Archive for March, 2010

IF the person who signs your contract goes to jail…

March 23, 2010

Most of the English teachers who work within the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) would have had their contracts signed, or pre-signed by Gong Jeong Taek (공 정 택.) Now this may be an assumption based on my own personal experience, I will say that. But, I have a mock up of my contract, which I had to print out and sign. This was co signed by Mr. Gong.

When I was looking for a specific article regarding my exit allowance I showed my co teacher my document.  He explained to me that Mr. Gong is now in jail for corruption. I have not found any articles stating that he did go to jail, however. I did find that according to this Korean Herald article, he was forced to resign from his post. At the time of the investigation, many principles and education staff were arrested as well. Apparently, he was accepting bribes. These bribes would then determine which candidates would become principles within the education system.

This is from the Korean Federation of Teacher’s Association.

The allegations of widespread corruption and abuse of power at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education reveal an organization that is rotten to the core. What are our children to learn from these “educators?” What kind of education can such a dysfunctional education office offer? It is time for a complete revamp of the education office.

You can find the link here.

I guess all the worry regarding native English teachers, might be diverted for a little while.


Seoul Horse Racing.

March 15, 2010

Well, I went to the horse races. It was pretty fun!

We arrived there and made our way to the foreigners lounge, a somewhat quiet and smoke free lounge mostly filled with foreign born Koreans or Japanese men. Later on there were a few western stragglers, probably too hungover from the night before to make it there any earlier.

Coming out of the subway the crowd diversity narrows into a steady stream of 40 – 50 year old Korean ajjoshis (married men – assumed). As you make your way into the pavilion you first see a small track where you can check out the horses from above as they walk around or stand in their paddock. I skipped that part and made my way inside. When we figured out that the foreigners lounge was down at the far end of the grand stands, we set off to find it. The place seemed endless and everywhere you looked were old men and a few women set up with their weekend guide book to see who would be the favorites to win. Everyone was checking and rechecking numbers and stats to figure out which horse was going to be their payday.

I have to admit I got pretty into it. Once we figured out how to read the guide book we started making bets. There are a few options with the bets, you can pick who will place (in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd), who will get first, who will come in 1st and 2nd (in any order, and also in the correct order) it goes on from there. My favorite bets were who would come in 1st – 3rd, it just seemed most logical to win. Most of the guys, however, would place bets on the quinella, where you have to determine which horse will come in 1st and 2nd. My bet choice had the best odds for winning, worst for payout. I placed my bets, they can range from 10 cents up to 100 dollars. I chose to bet 2 dollars on one, and 5 dollars on another. In the end I lost $1 and made the rest of the money back. After that I was hooked, once I cashed in my ticket and placed my second round of bets I had a smile on my face that was hard to erase. By the end of the day I watched about 6 races and I was up 7 dollars, then down 2 dollars, then up 4 dollars then back down and finally lost 1 dollar. Pretty good entertainment for the price. I really like the fact that you can bet small amounts of money, you still feel bummed when you lose 50 cents, however.

Oh I should probably mention that this is the only place near Seoul where Koreans can gamble. The other was near my former town of Taebaek. Which explains the vast amount of people in attendance.  As well, the seats outside are quite a sight, everyone smoking frantically, ash flying in the wind, silence, then at the home stretch, curse words and very few cheers.

This is my short video of what it’s like.

Horse Racing

March 9, 2010

I’m going to attempt to get out to the horse races on Saturday or Sunday. As long as I don’t stay out too late the days previous. I will take some video and pictures as well.

In the meantime there is a really detailed blog about horse racing in Korea.

I learned there used to be a horse track just one station away from where I now live. I can’t picture it at all. Perhaps that is why my school does horse riding on Saturdays? I doubt it.

You can bet anywhere from 8 cents (100 won) to 90 dollars (100 000 won) roughly.I hope to strike it rich. I’ve got a lot of change saved up at my house!

Open up and say “RRR”

March 5, 2010

As some people know, Korea is very English oriented. Despite the fact that English isn’t even an official language, it is treated as one. You would be hard pressed to ever find a t-shirt written in their own native language. Sure there are the occasional hats with 오빠 written on them, or something to that effect. But they aren’t popular. Other bloggers have written on this extensively. I’m too lazy to make a link to their pages, but just type “korea beat” into google, and you can see his blogroll to find out more.

Even my co-teacher is confused as to why there is such a demand for English. He said that if there was ever a job where he needed English to be hired he would look for other work. He never grew up with a passion for English, he only ever became interested in the subject during middle school when he started learning guitar and searched for some American music to listen to. Even though he said he wouldn’t get a job that needed English, he ended up being my English co-teacher. When he heard this news he said that he almost cried and wanted to quit his job. Unfortunately, in this economic down turn there are not many options available so he decided to stick it out.

There is such a demand for “perfect” English, that some people go to extreme lengths to achieve it. The lingual frenulum is present on the underside of the tongue, the thing that seems like it connects the tongue to the inside of your mouth.  Not everyone is running out to get this done, but it is being performed on elementary students and whoever else feels the need to get it. Essentially a frenuloplasty is performed to cut that piece of tissue, which apparently helps in the pronunciation of the letters “L” and “R”.The pronunciation is helped due to the extension of the tongue. Most people regard this surgery as useless due to the fact that Korean Americans can pronounce both letters with ease, and without any corrective surgery. I guess it would be like getting liposuction when all you need to do is exercise.

It is pretty amazing that there is such a high demand for English when there are only 1 million foreigners in Korea. Sure learning a language is very useful, especially English, as it allows you to communicate with most of the world. However, learning it so that you may some day get a “good” job seems quite ridiculous. The percentage of jobs that deal with other foreign countries are relatively low. Sure, it is fair to say you need English proficiency within the business community, but other than that, I don’t believe it is needed.

Yes, it will be essential if Korea ever takes off as a tourist destination, but I don’t think countries should be so accommodating when it comes to language. I believe road signs, and important things of this nature should be accompanied with some English, but other than that, no. That is what you sign up for if you plan on entering a foreign country with a foreign language. Be prepared to learn some of the native tongue, just as we demand other people to do within English speaking countries. And I do say some. Not your whole childhood, so that one day if you ever do decide to leave the country, you can use it. And not so that one day you might bump into a English speaker at the age of 26 and direct him to the nearest subway station.