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JANUARY 16, 2008


E-2 regulations draw fierce debate
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Say what you want about the new E-2 visa regulations for foreign English teachers looking to teach in Korea; at least they’ve got people talking. From online forums to personal blogs to an unending stream of commentary in the editorial pages of Korea’s Englishlanguage newspapers, the Ministry of Justice’s new regulations — which require prospective teachers to submit their criminal background checks and medical exams — have had that segment of Korea’s expatriate population otherwise known as woneomin gangsa (native-speaker teachers) up in arms about what they see as racism and xenophobia. On the other side, the vernacular press has for some time been running (arguably sensationalist) reports of “foreign teachers acting badly,” including a recent report of a massive drug bust involving an apparently industrious group of foreigners (including English teachers) growing and selling their own marijuana. These reports have fueled public sentiment that the Ministry of Justice should do something to prevent drunkards, child molesters, document forgers and potheads from coming to Korea to commit crimes and otherwise upset the nation’s so-

Robert Koehler on Talking Points
cial order. In one particularly interesting report on the aforementioned drug bust, for instance, Korean broadcaster MBC even warned that teachers had allegedly taught their classes in a state of chemical impairment, speaking in voices “louder than necessary” and using “exaggerated body movements.” Well, at least we know what to look out for. Coincidentally, it’s not just the foreign teachers, Korean press and Ministry of Justice who have an opinion on the matter. Local colleges and, as one might expect, private language institutes (or hagwon) have been none too pleased with the added red tape they must deal with to recruit teachers in Korea’s overheated English-learning market. In a Jan. 4 report, the Korean-language internet newspaper NoCutNews warned that, with the winter vacation approaching, cram schools were heading for a state of emergency due to the difficulties in finding qualified teachers. With finders’ fees skyrocketing, schools warned that tuition,

too, would go up — a stern threat, actually, given how the cost of education in Korea (the growth rate of which has hit a 10-year high) has already become a major household talking point. While it’s unclear yet where all this discussion will lead, it doesn’t seem that the talk will end anytime soon. The changing face of Korea E-2 visa regulations aside, a look at the papers these days suggests that the times really are a-changin’. Take, for instance, the appointment of British banker David Eldon as co-chair of President-elect Lee Myung-bak’s transition team. Just a few years ago, this would have been next to unthinkable. Now, we have the Ministry of Justice talking about loosening regulations on foreign professionals willing to work in Korea, including the granting of permanent residency rights. Perhaps these changes should come as no surprise. Korea’s foreign population has tripled in the last decade, going from 330,000 in 1997 to over 1 million last year. With foreign laborers coming to Korea in pursuit of the “Korean dream,” and single Korean farmers marrying

young foreign women in ever-growing numbers, local media now regularly trumpet Korea’s development into a multicultural society. Just how multicultural Korea is, is open to debate; even now, foreigners and the foreign-born make up only 2 percent of Korea’s population (compared with, say, 11.8 percent in the United States as of 2002) — but still, a trip to the countryside or industrial suburbs like Ansan reveals that important changes to Korea’s ethnic and cultural landscape are taking place. In an interview in December, the head of the Ministry of Justice’s Immigration Bureau went as far as suggesting that the government needs to “educate Koreans to accept that foreigners are potential life-long participants in Korean society, and, as such, should be seen as belonging here.” In a society that has long taken pride in its ethnic homogeneity, that’s a meaningful statement. Robert is the editor-in-chief of SEOUL magazine, and the administrator of The Marmot’s Hole blog. ( — Ed.

This week’s PHOTO CHALLENGE was open to any category

Eyes, I’s and lustful desires
Jeffery Hodges on Language
If language really is a virus from outer space, as William S. Burroughs claims, then my words could prove contagious. Despite that risk, I write the Language column for Expat Living. I interpret this to mean that I can write about anything I please, so long as I use language. That sounds straightforward enough, but there is one restriction. I am told to avoid overusing the word “eye.” Apparently, well-written journalism shuns this word, which is news to me. Whatever happened to eyewitness reports? I do not mean to imply that eyewitnesses are entirely dependable, for the eyes often fool us. Think of a magician’s sleight-of-hand tricks in making things disappear before our very eyes! That happens even when we are striving to perceive the truth. More disturbing, if religious thinkers are right, our eyes actively deceive and mislead us. The Bible’s “First Letter of John” warns against “the lust of the eyes,” for our lustful desires turn us toward worldly things. Saint Augustine, commenting on this very letter, cites that same scriptural expression to disparage ocular curiosity, which distracts one from proper, spiritual pursuits, and focuses one’s attention upon worldly affairs. In his infamous “Confessions,” he even provides an example of curiosity gone disturbingly wrong, describing how it draws his fascinated gaze to the sight of a spider entangling flies that have rushed into its web. Lest one imagine distrust of the eyes to be a purely religious concern, the historian Martin Jay has shown in “Downcast Eyes” that even many secular thinkers denigrate vision. The atheist existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, for example, coined the expression “the gaze” in “Being and Nothingness” to describe how the observing eyes of strangers transform us into mere objects in their field of sight. So great a cloud of witnesses would darken anyone’s view of vision. Perhaps Expat Living’s censure of the word “eye” has merit: “eye” as eyesore! Yet the word also has a venerable history and is beloved by poets. Consider W.B. Yeats’ eyeable poem “A Drinking Song:” Wine comes in at the mouth And love comes in at the eye; That’s all we shall know for truth Before we grow old and die. I lift the glass to my mouth, I look at you, and I sigh. Continued on Page 19 Jeffery can be reached through his blog Gypsy Scholar at — Ed.

