Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

North Korea

Monday, April 8th, 2013

I didn’t want to write this, because I’m not qualified to write this. I am not an expert on North Korea, I am not Korean, and only speak Korean at an intermediate level, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Life here has been proceeding as normal. Remember, I live in the Southwest corner of the Korean peninsula, so I’m about as far away from North Korea as you can get and still be on the mainland, but my friends in Seoul also seem unconcerned. This article written by a teacher in South Korea much like myself, sums up my feelings on the subject – the western (from what I’ve been seeing, mostly US) media feels the need to create panic. I think the last line of the article sums it up well.

Life has not changed in Korea over the past month and the North has not intensified their tone; the West simply started paying attention.

The first year that I was here, North Korea shelled 연평도 (Yeonpyeong-do), an island close to the border and according to some, in disputed waters. Before that in March 2010, they attacked and sunk a navy ship called the Cheonan. People in the states are worried about war breaking out again, but fail to remember that the two Koreas are at war, and have been since the 1950s. The Korean war never actually ended, and some South Koreans have never known a unifed Korea, or a Korea that is not at war with itself.

I am concerned about the coverage of Korea in the current media, but for different reasons than my friends and family in the states. They’re concerned about my safety – I’m concerned about the impact that the media will have on the current situation. Far from only reporting on current events, through sensationalist titles and sloppy reporting, the media has far more power to create events then we give it credit for. This past weekend we had our annual F*lbright conference on Jeju island. We talked about the current situation in South Korea, the tension in the population that though we have heard is mounting as reported by sources based in other countries, we do not feel, and about the US media’s role in creating this tension. This hysterical coverage, we agreed, could lead to one of two things – it could desensitize the American and Korean populations to the issues at hand, which are big issues in need of serious contemplation, or it could spiral in on itself, and make matters worse than they would have been.

I promise you, family and friends, I am being careful. I’m keeping an eye on the news (both western and local), and I’m not doing anything stupid. I do take your concerns seriously, as I did when I first moved here, because South Korea was and still is a country at war. However, I wouldn’t take everything that the western media says at face value, and I would ask that you understand the dangerous ground that the western media is currently treading by deliberately creating mass panic fueled by their sensationalist headlines.


Oh and PS, to all the people out there (hopefully none of my blog readers) who say that we should “just bomb the 38th parallel” – most of the 38th parallel is either the DMZ or South Korea, our allies. The border between North and South Korea does not run in a straight line across the peninsula. Please stop.


Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Well, I have a teacher facebook now, which has helped me communicate with students in new ways, but has also helped me realize some things about my students. First, I’ve realized that my kids are terrible spellers. Seriously though, it’s so hard to figure out what they’re saying sometimes because I’ll stare at a word and try to figure out what it is only to realize that it’s a word I know spelled wrong – what’s worse is sometimes they do this on purpose to be cute, like writing 잇다 instead of 있다, (있다 is the verb “to be” so as you can probably guess, it’s used very frequently). There’s also the habit of adding ㅇ to the end of words (at the end of the word it makes an “ng” sound) – 감사합니다 (kamsahamnida: thank you) becomes 감사합니당 (kamsahamnidang). It’s supposed to be “cute” but it drives me insane. On a more serious note, it’s interesting to see how the gender divide isn’t as prevalent on facebook, and how sometimes the students will update their statuses or send me messages while they’re in class.

Accepting friend requests has been taking forever, because not all the students have pictures, and I want to make sure I know who every student is before accepting their requests. Following a friend’s advice, I took home my picture roster and have spent the last three days matching students’ pictures with their names, and then writing them messages. It’s taken awhile, but it’s been worth it.

A few days ago class 2.2, one of my sweetest all-girl’s classes, had one of their students pretend that her “yearbook” was ripped so that I would give her another one. Then many of the students in that class wrote me messages and presented me with the yearbook. All of the messages were sweet, but there was one that was particularly poignant from a student named SH. SH stated that she wanted to be a foreign teacher like me, and live abroad and teach Korean to foreigners. She said that I was like her mentor, and I inspired her to work hard to accomplish her dream. The day after giving me this yearbook, she friended me on facebook, and the following conversation took place:

The facebook is also an interesting way to start dialogues with students. Last night, South Korea elected it’s first female president, 박근혜 (Park Geun Hye – Park being her family name) from 새누리당 (Senuri Party), the main conservative party. As I’m not Korean, nor am I especially knowledgeable about Korean politics  I’m hesitant to state my own opinion about the election, however I will say that most of the people I’ve talked to are incredibly unhappy with the result. Nationwide, most young people (20′s, 30′s, and 40′s) voted for the main opposing candidate, Moon Jae-in, while Park Geun Hye was supported mainly by people in their 50′s and 60′s. On my teacher facebook, I asked my students what they thought of the election results, and this is what they said:

We’ll see if students continue to respond, and if they do what they say.

Closing Statement – 2.10

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

“And today, I think about all the student’s seen throughout our the year in school – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that South Korean creed: Yes we can. Please vote us.”

I told students that they had to make a short “closing statement” at the end of their debate. I left it very vague, and just told them that it should be something that would make students want to vote for them. After telling them that, I gave them five minutes to decide their speaking order, finish their posters, and write their closing statements. The above is what a group came up with independently, without asking for any help from me.

Political Parties, Issues and Stances

Friday, November 9th, 2012

I love this unit. I love it so much. Words cannot express how much I love this unit. Even the students who care nothing about politics are getting into it, and working hard to express their opinions. I had students whip out their English textbook in order to introduce vocabulary they had learned that week in their normal English class (cross-curriculum learning!). One group called me over, to help resolve a debate.

“Teacher. Our group member is crazy. She wants a dictatorship, and she wants to invade other countries. We cannot agree with her. She is a crazy girl.”

