Moon Chang-keuk won’t give up, and other crap I read: June 20, 2014

Moon’s got balls. I’ll give him that.

Despite a second call by Rep. Suh Chung-won for him to step down and even signs Cheong Wa Dae wants its pick back, Moon Chang-keuk shows no signs of throwing in the towel:

Prime Minister nominee Moon Chang-keuk said Thursday that he would press ahead with preparations for an envisioned National Assembly confirmation hearing.

“My position has not changed. I will do what I can do now to prepare for my confirmation hearing,” Moon said.

His remarks put more pressure on Cheong Wa Dae.

For what it’s worth, Moon’s now saying all the right things about the Comfort Women, the Kono Statement, his historical heroes (Ahn Jung-geun, Ahn Chang-ho) and Dokdo. I still think he’s screwed, though.

If you read Korean—and come on, you know you do—there’s a pretty good take-down of Moon’s historical views in NoCutNews. In particular, Moon is criticized for focusing almost exclusively on negative depictions of late Joseon, particular by early nationalist and later Japanese collaborator Yun Chi-ho, while ignoring positive depictions of late Joseon by observers like Isabella Bird Bishop. Mind you, even in the world of online historical debate, this is a frequently seen tactic.

I’ll also say that while I don’t know Moon personally, I suspect his historical views are very much a product of how his generation was taught. Even after the Japanese went home, colonial historiography continued to impact the way Korean history was understood and taught for quite some time. His generation viewed pre-modern Korea, and the late Joseon Dynasty in particular, as weak, corrupt, faction-ridden, superstitious and, in a word, backwards. Basically, everything the Japanese told them they were. It’s not a coincidence that Korea’s post-war political elites—many of whom, like late President Park Chung-hee, were Japanese educated and trained—launched a war on Korea’s very own traditional culture as part of their modernization efforts. Throw in the Jesus factor, and then it’s no surprise Moon has a serious hate-on for his own country’s history.

More people disapprove of President Park

On a related note, a poll by Gallup Korea shows that the Moon Chang-keuk fiasco has helped drive President Park’s approval rating below her disapproval rating for the first time ever.

The president’s approval rating stood at 43%, while 48% of respondents disapproved of the way she was running the joint. Of the people who disapproved, 39% cited her personnel choices, nearly twice the number from the week before.

Interestingly enough, support for the Saenuri Party was 42%, while support for the opposition alliance was 31%.

Gov’t strips KTU of legal status

Well, this is interesting:

A Seoul court ruled yesterday that the country’s second-largest teachers’ union cannot maintain its legal status, rejecting its claim that the government’s decision to outlaw it violated basic labor rights for teachers in the group.

The ruling yesterday by the Seoul Administrative Court, which handles challenges to government administration, effectively stripped the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union of its legal status and will allow the government to take further action, including stripping it of its collective bargaining rights and requiring teachers working full time at the union to return to their schools.

Last October, the government banned the union because it refused to expel nine union members who were dismissed from their schools.

In case we can’t recall why those teachers were fired:

The decision to strip KTU of its legal status was made after the union accepted nine fired teachers as members. By law, groups cannot accept fired workers as members. KTU has about 600,000 members.

According to association, two of the nine fired teachers were dismissed after protesting school corruption or overall policy. Six were fired for illegal campaigning, accruing donations for a liberal candidate for the 2008 Seoul superintendent race.

Another was fired after preparing material for a seminar with other teachers using a North Korean textbook. All nine teachers lost in their legal bids to return to their schools.

The Chosun Ilbo notes that the union could regain its legal status if it just kicks out the sacked teachers, and warns that if the union continues to fight, it will only harm the kids ™. The Hankyoreh complains that the court focused too much on the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit, and noted that both the ILO and even Korea’s own human rights body have called for the letter of the law to be changed. It also points out that in the last election, progressives won 13 out of 18 regional school superintendent races, and of those 13, eight winners were KTU. Lastly, it warns that if the government and ruling party continue their war against the KTU, it will only harm the kids ™.

My guess is that the Hani has a point, but my view is clouded by my own not-entirely-positive views about the KTU. To be sure, I’m sure the bulk of their members are well-meaning, dedicated teachers and if you think the Korean education system has got problems—and if my comment section is anything to go by, many of you do—then the KTU is probably your best and perhaps only ally. That said, I’m also sure that a significant number of union members see the classroom as the front line in the revolutionary and (pro-North Korean) reunification struggles, which I find abhorrent. I suppose the trick for the government is to find a way to isolate the troublemakers without completely antagonizing the entire union. How they do that, I haven’t a clue.