Time to clean up cunning Konglish
What exactly is Konglish and what is it not? First, it is necessary to define more clearly what Konglish is. I have broken it down into four categories. Konglish is really the use of English lexical items that have been borrowed into Korean and changed somehow, becoming Koreanized. The first often happens when an English word is used in Korean but the meaning changes to something different from the original. A Korean speaker, knowing that the word is English, uses that word when speaking English but uses the Korean meaning of the word rather than the English meaning. A perfect example of this would be the word cunning. In English, this word means sly, smart, or devious but in Korean, it means cheating. When a Korean uses cunning with the Korean meaning in an English sentence, it then becomes a Konglish word. The second type of Konglish is when Koreans again import English words into Korean and combine them to make new compound words, and then once again use these new “Korean” compound words in English. Two examples that I found perplexing upon first encounter include back mirror — rear view mirror — and handle — steering wheel. The third type of Konglish is the appropriation of brand names to be used for generic nouns. Well-known examples by native speakers include Kleenex and Xerox. However, when Korean speakers talk about a burberry to a nonKorean speaker, their interlocutor will be bewildered and not know that a burberry is a trench coat. Finally, longer English words or phrases are often contracted in Korean and then reexported in their new shortened form. Sometimes these words are easy to decipher, such as air-con or remo-con, but other times it will be difficult to guess the correct meaning — pine juice pineapple. There are Konglish examples that do not really fit into any of these categories. The most common type of these are the combination of new words with English words incorrectly. For example, a Macgyver knife is actually a Swiss Army Knife; a sharp is a mechanical pencil; and a one-piece is a dress.

Sean Smith on EFL
In Korea, when speaking Korean, none of the above examples are wrong or Konglish. They are just imported or borrowed words that have undergone change during their move into the Korean lexicon. This is a natural process that happens in all languages which borrow words from other languages. There is a tendency among foreigners and Koreans alike to think that any misuse of Korean — grammar mistakes, bad pronunciation or lexis choice are Konglish. This simply is not true. Mistakes are simply mistakes. The English learner has not yet mastered the point in question. Is any of the above really important? The answer is Yes. As teachers, we should, when the opportunity arises, teach students the correct English forms. Additionally, it is important for students to learn that Konglish, when used in Korean, is actually Korean and is not wrong. One fun activity that I do to build awareness of Konglish terms is to play a game called Konglish Auction. In the Konglish Auction, groups are provided with a list of sentences, half with correct English and half with Konglish phrases. Each group looks through the sentences and chooses the correct ones to buy during the auction. Correct sentences are worth five points, and Konglish is worth 1 point. The team with the most points at the end of the auction wins. Konglish happens when these words are then exported back into English by Koreans. The result, for the uninitiated, is often humor, confusion and general miscommunication. As teachers, we can help our students to avoid these mistakes by building awareness of the correct English forms and usage. Learners will need multiple exposures to the proper form before using it correctly in natural speech, so do not give up when they continue to make the same mistakes. Sean Smith teaches English at Hanyang University and may be contacted via his website http:/ / — Ed.

The hustle and bustle of Seoul’s busy subway. A man and a woman head off in different directions in early January at Yongsan Station.
Paul Walker/

Ask the photographer: The benefits of RAW
Q) I’m not very familiar with RAW files. What’s the difference between RAW and JPG? What’s the best way to handle and edit RAW files? — Billy, Seoul A) RAW files are becoming a very popular format, as more and more cameras offer to handle this useful file type. RAW is the equivalent of a digital negative, and was developed for DSLR cameras. RAW is clearly superior to JPG. RAW is lossless, which means that image quality is not lost due to compression. RAW files also retain all of the shooting data from when you took the photo. This information is called EXIF data. It includes focal length, aperture, white balance, focal point, a full histogram of your image, and other useful statistics. One of the biggest advantages is that many settings, such as white balance, can actually be changed in post-processing. RAW also has advantages during editing, since the file quality is much higher. Lossy file types, like JPG, suffer from artifacts when the image is heavily edited. Artifacts are portions of the photo that are missing because the image is compressed. This problem is much less common in RAW file types. RAW currently has a few disadvantages. RAW images are much bigger in size, meaning that you’ll get fewer shots on your memory card. You can compress your RAW files to reduce their size. Some people say that this reduces the quality, but there’s no definitive evidence yet. I compress my RAW files, and have never noticed any problems as a result. Also, RAW is a specialized file type. Windows XP doesn’t natively handle RAW files. So, to view these files, you need to download a RAW viewer, or use photographic workflow programs that have RAW codecs, such as Adobe Bridge, Lightroom, Gimp or other specialized photo-handling software. One way around this is to shoot RAW and JPG together. You can review the JPG images, then use the RAW files for editing. The obvious downside is that you’re making two copies of every image, further reducing the number of images on your memory card. These days, since portable hard drives are prevalent, and memory cards are growing in capacity, all serious photographers should be shooting in RAW. The result means much higher-quality images and greater flexibility when editing photos. However, don’t switch to RAW because someone said so. If you’re a casual photographer and don’t do much editing, then JPG may be for you. Happy shooting. Send David a message at or visit his website at If you want to be a part of the weekly Photo Challenge, join the “Seoul Photo Club” group at flickr ( and for more information see Seoul Photo Club on Facebook. — Ed.