Thursday, September 17, 2009

Conceding power to a hate group?

Brian in Chŏllanam-do is mad and he's not going to take it anymore. Anti-English Spectrum, now known as the Citizens' Association for Lawful English Education, is getting positive mention in the Korean press (at least the English-language press) as if they were a regular group of people instead of, as many are calling them, a racist hate group.

Even while reading Brian's post, I started "conversations" with all my Korean-Korean MSN Messenger contacts in South Korea who appeared to be online, and asked them about Anti-English Spectrum.

This one from "S," herself a hagwon instructor in the Seoul area, was typical (note that the times are Hawaii time, so the 11's should be 6's in Korea time, not long after Brian wrote his piece):
kushibo says: (11:20:04 PM)
Have you heard of a group called "Anti-English Spectrum"?

[S] says: (11:21:04 PM)
no.. what is that?

kushibo says: (11:21:50 PM)
Have you heard of a civil group in Korea that is trying to find drug-taking English teachers, illegal English teachers, or English teachers who abuse Korean women and get rid of them?

[S] says: (11:22:10 PM)
nope..

kushibo says: (11:22:25 PM)
If I told you such a group existed, what would you think?

[S] says: (11:23:00 PM)
so.. the group is focused on Foreign Enlgish teachers in Korea?

kushibo says: (11:23:07 PM)
Yes.

[S] says: (11:23:46 PM)
so.. the existence of it is..a problem?

kushibo says: (11:24:07 PM)
Before I answer that, tell me — off the top of your head — what your impression would be.

[S] says: (11:24:51 PM)
there are many foreing English teachers who belong to the category...that'd be my first impression..

[S] says: (11:25:09 PM)
otherwise.. why such a civil group exists?

kushibo says: (11:25:41 PM)
What makes you think there are many foreign English teachers in that group? (I'm asking; not saying you're right or wrong.)

[S] says: (11:26:27 PM)
see the last sentnece of mine..

kushibo says: (11:26:57 PM)
So you mean that the existence of such a group must mean that there are such bad teachers?

[S] says: (11:27:09 PM)
yes..

kushibo says: (11:27:29 PM)
I see. But what makes you think it would be "many"?

[S] says: (11:28:07 PM)
근데 왜 물어보는데?

[S] says: (11:28:16 PM)
그냥 한두명 불법체류자나

[S] says: (11:28:25 PM)
마약 중동자면.. 그렇게 시민단체를 만들어서

kushibo says: (11:28:27 PM)
It comes up in the media sometimes, and I'm thinking of writing about it, but I want the opinion of Korean-Korean friends.

[S] says: (11:29:02 PM)
외국인 강사 자격확인이나 채용 기준을 엄격히 하자고 안하겠지....I guess..

[S] says: (11:29:33 PM)
before those bad people created problems in this counry..

[S] says: (11:30:05 PM)
well I guess most Koreans thought that they are working on good favor... they would be nice people... who want to get decent jobs or love to teach..

[S] says: (11:30:06 PM)
But..

[S] says: (11:30:53 PM)
some of them (I don't know how many) turned out to be ex-convicts... child-abuser.. or even with college degrees..

[S] says: (11:31:08 PM)
if they keep creating problems...

[S] says: (11:31:27 PM)
there muse be rules for those situations..

[S] says: (11:31:45 PM)
without college degrees..

kushibo says: (11:32:08 PM)
Thanks for your answers.

kushibo says: (11:32:12 PM)
Here's the problem.

kushibo says: (11:32:46 PM)
Many people (particularly English teachers themselves) feel that this group (Anti-English Spectrum) spreads a lot of *disinformation* about them in the Korean media.

kushibo says: (11:33:22 PM)
And makes people think that the social problems caused by English teachers are much greater than they really are.

kushibo says: (11:34:01 PM)
They also feel that this group is motivated by racism and sexism, particularly because the leader of the group doesn't like to see foreign guys and Korean women dating.

kushibo says: (11:34:12 PM)
That's the issue right there.

[S] says: (11:34:25 PM)
then its not about English teachers...

kushibo says: (11:34:45 PM)
What do you mean?

[S] says: (11:35:26 PM)
it is just about a group of Korean people who hate foreigners..

[S] says: (11:35:33 PM)
who are in Korea

kushibo says: (11:36:24 PM)
Probably. But what has a lot of people (especially English teachers) upset is that this group seems to have a lot of influence with the press, like the Korea Times and the Chosun Ilbo.

kushibo says: (11:36:46 PM)
And the Chosun Ilbo articles are in Korean, perhaps read by a lot of Korean people.

