Monday, July 28, 2008

National Snipe Hunt

Well I'm officially counting down the days remaining at Mokpo U. and in Mokpo. I only wish I could just transfer from school to school without paying the excruciating visits to the tribulation office. That's what I call the immigration offices here in Korea because I have found no greater suffering than what they cause on a daily basis. If you want some details I am sure you can read through the archives on this blog. I have seen a couple decent workers at a couple of the offices here. But in general, MIND BOGGLING incompetence! And with the envigoration of chauvinistic "Us" vs. "them" attitudes in Korea I shudder to think what awaits me this time.

I know about the new rules. Medical tests for AIDS and drugs. Understandable since all us foreigners are promiscuous junkies. No, seriously that doesn't bother me. Korea isn't the first country to require these tests. The one I'm concerned about is the mandatory criminal record check. In principal this is not a bad idea. And it's easy to require criminal record checks before granting visas to people coming into a country for the first time. Other countries do it. No big deal. But because Korea didn't just want to make their country safer from criminals, they wanted to punish the foreigners at the same time they made it mandatory for all foreigners already in the country as well. The rule was imposed in the heat of the moment closely behind some isolated incidents of reprehensible foreigner behaviour without full knowledge or concern for the far reaching implications and logistic nightmares the rule would cause both foreigners AND Koreans. I think they are beginning to realize their mistake now that schools are complaining about states in the U.S. that require 4 or 5 months to complete the process. In Canada the proper way to do it requires a trip home. Not many teachers here consider our jobs worth it. Teachers are leaving. GOOD teachers are leaving and it's probably hurting Korea as much as or more than it's hurting the teachers here. It's probably similar with other foreign workers. And if the business environment in Korea continues to look less and less stable to foreign businesses, Korea will just become LESS attractive for foreign workers. Korea has shot itself in the foot on this one. So why don't they repeal the law or deep six the rule? Aye there's the rub! You see if you do something brainless in this society it's fine. No loss of face. But if you admit that it was stupid or, (oh my GOD), CHANGE it, well then you've lost more face than Mickey Rourke.

So the people here who instituted all this nonsense are walking around acting like they've got everything under control, maintaining that they knew what they were doing all along and just telling the troops to stay the course even though they can't clearly define exactly what that course might be. Every single immigration office has different ideas of what these new rules are. There exists no nationally distributed explanations of them. And if there did immigration officers wouldn't read them. I can't tell you how many times I've told immigration officers about rules they didn't know. Even though they are VERY easy to find online. But knowing their jobs is secondary in the training of immigration officers aparently. The most important thing, (as in other aspects of Korean life), is to follow orders. Find someone in charge and even if he is lying to you, winding you up or just a complete idiot, you follow his orders without question or hisitation.

Sometimes this country reminds me of a snipe hunt on a massive scale. Ever been on a snipe hunt? It's one of the rights of passage in western societies that gets us past dependance and down the road to being responsible adults. We do it while we are camping in the wilderness. The people in positions of authority, (camp counselors, scout leaders etc.), tell the campers that the snipe is in season and they give all the kids a sack and a stick. They tell them to draw the snipe out by making a "snipe... snipe... snipe" sound, then whack it with the stick, put it in the sack and bring it back to camp. They are told not to come back without a snipe. The counselors promise a reward like a badge or something that they will never have to deliver because there are no snipes. The people in positions of authority have a few beers together and laugh at the kids whacking the bushes and calling out, "Snipe... snipe... snipe." It can go on for hours sometimes before the kids realize that their superiors lied to them and that sometimes it pays to question.

I've taught in Korea a long time. I've held many classes where I have lied to my students through the entire class only to tell them at the end that everything I had told them was false. They often say, "Oh, bad teacher." But I tell them, "No, good teacher." I don't think they get it. And I don't think I've had a student who questioned me. And I'm the NICE teacher! Not the stern, daunting authority figures they have to face in their other classes.

I don't think they do snipe hunts in Korea because the kids would never come back. They'd be located years later in the outer reaches of Mongolia living in mud huts, using implements fashioned with tree bark and sharp stones, practicing cannibalism, and saying, "Snipe... snipe... snipe..."

I'm laughing at Koreans now. Just like the camp counselors laugh at the gullibility of the campers I am laughing at the well trained Koreans who believe stories much harder to believe than the snipe lie. For instance, Koreans sometimes work for nothing. They sometimes go into work early and come home late but get no overtime. They sometimes take on extra responsibility gladly for no extra pay. They do anything their bosses tell them to. Why? Because their society trains them to be obedient and unquestioning and their boss always tells them that there are no other jobs out there. They are really lucky to have the job they have. When really the boss is the lucky one to have a good and gullible employee in a society where unemployment rates are the stuff we can only dream about in other countries. It's easy to find work in Korea but hard to find good employees. Yet every worker thinks the opposite. Snipe... snipe... snipe...

Somebody has to grow a pair and say, "I'm not doing that unless you pay me," or "Let's grandfather the foreign worker that are already here and only make new ones get the criminal checks. In a few years everyone will have had one," or "There really are no snipes here are there? You were just messing with us, right?" I don't see anyone doing this where it matters. The questioning of authority in the form of protests is encouraging but Koreans usually only protest the unimportant things they are permitted to protest. Sort of like the protest zones set up by the Chinese for the Olympic games. You need PERMITS to protest! Who's gonna protest? They've rounded up all the known dissidents and thrown them in jail to "beautify" China for the Olympics. And speaking of beautifying, the Chinese are building some more great walls to block out the neighbourhoods of working poor in Beijing.

It's better than China here but still this all worries me because I am having a provincial criminal record check done by my brother right now. The federal check would probably be impossible without going back to Canada. I know it's WAY harder and not worth the effort. Especially for me. I worked for the R.C.M.P. before coming to Korea. The security clearance needed for that job was higher than the criminal record checks required here. Since that time I have been in Korea, crime free, for all but 2 years. Do you think Korea could trust me for those 2 years? I mean if I haven't committed a crime in my 8 years here, chances are I pose a pretty low danger to snap into a sociopathic crime rampage. I've taught little girls; I've taught little boys; I've taught stewardesses; I've driven here; I've been cheated out of thousands of dollars. No sex crimes. No violent crimes. That's worth nothing because they have been given an Order.

Anyway, I may be worrying for nothing. Since nobody knows what they are doing, they just might accept the provincial c.r.c. It's getting late here. I had better chop up this body and put it in the freezer before I take my AIDS meds, shoot up and go to bed. Alone. I'm not even gonna joke about sex crimes. I think that's probably what started this whole mess in the first place. Fuckin' Christopher Paul Neil! As if his crime didn't make him bad enough. Now foreigners in Korea have even more reason to hate that bastard.

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