“Well, she’s not crazy – she’s a political extremist. All political parties have them. In order to succeed you have to work together and compromise.”

The political extremist smiled her sassy smile, and the other students sighed, nodded, and continued to debate.

In this tiny political microcosm, students are producing some really interesting and well-thought out opinions. I took the ones that I thought were the most interesting, or the best thought out, and am sharing them here. Take note, that while I did edit these statements before giving them back to students, I present them here unedited (spelling errors fixed, but I did not change any of the grammar or vocabulary used in the following statements) so that you can see how brilliant my students are.

“We think we should increase tax because when we are young we pay taxes more and we get old our welfare will be better.”

“We think we should export our excellent Energy Plant. Because our economy can be better and other countries can live more comfortable.”

“We think politician wage is too high so their wage should be reduced because their wage consist of tax.”

“We want to get more immigration because we have too many old people so we need young people to work, ex) 3D”

“We think Korea education need to introduce Discussion Based class because Korea students have been so stressed about existing education.”

“We want to increase the number of internship of young people because today’s youth unemployment rate is increasing.”

“We want to admit homosexual love because prejudice is bad.” [This one came from my BOYS who in my experience are more likely to make homophobic statements than the girl students. I was so proud.]

“We want to found a kindergarten that enables dual-incomes to commit their children because crime about children is being increased”

“We think temporary positions have too much unfair things because they are neglected by many people and every day they have too much stress.”

“We want to know the way of using our taxes because our taxes can be used in bad things.”

“we think we acquire more job to old people who quit job because as a counter plan of aging society, more people will be old, and their choice is limited, so we need to more job to old people.”

“We want to provide economic support (ex: education fee, found nursery, etc) because it can raise fertility rate. We want to guarantee senior citizen’s workplace because it can improve their quality of life.”

“We think smokers have to have individual trash bags because used cigarettes are making pollution, making fires.”

“We think our country improve traffic system because our natural animal is died by many crucial cars and motorcycle.”

“We want to enhance genuine gender education because we studied in school by TV but it’s not enough.”

“We need to get wartime operational control from USA because we are independent country so have right to have autonomy.”

“We need to protect multicultural families because they are isolated from our society.”

“We think government has to teach information of civil rights because ignorance makes discrimination.”

Some groups… just make me sad, or scared.

“We think we war USA because if we win we could spread our red ideas.” [This one's from the self-titled Communist Party. They also want to sell soap and toothpaste to Russia and China because they are also communist countries. I'm also 99% sure this one's a joke, unlike the ones that follow.]

“We think immigration is bad because immigrants take jobs.”

“We want to destroy the Feminist Party because they decrease men’s right.”

“We want to fair treatment because girls have taken more profit.”

It’s difficult for me to stand back and watch them write things that I vehemently disagree with, but that’s part of being a teacher. As a woman and as an immigrant (albeit, not a permanent resident), I really don’t know what I’ll do if the entire class agrees with this team’s points during the debate. I let the students write whatever they want, as long as it’s not vulgar, inappropriate, or indecent, because next week they have to stand in front of their classmates and defend it. People have the right to free speech, and they have the right to their own opinions, no matter how much I may disagree with their statements, but as they are future participatory members of society part of me hopes they’ll receive some form of verbal smackdown from their classmates.

Let the debates begin, and let the best politician be left standing.

The Ultra Skull Party

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

This lovely party was created by a group of 5 boys in 2.9.

“1) What is your party’s name?

Ultra Skull Party

2) What is your party’s symbol?

Skull and Crossed Bones

3) What is your party platform

A. Issue 1: Defense
Stance: Increase the number of hackers and buy more weapons because we are responsible for our people’s safety. Also, we should make more women soldiers.

B. Issue 2: Education
Stance: We think children don’t have to take further education. When children graduate elementary school, they should go military to save our nation.

C. Issue 3: Trade
Stance: We think we can lend our armies to other countries and make money.

D. Issue 4: Civil Rights
Stance: We think people don’t have right to speech because we have tank, gun, etc.

What sort of monster have I helped create?

Mustard Tights and Politics

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Well it’s Halloween week and while most of the other foreign teachers I’ve talked to are trying to do something Halloweeny, I’m getting in the November electorial spirit and doing politics. Politicans are scary, right? Last week we discussed issues and practiced writing with the “I think/believe _____ because _______” grammar form, and this week I broke students up into groups of five and had them create their own political parties. I had them assign each group member a role (presidential candidate, vice presidential candidate, campaign manager, publicity manager, and speechwriter), decide on a name and symbol for their party, (current favorite name: “Ultra Peace: UP”) and choose five issues and write their stances on them. This went over surprisingly well.

I had mentioned that we were going to debate in the previous lesson, so students asked if we were going to debate these topics. I said yes, we were going to have a presidential campaign and next week we would learn debate expressions and create campaign posters, and the following week we would debate. They just about lost it.

This lesson probably won’t go over nearly as well with class 2.4 later in the day, but I’m happy right now.

In other news, today I wore my mustard yellow tights again and yet again chaos ensued. Fistbump kid comes running up to me.

“Yes. Yes my tights are yellow.”
His friend chimes in “You look like 소녀시대!” I chuckle because I have no idea how my tights make me look anything like 소녀시대.
“DO YOU KNOW SEONYASIDAE? SNSD?” Fistbump kid shouts, trying to make his pronunciation of “소녀시대” as American as he can.
“Girls Generation? Yeah, I know them.”
Fistbump kid starts singing at the top of his lungs, pointing at me, as all of the kids in the hall stare.
“I am the best singer at CPHS.”
“[STUDENT'S NAME] – we have a saying in English. Don’t quit your day job.”