[S] says: (11:37:04 PM)
그런 기사는 언제나 있었는데...

kushibo says: (11:37:17 PM)
And that makes people angry and concerned.

kushibo says: (11:37:28 PM)
These stories have always been around?

[S] says: (11:37:37 PM)
엉~

kushibo says: (11:38:42 PM)
Before I asked you about this, what was your impression of English teachers (as a group, or as individuals)?

kushibo says: (11:38:58 PM)
Did you have any special thoughts on "bad" behavior or anything like that?

[S] says: (11:39:28 PM)
no...

[S] says: (11:39:51 PM)
i think I told you before..

[S] says: (11:40:08 PM)
those stupid people who do something illegel are everywhere...

[S] says: (11:40:23 PM)
it's not simply foreigners vs Koreans..

[S] says: (11:40:56 PM)
I don't mean that all of foreign workers in Korea are like that

[S] says: (11:41:17 PM)
some of KOreans,they go abraod.. do stupid things...

[S] says: (11:41:53 PM)
so... IMO, i dont want to group people into such such categories..
Sorry, that got long.

Here's my (slightly self-serving) distillation of what she wrote. Before I asked her about this, she hadn't heard of Anti-English Spectrum or what they do. When I asked her about it, she imagined, well, yeah, maybe there are such bad people, but she doesn't think it's the whole group, since there are stupid people everywhere.

I guess what I'm saying is that this group is not as influential as they are being made out to be. From my experience in earnestly looking into this, it appears that most Koreans haven't heard of them.

That's not to say Anti-English Spectrum shouldn't be dealt with. I think a good case could be made that they're a "hate group," but what they've done recently should be concisely and dispassionately listed and presented in the form of a petition to the Korean Human Rights Commission. Don't make a list of stuff that rehashes things from four years ago; focus on the here and now [edit: I mean, in the petition, except for the particularly egregious things from the past; it's most effective to show that they are a threat now]. And if anyone has truly been damaged directly from this group, that person or persons should be supported in an effort to bring litigation or criminal complaint against the group.

Stop railing about it in the blogs and do something constructive.

UPDATE:
Brian found this post to be "not exactly flattering," "belittling," and "condescending," and my hasty word choice is partly to blame. In the last step in particular, I meant that something constructive like a formal complaint about Anti-English Spectrum is a necessary next step, not that Brian (or any other blogger) should really stop writing about this topic altogether.

As I wrote on his blog in response, it's good for blogs like his to record a response to their appearances in the press, it's good to detail how Anti-English Spectrum (and groups like it) are in the wrong, and there are some new people who would have never heard of these issues before and need to be informed. Nevertheless, we are no longer at the starting point, and something else must be done.

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12 comments:

  1. So, one hagwon instructor hasn't heard of this group. Is this supposed to be a joke?

    I guarantee if I asked my coworkers if they had heard of this group, they'd probably say no as well. Try asking someone in the Korean government if they know these jokers. Maybe someone who proposed the AIDS and drug testing legislation. I wouldn't be surprised if Kang Gi-kap was a member in high standing.

    Anti English Spectrum made AIDS and drug testing for E2 visa holders part of their platform. These were recently passed into law. It's clear they have someone's ear. To ignore these jokers and the sway they appear to have would be foolish. Even if one random hagwon instructor says otherwise.

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  2. Matt, I've posed this question to, by now, dozens of people, and almost none have heard of this group. While it's a gimmick, I admit, I posted this conversation with "S" because her opinions were typical of those of others with whom I've talked about this (a couple months ago I posed the idea of commenters or bloggers asking Koreans they know what they think of Anti-English Spectrum and their tactics, and I did so myself) and because I got this conversation immediately while reading Brian's post.

    I am not saying Anti-English Spectrum should be tolerated, and in fact, they should be dealt with harshly and appropriately (see the last part of the post) instead of just whined about online. I am saying that the English blogosphere is (collectively) assuming this group has more power than they actually do.

    I've seen the argument made by Matt at Popular Gusts showing how stuff Anti-English Spectrum talks about ends up in legislation around the same time, but I think that's more easily explained that they know what's coming down the pipeline (from their own talks with lawmakers) rather than them causing stuff to come down the pipeline (through influence with lawmakers).

