail their children, boosting dropouts, leaving more children trapped in the ghetto and poverty, deepening inequality and all forms of injustice;

  • The tests set up a false employer-employees relationship between teachers and students which damages honest exchanges in the classroom;

  • The tests create an atmosphere that pits students against students and teachers against teachers and school systems against school systems in a mad scramble for financial rewards, and to avoid financial retribution;

  • The tests have been used to unjustly fire and discipline educators throughout the country;

  • The exams represent an assault on academic freedom by forcing their way into the classroom in an attempt to regulate knowledge, what is known and how people come to know it;

  • The tests foment an atmosphere of greed, fear, and hysteria, none of which contributes to learning;

  • The tests destroy inclusion and inquiry-based education;

  • The high-stakes test pretend to neutrality but are deeply partisan in content, reflecting the needs of elites in a world becoming more inequitable, less democratic, promising the youth of the world perpetual war;

  • The tests become commodities for opportunists whose interests are profits, not the best interests of children.

    Most applicable, I'd say.
  • Wednesday, January 31, 2007

    During times of universal deceit

    ... telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

    Apparently, Park Chung-hee believed this fervently:
    A junior high school teacher, Mr. Choi, was not so fortunate. He served eight months for saying that "the Yusin Constitution was created to ensure a prolonged one-man rule. An indirect presidential election by delegates from the Unified Citizen’s Conference the National Conference for Unification is an undesirable system."

    Another school teacher told students that "Park is a dictator. The capitalists are abusing workers, and workers cannot claim their rights. After [labor activist] Cheon Tae-il burned himself to death, the treatment got better. But the government raised the price of fertilizer by a whopping 60 percent, worsening the lives of farmers." The teacher was sent to prison for three years.

    As of June 2004, 48% of the populous remained quite attached to the deceit.

    And teachers must still watch what they say.

    Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Learn the Right lyrics

    Two teachers are being treated to an extended stay in the "anticommunist investigation room" in the basement of the Seoul police station in Jangandong. See the Hankyoreh and KTU for details.

    This is an old and tired story, but apparently the Right never bores of it. In 2004, the GNP - with help from the courts - blocked a bill that would have abolished the National Security Law. In 2005, the prosecutor's office charged a sociology professor under the law when the professor publicly attacked the reverend Douglas MacArthur. (He said that the good general was ... unbalanced, among other things. Any American historian would agree.)

    When a government minister told prosecutors not to detain the academic, the prosecutors were incensed. How dare the government pretend to know which members of society were a threat to national security! There's a law against thought crimes, see, and we decide who breaks it. The head prosecutor submitted his resignation in protest. His resignation was duly accepted. And lo! there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the pages of that unholy triad, the Chosun, the Dong-A, and the JoongAng.

    The professor was eventually convicted. He received a sentence (suspended) of two years in prison for his thought crime.

    But what REALLY irks the Right is this "unification" nonsense. Not that many Uri party ministers are much interested in unification. But there is a Unification Ministry, whose bureaucrats are quite attached to the idea. And there is the Ministry of Education, with its Internet Peace School, which promotes understanding of the folks to the north. These initiatives are altogether distasteful to the Right, but there's not much they can do about this, not until the next general election.

    But teachers are fair game, and the hunt has been on for some time. In 2006, police in Busan investigated a reunification teacher workshop there, but they found nothing titillating. Then a middle school in Junbuk province held a reunification event where teachers might have expressed too much sympathy for a communist partisan, but again prosecutors were disappointed by the temerity of the material. The unholy triad, however, howled throughout.

    When a couple teachers uploaded images of posters to the union website in Seoul, the chorus returned to the stage. Of course, North Korean posters are available to teachers on Ministry of Education sites, and to the public at a Chosun Ilbo site. But the teachers who uploaded their posters had the audacity to identify and define sungun (i.e. military first) politics! This word is unfamiliar to most students and many teachers, of course, as folks here aren't in the habit of discussing policy/propaganda in the North. A definition might be useful to teachers who want to introduce a discussion in their classrooms.

    Alas for these teachers, their definition of sungun politics was apparently not condescending enough. It's a question of tone, see? And theirs didn't harmonize well enough with the chorus.

    Again, it's the Ministry of Education that is the desired target. The ministry suggests that teachers ask questions such as "What is sungun politics, and why does the North Korean government emphasize this?" and "What are the characteristics of North Korean politics?" Perhaps the detention of these teachers is a Ministry of Justice signal to its enemies in other ministries?

    If teachers in the North ask similar questions about propaganda in the South, do the police come for them?

    Friday, January 19, 2007

    You mean we have the right to withhold labor???

    S.K. students recieve poor education on labor issues

    The ministry's response: "We have included five sentences. It is unreasonable to include more. The primary purpose of an education is to prepare human resources to accept that salary level indicates worth of social contribution."

    For those few english teachers interested in introducing learners to labor issues, I have designed a few lessons. Contact me.

    Friday, January 12, 2007

    We don't talk about that

    "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them." - George Orwell

    After reading Pak Noja's observations about how, in Russia,
    strongly nationalist/masculine/militaristic “anti-hegemonism” is largely destroying the ground for the real anti-imperialism/anti-capitalism - just like the way it happens with the NL (”national liberation”)-dominated Korean left today
    I got to thinking about some of those topics that aren't included in the CSAT study manuals:
    • the massacres of Vietnamese peasants by ROK forces
    • political prisoners, imprisoned for 40 years
    • WW2 crimes committed by Korean soldiers
    • the widespread and calculated terror pursued by Rhee's regime, from 1948 and continuing into the civil war
    • reference to the war as a civil war
    • patriotism as something other than loyalty to the state
    • a defence of the right to withhold labour
    • the dangers lurking in "pure blood" mythologies
    • feminist, race, queer theories of any kind

    I'm working on it, the trick is to disguise the text as a conventional study manual, else students - and publishers - will have no use for it ...

