Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Denial Much? It's Not Just Korea...It's Everyone!

Update 2 (September 9 @ 2:15pm)

I didn't watch it, but a lot of people who did say that the KBS "exposé" on foreign teachers in Korea and their bad, bad, bad behavior was more balanced than not.

View from the fence: KBS on criminal teachers
ZenKimchi: The (Latest) KBS Anti-Foreigner Show

That's great! Really, there is no sarcasm there. It only helps to renforce the point I've expressed a few times over that, in general, Koreans appear to have a much faster learning curve on issues like prejudice because, mostly, it stems from ignorance and not mallice.

However, it still irks me they focus so much on what foreigners are doing but often turn a blind eye to what their own are doing. I mean in a country of over 40 million people where the foreign population has just now topped the 1,000,000 mark, their time would be much more effective chasing down the bad Mr. Kims out there.

This fake degree stuff would plummet with both foreigners and Koreans if Koreans simply took the time to verify credentials. People would still try to cheat, but they'd get sorted out more often than not.


Update 1 (September 6 @ 7:04pm)

This got me so riled up that with my friend's help we opined on academic fakery and our opinions on it last night: Podcast #31 - Academic Fakery and the New Jack Hustle

Check it out and then go on to comment on how wrong, judgmental, or stereotypically American we are!

Cheers! ;-)

Okay, I got a phone call today that was really bothersome.

My academic advisor at Ewha GSIS, who is a foreigner here, is listed on the Ewha GSIS website as having a PhD from both Trinity College in Dublin and Georgetown in the US.

Now this is through no fault of his own, but because the people entering the information at Ewha couldn't either 1) be bothered to get the information right or 2) intentionally chose to write something inaccurate he's got an overzealous reporter on his trail.

A reporter at the Korea Times called me today to ask me questions about this. He asked me if my advisor misrepresented himself. I told him that, to my knowledge, he had not. I told him that, as an Oxford, Kent, and Trinity grad, my professor would have no reason whatsoever to inflate his credentials to get a job here.

I also told him that I have a J.D., and that I've had a couple of situations where the schools I've worked for have taken it upon themselves to change my information. Instead of listing me as a J.D., I've been listed as an M.A. or even a PhD. I also have a friend, Mike aka the Metropolitician, that this has happened to also.

I told the reporter that's probably what happened with my advisor.

He then asked me who made the error. My reply was how was I to know who made the error. However, what he should do is to contact my professor and the schools to check. Since this type of mistake/exaggeration is common here, it was essentially harmless because he did attend Georgetown while he was pursuing his PhD at Trinity. That's easily confirmed.

Again, I told him he should contact my professor directly. The reporter's explaination was he feared that my advisor would "lie". That ruffled my Western feathers a bit because it shows me this fake degree stuff is turning into a witch hunt rather than a true quest for the truth.

I know leading questions when I hear them. Of course, I contacted my prof to tip him off and he replied letting me know that he'd spoken to this reporter twice today.

Since I got the call, got questions seemed to be asked to clearly steer me into a specific answer and I know the Korean media can be less than professional, I've decided to head them off at the pass. This is strictly preemptive because I've seen this way too many times. Nothing has been written or published yet, and it unless he finds evidence of clear lying, it should stay that way. Basically, he needs to find another target.

I'm all for investigating and I'm all for disclosure when it's proven that someone's intentionally misrepresented themselves. However, just as something recently took off about Daniel Henney (linked below). It's seem the same madness is being directed at my professor.

I hope that this reporter doesn't decide to publish anything suggesting my advisor lied. However, dear aggressive reporter, if you do, be warned you're definitely stretching here.

Honestly, why not write about the cultural and structural reasons why this happens so often? That would be a better story and might actually turn the tide in Korea to changing the situation rather than denial where they get to say "well, see??? Those nasty foreigers do it too." Well, some might but it doesn't go as deep as it does here and we know that too.

My feeling is that because it's hit the international press (New York Times and Associated Press) that whole "shame" thing has kicked in and now Korean reporters are scrambling to show it's not just us, you all do it too.

Reporting and fact-finding is cool. However, witch hunts aren't.

Now I've got to run off to record a podcast. I'll update this with more links later.

As stated, they even tried to string up Daniel Henney. The fact is liberties are often taken regarding academic qualifications here in Korea but the issue is if the person lied or not. If they didn't, there is no story and no amount of leading questions will generate one.

Go after the real liars, dear reporters.

Oh, speaking of Korean reporters who want to distract people. Yet another TV special about all of those depraved English teachers out there. It's so lame that you can just click over for commentary: Sex, Drugs and English Teachers. The Marmot actually saw the show. I didn't bother.

