Friday, December 08, 2006

South Korupta

I was talking to a friend the other day who told me she saw a study of corrupt countries of the world that ranked South Korea as number one. I hope I don't have to tell anyone that studies of such impossible to study things as corruption are just slience. Any good corruption, or successful corruption wouldn't be noticed by anyone. But most particularly people who are trying to measure it. It's probably a good practice to look at corruption or "transparency" lists and take the bottom countries and the top countries as the bad ones. Those are the most corrupt. The bottom countries, which usually include countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Chad, Cameroon etc. are countries too corrupt or just too stupid to care about hiding their corruption. But the top countries, which usually include Iceland, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Singapore etc. are probably just better at hiding their corruption, in fact making them better at corruption and perhaps more corrupt. And you have to wonder about how corrupt the people are who make these transparency lists. You can bet countries like S. Korea have offered the list makers bribes to keep their country somewhere in the middle. Take that to the bank.

At any rate, I am really starting to see how Korea is literally a country set up to encourage corruption and in fact it is almost necessary to survival here. I'm not talking about the folk tales Koreans tell their children in which the moral is lying, cheating and stealing means you are growing up. I'm not talking about the fact that every time I play a game or give a test in one of my classes just about every student cheats like a Banshee. I'm not talking about businessmen who believe that if you earn every dollar you make, you're just not doing your job. I've known those things for years. I'm talking about how I am personally impacted by the corruption here and how this country is challenging my personal honesty.

Recently, I was offered a job at a kids camp. It would have been 1.5 million won, (about 1500 bucks American), for 6 days of work. Not bad at all. The camp was trying to do things legally and asked me to get written permission from my employer. My supervisor told me that would be no problem. But after asking the "Dean of Academic Affairs" or whatever he calls himself here, (the only thing academic about this place is the fact that there is no academia here), I was told that I wouldn't be allowed to do the camp. I am an experienced camp teacher and I have lots of good ideas. I am always popular with the kids. The camp could have just hired me under the table, but they'll probably have to settle for a lesser teacher because they are trying to be honest. Bless their hearts! I'll do that camp in a second if I get another chance.

Incidentally, I did a kids camp last winter. I was able to get written permission from my employer for that one. It turned out that the, (Korean), person in charge of clearing things with immigration just chucked all the papers and permission forms, pocketed the 60 bucks for each teacher for visa fees, told everybody that he'd taken care of things and then hoped the camp wouldn't be investigated. It was investigated. What ended up happening was one of two things: either the camp was fined or they had to pay the immigration official a very large bribe. Either way each foreign teacher had 250 bucks deducted from our paychecks for "immigration purposes". So the camp didn't pay for their cheating, the foreigners did.

Similarly, there was a recent crackdown on phony degrees in Korea. Most of these phony degrees were presented to schools by Korean teacher recruiters. Teacher recruiters get a fee for finding teachers for schools. A lot of these recruiters have been just taking people without degrees, signing them up and forging degrees for them. Often without the teachers' knowledge. The results of these actions were, again, heavy penalties for the foreigners. Teachers were deported and told not to come back and every single foreigner teaching in Korea had to get their degrees verified at our own expense.

But back to the camp. Why was I not allowed to go? It is because last session at final exam and report card time I was told, after I had already completed my actual evaluations and attendance, that the NEW and improved attendance and grade forms must be signed. I basically told them to go fuck themselves. But in a nicer way. I think I told them that I'm not gonna cover their asses by signing these forms, thereby taking responsibility for the academic fraud thereon. They were angered. They couldn't believe my gaul! The nerve of me refusing to break the law! So they were just waiting for some petty revenge and the camp permission was refused for that reason. I did the legal, honest thing and it cost me 1500 bucks.

I don't want you to think I've made no effort at trying to do nice things for this "school". I've tried to do some extras and hoped that my superiors would have treated me better as a result. I offered to take care of everything for my own exams and give them during class time thereby allowing me to hand in my grades and attendance early and allowing the kids to concentrate on their majors during exam week. It also saved the school the effort of copying my exams for me and hiring someone else to proctor them. I like to do this because although the kids still cheat when I'm giving the exam, they aren't allowed to cheat as much. So it's better for everybody. This request was met with monumental mistrust. They just knew I had to have some ulterior motive for asking this. So despite not knowing what that motive might have been, the request was refused.

I have more recently been "allowed" to do extra work and come into school to proctor exams during exam week when I would otherwise be doing nothing and getting paid for it. I guess they see this as doing ME a favour because only a day after permission to do the camp was refused, I was called and told that I would be "allowed" to proctor my exams again! Yay!

I have been a model employee for my "school". I kicked ass on student evaluations; I taught special classes including one where I cooked spaghetti for my entire class; I got the students to write recipes in English as homework and I typed them out and added each chef's profile and a picture of their dish and made cookbooks for the people who did the assignment; I have always handed everything in VERY early; I have never been late and only missed two hours of teaching because of a cold; and I've taught make-up, (not cosmetics lol), classes without complaint. I'm trying to catch flies with sugar here. And what do I get? The flies demand more sugar and make a mess of my dinner table while they're eating.

Well it's final exam, report card and attendance time again. And again I'll be damned if I'm gonna fudge marks and attendance figures. No more sugar. I've run out. But I am also looking for a new job at this time. I'm pretty sure that most places where I am applying will call up this "college" and ask about my performance here. And I'm pretty sure all the sugar is not going to factor into their response. They will probably give me a terrible review to any school that asks about me. Why? Because I'm just too honest for my own good. Too honest for this country anyway.

It is a wonderful country, South Korupta! And despite my better judgement telling me to give it up, I will be vigilant and continue my one-man crusade to try to make this place just a tiny bit more honest.

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