    Friday, January 05, 2007

    Will the KTU respond? We can't if we're to stay "in the classroom" ...

    UPDATE: After 3 months of beatings, the activists have been released.

    * * *

    Today, from Education International:

    Urgent Action Appeal for Ethiopia

    Torture of Ethiopian Teachers’ Association activists

    Dear colleagues,

    Education International calls on your solidarity to support the elected union officers of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association (ETA). Currently, two ETA officers are reported to be subjected to torture while in detention without warrant. A third one is reported missing since December 15.

    For years now, EI has been concerned by the actions taken by the Ethiopian authorities to dismantle the ETA, which has been representing the legitimate interests of the teaching profession in Ethiopia since 1949.

    Since the creation of another Ethiopian Teachers' Association in 1993, the first ETA, a member of Education International, has been subjected to repression and interference seeking the destruction of the independent union.

    The harassment was so intense in 2006 that EI and the ETA submitted complaints to the International Labour Organisation (Committee on Freedom of Association) and to the ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART). Fortunately, despite the harassment of ETA leaders and interferences in ETA affairs which hamper the day-to-day work of the union, the ETA continues to enjoy the support of teachers and gains new members every month.

    With your help, EI aims to encourage the Government of Ethiopia to respect freedom of association and to stop immediately the ill treatment of our three colleagues. You will find attached a model protest letter which can be used by your organisation to express your concern about the continued harassment, and now torture, of ETA activists. More information about EI's action can be found on the EI website.

    December 2006: Abduction and torture of ETA activists

    On 14 December, the family of Tilahun Ayalew reported his arrest on his way from his school to his residence in Dangla. Government security agents took him to the police station of Bahir Dar, in the North of the country. He was later transferred to the Addis Ababa Criminal Investigation Bureau, known as Maekelawi. He is reported to have been "heavily tortured". On 1 January, Tilahun Ayalew was brought to the Lideta Borough Initial Court in Addis Ababa. "He was so heavily beaten that he could hardly walk on his own from the police van to the court room," reported the ETA General Secretary. The judge adjourned his case to 15 January to allow the police to undertake further investigation. Tilahun Ayalew, aged 49 and father of 7 children, teaches at a primary school in his city of Dangla. He is a prominent ETA activist and is Chair of the ETA Awi zone. Earlier in 2005, Tilahu! n Ayalew was among the 68 teachers arrested after the post election demonstrations in November 2005. No arrest warrant was ever produced and he was finally released on bail without explanation. Since 14 December, he has been detained incommunicado and was refused access to a lawyer and/or to medical assistance. His relatives and colleagues are unaware of any charge filed against him.
    Meqcha Mengistu was reported missing on December 15, 2006. He had been under constant surveillance by government security agents following his participation in an ETA conference held on 8-9 December in Addis Ababa. His relatives know nothing about his whereabouts. Meqcha Mengistu, aged 38 and father of 4 children, teaches at a secondary school in Dejen, in the Eastern part of the country. He is chairperson of the ETA East Gojam Zonal Executive and is member of the ETA Committee for the implementation of the EI/ETA Education For All-HIV/AIDS programme (EFAIDS). Meqcha was arrested along with Tilahun Ayalew and 66 other teachers in November 2005.
    Education International is also concerned about the fate of Anteneh Getnet, a male teacher aged 42. On 8 May 2006, Antenech Getenet was abducted and tortured by unidentified men. He almost died and will never be able to teach again. A prominent ETA activist, he was elected to the ETA Addis Ababa Regional Council in August 2006. Antenech Getnet was arrested on 29 December and detained incommunicado at the Maekelawi Investigation Bureau. He is reported to have been severely beaten again. On 1 January, he appeared before the court, together with Tilahun Ayalew. The court also adjourned his case to allow for further investigation by the police.
    The ETA leadership knows these three men very well. Their only offence is that they are members of the Ethiopian Teachers' Association.

    What can you do?

    When informed about the tragic events, EI immediately addressed a protest letter to the Ethiopian Prime Minister; EI also approached the International Labour Organisation, the International Trade Union Confederation and Amnesty International to denounce the detention without warrant and acts of torture against trade union officials in the context of their legal trade union activities.

    As a national teacher association, you can undertake the following action:

    Protest to the Ethiopian authorities - a model letter can be found on our website ( The letters should be addressed to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and to the local Ethiopian embassy. A copy of your letter should also be forwarded to EI for our records.
    Contact the ETA to express your solidarity > Ethiopian Teachers' Association, Gemoraw Kassa, General Secretary, P.O. Box 1639, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Tel: +251-11-552.46.68 - Fax: +251-11-551.28.26. (Bear in mind that phone is not always safe and the fax is often disrupted. Email messages can be forwarded to EI which will forward them to the colleagues in Ethiopia).
    Give visibility to the situation of teachers in Ethiopia in your magazine, on your website, during meetings and via other appropriate means.
    Approach your embassy representatives in Ethiopia. This step requires some care and concerted action. EI therefore invites you to be in touch before acting upon this recommendation.
    EI will of course keep you updated on all development or when the Urgent Action Appeal is closed. For additional information or to discuss possible action, contact the EI Human and Trade Union Rights Coordinator

    I thank you in advance for your support of our Ethiopian colleagues.

    Yours sincerely,

    Fred van Leeuwen
    General Secretary


    I forgot to note that yes, the union did respond.