Some articles on the education issue here in Korea (sometimes not direct research but Korea is mentioned):

Asia Times: Life and Death Exams in South Korea
Asia Pacific Education Review (2002, Vol. 3, No. 1, 125-135): The Relationship Between Students’ Perceptions of Classroom Environment and Their Academic Achievement in Korea or here
Shanghai Star: GRE computor test to be ended in China, S. Korea
The Educational Forum: Cheating in Middle School and High School

Sphere: Related Content


  1. "That would be a better story and might actually turn the tide in Korea to changing the situation rather than denial where they get to say "well, see??? Those foreigers do it too." Well, some might but it doesn't go as deep as it does here and we know that too."

    You don't know how deep it goes on in other countries, so you can't say that Korea does it more than the rest of the world. That's your assumption. When you can prove that you have the experience working in other countries besides the US and Korea, then I would consider your statement. Right now, it has no legitimacy.

  2. Give me a break.

    Yes, I'll admit is anecdotal, at best, and it's squarely based on my experience of living and working here. However, I’d be willing to bet a very large sum that if studies were done my hunch would turn out to be very much true.

    Tell me, why is it that references aren't routinely checked here in Korea? Tell me why is it that degrees weren't routinely verified for foreigners until just a couple of years ago here? Tell me why they've just figured out that they ought to verify anyone's academic background even if it's a Korean?

    I was completely perplexed when I started applying to get work here. This was particularly so because I was applying for jobs at universities. Why wouldn’t they go out of their way to verify EVERYTHING I’d said? I was used to things in the States where you KNOW they're going to contact your school. You KNOW they're going to ask for and actually follow-up with references. And when you KNOW they’re going to check out your story, believe me, you’re less likely to make things up.

    I don't know how deep it goes in other countries, for sure. I'll even admit that people lie back home too.

    However, in my home country, the USA, someone who drops out of Harvard can build himself up and have one of the most successful companies in the world.

    Tell me how often that happens here? I think if it could happen people in Korea wouldn't be so suck on paper and the benefits that come with it because they'd see that merit does stand for something too.

    Also, I know that in my home country, when I go home to apply for work, they’re going to reach back to my undergrad, law school and even Ewha to verify my degrees. When I apply to a PhD program the schools are going to check and want verification about not only my education, but the rest of my story about what I’ve been up to. Hence why you need and why they actually check references.

    That’s just starting to happen here and, if you live or work here, you know that.

    So bring it on because your point is acknowledged and trumped.

  3. "So bring it on because your point is acknowledged and trumped."

    No, you did not trump my point.

    "Yes, I'll admit is anecdotal, at best, and it's squarely based on my experience of living and working here. However, I’d be willing to bet a very large sum that if studies were done my hunch would turn out to be very much true."

    Anecdotal. Hunch. Nothing left to say. Why don't you actually do your research before making assumptions? I'm not denying that false degrees are a problem in Korea, but you do have a tendency to project an "us vs. them" mentality on Koreans, singling them out unfairly. That is what I took issue with. America is mainly progressive, while Korea is backwards, etc. That is your point.

    "That would be a better story and might actually turn the tide in Korea to changing the situation rather than denial where they get to say "well, see??? Those foreigers do it too." Well, some might but it doesn't go as deep as it does here and we know that too."

    America is not superior in every aspect to Korea. Korea is not as litigious as America and not so quick to out someone like in America where there is a mass "witchhunt" to out people for shaving their legs or other silly things, etc.

  4. Yes, I did trump you because your point was I don't have some social studies report.

    Most things don't have the social studies reports to back them up. In the interim people make the best deductions that they can and, yes, some of those deductions have been very wrong. However, on this one, it's pretty clear from the sad focus on status and prestige degrees that Korean society sets up a system where it's actually rational to lie and cheat.

    You don't get second chances. You don't get to take the test again in most cases for months or years. I'm sure there are some merit-based success stories here, but I've yet to hear any. Everyone seems to feel the need to wrap themselves up in degrees as the way to status.

    Of course, education is valuable. I'd never trade mine in, but this environment sets people up to cheat. If you're arguing otherwise, I'd say you're in some deep denial.

    I never said the US is superior to Korea in every aspect, so don't wander on here putting words into mouth.

    Click on some of my earlier posts where I was tearing into my president quite frequently and posts where I've placed the blame squarely on the US electorate for the shit-storm we've caused pretty much worldwide. Then double back and accuse me of saying that America is superior.

    Beyond that, that point isn't even worth addressing any further.

    Take the "us vs. them" accusations to another Korea blog.

  5. Admit it, you were wrong.

  6. Well, either we're going to go back and forth on it or you'll be smart enough to accept that you're on my turf and I'm not going to back down.

    I'm right.

    Stop trolling or go back to Mike's blog to troll.

    Take care.

  7. It's cool to watch you defend your turf....

    As opposed to being the one who (whom???) you are defending against.

    Go Regina! Go!!!

  8. Yeesh. I've got cheerleaders.

    This blogosphere is a strange place.


Hey there! Thanks for visiting my blog. It's my first blog, and I'm glad folks are still stopping by even though I'm no longer living in South Korea. Feel free to comment. If you want a personal answer, leave your email, and I won't publish the comment. Nasty comments and spam links will not be tolerated.