How NOT to succeed as an Asia-based expat

At Sweet Pickles and Corn, Mr Motgol has posted a pretty entertaining satire/warning and how NOT to succeed in Asia. Read it on your own—here’s just a sample:

[S]ome of my fellow expats have it the other way around. They come to Asia, and THEN implode. Whether they blow all their cash, burn their bridges, or just piss the wrong people off, I’ve seen more than my share of expats unravel here. With their tail quivering between their legs they grab what they can, stuff it into their bags, and crawl onto that first plane home. The rest of us shake our heads and wonder how can this happen in Asia, where–at least for us pampered, spoon-fed Westerners–things are just so damned easy. How is it possible to ASS OUT in a land where Westerners are generally given a berth fit for a cruise ship?

  • Sumo294

    KTU is a union and like all unions–they will act in their self interest. The only reason why they do some things for the kids is because your average mom in Korea will go nuts if they at least did not pretend to care about education. When the second generation of bureaucrats take over the KTU–you will see real darkness and hell begin to start. America had the best public schools at one point–but then it became unionized and then the counter culture ilk took it over and now you have a hellhole of education that no man or woman or Earth can fix.

  • namepen

    Why are expats in Korea such tossers to one another?? It seems they
    aren’t happier than when they are decrying other expats as ‘losers’ or

    I have lived in a few countries and in most of them
    the English speaking expat community has always been friendly and on
    good terms.

  • Sumo294

    Depends on the size–when its large like in Thailand–the old divisions come back out. The expat community is considerable in Korea–and its natural that subdivisions will occur. For example most Americans will not willingly hang out with a Frenchie Canadian.

  • Wedge1

    You must not know the right people. This is one of the best expat communities I’ve ever seen, and I hang out with people from all over, even the dreaded French Canuckies.

  • namepen

    I mean to say the online expat community.

    When I was in other countries we didn’t go around labeling each other losers because we taught English.

  • Sumo294

    Its different in Thailand and Japan because there everyone does the same job. Here some expats teach at colleges, or teach English exclusively for one company, or work for the government. Many expats here also work for companies working on expat packages. So if you are a lit major working working at a hogwan–you are at an entry level position. I knew one guy in Itaewon who did voice overs–he worked about eight hours a week for about 5K US dollars a month. He spent his days drinking beers and reading books at his favorite bar–he was a very happy and content guy. I raise chickens in Jeju–my little girls will soon be laying multi-colored eggs that I will be selling to the more prosperous as organic and free range (these wonderful eggs will also raise the IQ of your children and help them get into Seoul University–yes indeed–of course, I promise this is true-protein is good for the brain). In Thailand–expats have the beach for stress relief and smoked a lot of weed. In Japan–those who got stressed out left for Korea.

  • Christian Karl

    “KTU has about 600,000 members” No, just 60,000!

  • Aja Aja

    So let me get this straight. One guy got fired for using a North Korean text book to teach North Korean ideology to his classroom. Yet the KTU is protecting him?
    I’m not surprised.

  • brier

    I thought the article about expatiates a fun read. The Asia Fail could be Europe Fail, or a South American Fail, or an Any Where Fail. It’s self defeating behavior. I don’t think it’s special to Korea or expatiates in Asia.

    Maybe the reason it is fun read is because we see a small, wee bit of ourselves in a category, or we know personally somebody who matches a category nearly perfectly and nod our heads?

    Surely the clean living, righteous, family oriented locals would doubly agree with that blog posting!

  • brier

    And speaking about being overseas, not like this Korean has any issues about being out of country.

  • redwhitedude

    The KTU needs to learn its place and it isn’t unilaterally setting the agenda on what and how to teach things.

  • Sumo294

    A good ten percent of them would openly teach Juche if they could get away with it. They take public tax dollars and use it to teach their own agenda–sound familiar to anyone?

  • redwhitedude

    They should be terminated for “not complying with terms of employment”.

  • Dan Strickland

    Robert, thanks for the comments on the Moon brouhaha, especially on the perspectives his generation, the post-war elites, held on pre-Occupation Chosun. I don’t know what current views of that era are now, although the positive TV shows of 명성황후 are promising. It’s a shame when people get embarrassed about the roots because they’ve been sold a load of crap. For the longest time, my 장모님 was ashamed of Korean food, for example, because when she was in school in Japan she got told repeatedly how stinky her food was.

  • pawikirogii

    like your avatar! please, nothing over 5k usd.

  • RElgin

    It depends upon the quality of the individual; not where they are from.
    Frankly, there are many Korean high school kids I would rather hang out with than expats.