The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said that it has only been able to verify the passports, educational qualifications, current health status, medical histories and criminal records of 9.3 percent of non-Koreans working at cram schools in the capital. "It's very important to ensure we don't find ourselves hiring educators with criminal convictions", said a spokesman for the Office, which is run by top Seoul Educator 58 year-old Kwak No-hyun, who worked from jail earlier this year after being indicted on bribery charges last September and subsequently convicted by a district court.
While the chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has no intention of teaching in a cram school - or hagwon as they are known - it is well-known that foreign criminals are not so principled, and frequently seek out the easy life in education as a cover for their criminal activities.
"Rules concerning the employment of foreign language teachers were tightened last October following a series of unfortunate incidents involving them over the past few years." explained an official at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, who refused to reveal his identity. He did not elaborate on the nature of these 'unfortunate incidents', but none are believed to have been convicted of bribery and corruption in public office.
The unknown official added that while background checks take time, the public should not be unduly concerned, since only a few English language instructors have been engaged in criminal activities and that local media outlets tend to exaggerate the seriousness of crimes committed by English teachers, creating a largely inaccurate impression that many of these foreigners were unqualified and would pose a threat to pupils.
But The Dokdo Times has learned from sources that results from the 9.3 percent of English teachers already checked are said to be shocking – incredibly most of them are not even English. Instead it appears that while presenting themselves as English teachers, many in fact come from other countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and even somewhere called 'Scotland', which doesn't even exist on Korean maps. As such, as many as 95 percent of the 9.3 percent of native English language teachers already checked are now known to be here under false pretenses, as they are not English natives at all.
The revelation is likely to justifiably alarm parents across Seoul and even other less important parts of Korea where parents don't care about their children's education as much, and in the absence of action from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education both parents and children are now being urged to take matters into their own hands and check these teachers' credentials themselves to find out if their so-called 'English teacher' is really English, or just pretending to be.
Many see this debacle as typical of the deceptive nature of foreigners, but it is sure to turn into a scandal that yet again Koreans will have to deal with, raising questions about why foreigners are allowed to live here. The hagwon industry promises to be particularly hard hit, with one owner – 51 year-old Kim of the Supper English Academy – saying that the problem of fake English teachers is so bad he fears he has turned away genuine English teachers because they 'sounded strange'. Kim says that now he has checked their credentials he intends to fire all his non-English teachers at the end of the month without pay or severance since they had obviously lied to get the job and he now realizes they speak a fake version of the language.
With the issue of counterfeit goods flooding Korea frequently hitting the headlines in recent months, the Ministry of Justice is now being urged to investigate the trade in counterfeit languages, before Korea develops a reputation for being soft on these foreign criminals.
But there appear to be few options for embattled hagwon owners and the other victims of these deceptive foreigners. It is believed that many real English teachers have returned home to England after being unable to find jobs in Korea, and last year a project to replace native English teachers with 29 robots in Daegu schools failed after some of the robot instructors were accused of sexually inappropriate behavior and taking drugs.
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