    The stuff they rail about predates their own existence. E6 visa holders have been required to have HIV tests long before Anti-English Spectrum ever existed, and I've attended AIDS conferences around 1999 or 2000 where expansion of testing was discussed, so I'm a bit hesitant to ascribe that to a group that didn't exist until several years later. They appear to be supporting the same agenda, not creating it. Ditto with the other stuff they rail about regarding illegals.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kushibo, talking to "dozens of people" about something does not constitute any good reason to make a claim that few people know about it. Pollsters talk to hundreds of people everyday about many topics and their results cannot always be trusted to get the pulse of an issue, depending on the questions that are used. They do a much better job that the average person on the street, as they all likely have some training in population sampling, question bias and all the rest. However, and forgive my saying so, you don't seem to have such training. Similarly, it doesn't appear that you have any contacts in the government, so you don't know what goes on there. Of course, not many of those who read, and participate in the blogosphere are likely to have such contacts either, so nobody knows. Anti-English Spectrum appears to be a thorn and seems to have a bug up its ass, and a stick and various other things as well, and you are right, we ALL need more information, but your "evidence" for your point of view is weak.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ken wrote:
    Kushibo, talking to "dozens of people" about something does not constitute any good reason to make a claim that few people know about it.

    You're right. This turned out to be very long when I was writing it, and I wrote a few things somewhat hastily. I will edit it to say, "From my experience in earnestly looking into this, it appears that most Koreans haven't heard of them."

    It's entirely possible that the non-scientific sample I've chosen is non-representative of the whole, though I don't have any particular reason to believe that to be the case.

    Moreover, I was only doing what I suggested others do as well: Show the Korean-language articles to native Koreans and ask them the following day what they thought of the group, their message, and especially their tactics.

    I don't think many people have taken up my suggestion, but if they did, I think they might find out that the group's reach has not been so great in influencing the general public and, moreover, that a lot of Koreans would be put off by the methods AES employs.

    Pollsters talk to hundreds of people everyday about many topics and their results cannot always be trusted to get the pulse of an issue, depending on the questions that are used. They do a much better job that the average person on the street, as they all likely have some training in population sampling, question bias and all the rest. However, and forgive my saying so, you don't seem to have such training.

    Don't confuse lack of means to do a formal survey with lack of knowledge or training of how to go about doing one.

    If I had the money, I could have written up a survey to be given by native Korean speakers who would use random number generators to call representative samples of people based on cell phones and landlines (using government data to weight the respondents for age, gender, likelihood to own a cell phone or landline, geographic region, etc.), having them ask non-leading questions about their perceived notions of English teachers and measuring that against the independent variable of whether they'd heard of AES or knew of their crusade.

    But I just don't have those kinds of resources, so I informally and casually asked people I knew.

    And rather than paraphrasing what was said, which could involve selection bias on my part, I printed out an entire conversation as it went down.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ken wrote:
    Similarly, it doesn't appear that you have any contacts in the government, so you don't know what goes on there. Of course, not many of those who read, and participate in the blogosphere are likely to have such contacts either, so nobody knows.

    Respectfully, Ken, you are wrong. I and at least a few K-bloggers do have connections in the government, and we are clued in on at least some of the goings-on that are there. I have even had an advisory role on immigration policies going back to the late 1990s, though some of my main "connections" are in less prominent positions than before. The Marmot knows a few people, I believe, as does Oranckay. Metropolitician would be in a better position to foster some good and productive relations if he weren't so quixotic.

    There are, I believe, lots. And this is one reason why I think it's gone on too far to just bitch about AES in the blogs. I think a good case has been made that they are a hate group, at a time when that notion has traction in some government circles, so it's time to go on the offensive with this group.

    Anti-English Spectrum appears to be a thorn and seems to have a bug up its ass, and a stick and various other things as well, and you are right, we ALL need more information, but your "evidence" for your point of view is weak.

    My point of view is merely that the collective K-blogosphere assumes more power wielded by this group than they actually have.

    The other point of view is that the power they do apparently have — to get face time with lazy elements of the Korean press — is something that should be taken away from them by having them discredited for the hate-mongering that that they do.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good, so that confirms a belief I have had about you, given that I think I read that you are doing some graduate work. You do know proper techniques to go about gathering information from a population. I had thought that most graduate work required the student to learn statistical techniques. And yet... you presented the whole conversation so as not to bias it through your filters, and then:

    "From my experience in earnestly looking into this, it appears that most Koreans haven't heard of them."

    I forget the exact name of the logical fallacy here, but it something like an appeal to generality. You obviously have all this knowledge of robust polling procedure and statistical analysis. (And I do apologize for omitting that I figured you had done all the training necessary. It would have possibly softened the tone of my response.) And yet...

    As for the contacts, great. I'm glad I have finally found someone who has contact with the people who make the decisions. Could you please do something about the apparently phantom directive to the banking system that foreigners cannot have international bank cards?

    I agree with you. It is probably time to change tactics. I'm not as confident as you appear to be that it would be as easy to change biases that allow those yahoos so much access to get their points into the public sphere. My own tack of course, is to ignore them. This is probably just sticking my head in the sand, but with this new development of a racism case hitting the courts, whether it is actually to be referred to that way or simply as some sort of defamation case, there may be more concrete ways to act against this group and others like it soon.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ken, bear in mind this is a blog, not a dissertation. I'd do due diligence if I were presenting this as an academic paper, or a professional analysis. But this is a blog, so the evidence gathering can be less stringent, and taken as such. All I was doing was the type of thing I'd been asking others to do in regards to AES. Confirm or refute my impressions instead of just railing about them in the blogs. While things like what Brian in Chŏllanam-do or Matt at Popular Gusts are doing are important and necessary (i.e., documenting for public consumption what this group is up to), many of the commenters are just complaining about it without putting it into any usable or appropriate context.

    Ken wrote:
    As for the contacts, great. I'm glad I have finally found someone who has contact with the people who make the decisions. Could you please do something about the apparently phantom directive to the banking system that foreigners cannot have international bank cards?

    I'm not too familiar with this problem, since I'm a foreign national and I have an international bank card. I've heard people complain about this, but since I haven't dealt with it directly, I'm not really sure how the problem manifests itself.

    I'm not sure if this is like "foreigners can't get cell phone service," where they have always been been able to get it through LG. Through some others, too, but since I only deal with LG, I'm not sure how it works.

    I'm also not sure if this is like "foreigners can't own property," which is an oft-repeated inaccuracy I've encountered repeatedly.

    So, please elaborate. If this is legit, then something should be done. But bear in mind, my influence is not omnipotent, and this matter really has little to do with the topic at hand. I have connections with certain people in certain areas, people I encountered through my academic or professional doings, but I don't know a lot of people in banking.

    But this is the kind of thing that ATEK or a foreign residents association should pursue. An ombudsman of sorts who can get doors opened and sit down with people to get things done. I'd like to see them pursue that.

    My own tack of course, is to ignore them.

    In some cases, that's absolutely prudent. The thing that has set me off about AES is that the KT keeps lazily going to them for perspective on these stories. I think it's time to stop ignoring them. They have incurred the Wrath of Ku.

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  8. I guess my attempt at facetiousness to suggest that, although you may have contacts, that doesn't mean you have the right contacts was too hidden in indignation. I know it was outside the matter at issue.

    (And the banking issue had to do with how anyone who could be classed as a foreigner, apparently including Koreans who didn't have a residency in Korea, was being denied an international ATM card by the banking system. Some people were obtaining them somehow, I think through a lot of complaining. This is changing again though as at least one bank, the Korea Exchange Bank, has begun re-issuing international ATM cards to "foreign" customers. This could be because they have realized that foreigners make up a significant percentage of the population and that that therefore represents profit to be made. I didn't ask them of course, but it seems reasonable. They still require the linking of the passport to the ATM card in some fashion in their computer system, which still seems a bit stringent and restrictive, but at least I am able to access my money in my Korean bank account again when I am not in the country. So that is progress. And I have heard things suggesting that other banks have seen money to lose in the process and they have begun to follow suit, but I don't know for sure. So if you have an international bank card from a Korean bank, I would suggest you don't let them know for fear of having the privilege revoked or being asked to provide some identification to link to it.)

    I understand this is a blog. And you are free to state your opinion. I believe you should be presenting it is as such though. (i.e. You believe that most Koreans don't know about the jokers at AES. Most of the people you know have no particular awareness of this organization.) But you state things in academic language that suggests you have investigated the issue and your research bears out your conclusions. It is probably the academic in you that is engaged in whatever research you are doing that speaks that way, but blog or not, I think you have an responsibility to present things as your opinion or the way you think. Often when I read your blog, I am reminded of going to an ancient archaeological site where the guides tell me the way things were when the site was a thriving, active area. I find that the places I trust are the ones that have liberal use of phrases like: "From the evidence we think..."; "We're not sure, but from this, this, and this, it seems like..."; and others. (Not that such phrases are what I am suggesting is appropriate for a blog. Just trying to make the point that they present the situation as unclear.) The ones I trust least are the ones that fudge over the things they couldn't possibly know and present it simply as the way it was. I get on something of a crusade to prove to the people around me that such concrete-sounding statements are unwarranted. It is one of my hot buttons, to which I tend to just react. And as I read over my responses to you, I see that I owe you an apology for the strength of my posts and whatever label you have put on them and my attitude in your mind. I apologize.

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  9. Hi, Kushibo. I know this post is quite old now, but I only just came across it and there are a few things I wanted to say:

    Firstly, there is a difference between having heard about a group and being influenced by them. And there is also a difference between hearing about a group and recognising that group based upon a later description in an msn chat. Especially when at <11:23:00 PM> she clearly indicates that she wasn't entirely clear on your question when she answered it.

    Secondly, your distillation is somewhat facile. What you paint as her full and honest opinion on the matter (regardless of your little disclaimer!) is actually in complete contrast to her assertions made before you described the group in question as a racist hate group, giving her a prompt to consider where she wanted to stand in relation to a mob of racist bigots.

    Compare:

    [S] says: (11:40:23 PM)
    it's not simply foreigners vs Koreans..

    [S] says: (11:41:53 PM)
    so... IMO, i dont want to group people into such such categories..Sorry, that got long.

    With

    [S] says: (11:29:33 PM)
    before those bad people created problems in this counry..

    [S] says: (11:30:05 PM)
    well I guess most Koreans thought that they are working on good favor... they would be nice people... who want to get decent jobs or love to teach..

    It's like chalk and cheese.

    Her initial reaction to the group, when asked at <11:24:07 PM> was that:

    [S] says: (11:24:51 PM)
    there are many foreing English teachers who belong to the category...that'd be my first impression..

    An impression that is in opposition to published statistics and clearly not arrived at with any rigourous application of logic. This impression must have come from somewhere, and my guess is that it came from the multi-billion won information machine, and stories which she herself proclaims:

    [S] says: (11:37:04 PM)
    그런 기사는 언제나 있었는데...

    And over which you yourself admit that the AES:

    kushibo says: (11:36:24 PM)

    ... seems to have a lot of influence with the press, like the Korea Times and the Chosun Ilbo.

    And the respondant, S, who you claim is "typical" of everyone you questioned seems to be quite easiy influenced - a brief second hand mention of the very existance of such a group leads her to conclude that the NSET question is a serious one.

    And S's suggestion as to a solution bares little relevance to your statement of the problem:

    [S] says: (11:29:02 PM)
    외국인 강사 자격확인이나 채용 기준을 엄격히 하자고 안하겠지....I guess..

    Bares scant relation to the problem of:

    ...drug-taking English teachers, illegal English teachers, or English teachers who abuse Korean women...

    But rather is a unconsidered regurgitation of the tired old rhetoric seen day in, day out in the media, as influenced by...

    My point is that asking someone if they've heard of a group is not the same thing as testing the influence of that group.

    Also, if she has read the numerous press articles about naughty foreigners, which she clearly has, then she will probably have noticed some mention of the group and thought "Wow - there's a group... this must be serious". And then forgot or confused the name and nature of that group as her daily life continued... her car got towed, her kids got sick, her gas bill got higher... Asking if someone has heard about a group is not the same as discovering whether they have heard about the group.

    And telling someone "A group of racist bigots says such and such... do you agree with them?" is not the same as unravelling the complex web of influences that binds the many troubled dolphins of their Gramsci.

    Jeez it's late.

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  10. I really don't have the time or the inclination to get back into this topic. So much has happened related to AES since then (I'm waiting of a second response to an inquiry at the NHRCK regarding having AES investigated as a hate group).

    But I will make two points. First, you are absolutely right that asking someone if they know about something is not the same as discovering if they know about it. But I do know this person well enough to know that what she said in the MSN discussion was accurate.

    Second, there are plenty of stories about the bad acts of some NSETs that make no mention whatsoever of AES or any similar group. A person could easily recognize that there are a few pot smokers, fake diploma users, etc., just by reading about the occasional arrest in the papers.

    My main point was that many in the K-blogosphere are ascribing much more power to AES than they may actually have. AES makes a lot of claim a lot of things, but their association with certain people in power does not prove they are the main sources of information or action for those people.

    Nevertheless, I think AES is a hate group and may have undue influence with lazy journalists, and I would like to see them discredited. But the way to do that is through the NHRCK, not through free speech-infringing actions through Naver. The approach of ATEK and their allies has alternated between ham-handed and shrill, and they may be hurting their own cause.

    Clear heads must prevail.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Cool. I don't expect you to get back onto this topic - like I said, I know it's old but I just wanted to make a few points on what you were presenting as evidence. I like reading what you write - you seem to me like a sober voice in an often noisy soju room. I just thought you really dropped the ball on this one.

    Go to bed.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Oh - and I don't necessarily disagree with your argument, either, in principle. Just the support for it.

    ReplyDelete

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