Thursday, October 14, 2010

Korea is a funny place

These days there are all kinds of ads for jobs in the major universities that don't start until March 1st. Why are they advertising so early? Because xenophobic paranoia has led to hastily enacted rules that require foreigners to jump through a lot more hoops before they can be legally employed here. New laws that are being enforced by people who think they might possibly have forgotten to actually read them but they think they can probably, almost, partly figure out the implied, intended spirit of them.

For example, the criminal record check I got 2 years ago from the Calgary Police force that accessed national records and said that I had not committed any crimes in the country of Canada is no longer any good here. In fact, I understand that even if it were valid, I'd have to get another one because 2 years is too old. Regardless of the fact that I have lived in Korea for the past 5 years so could not have committed any crimes in Canada, prior to that was employed at schools in Canada that required more stringent criminal record checks than Korean schools, and even had high level security clearance in Canada because I actually worked FOR THE RCMP, the agency at which they are forcing me to apply for my new Criminal Record Check. None of this means anything to the people of Korea because a few attrocities have been committed and rules have been broken and because they were attrocities committed and rules bent by foreigners, made big news, so now the entire country thinks there is a good chance all ESL teachers here are potential child molesters with fake degrees.

So I have to get a new CRC, which takes about 4-6 months, and I need to get my degree verified for the umpteenth time. You see every few years the Korean government notices a rash of Korean people who have attained high positions on the strength of phony degrees. So what is the appropriate thing to do? Why, get all the foreigners to have their degrees verified at their own expense, of course! It has cost me 40 bucks twice to get my degree verified at immigration. It cost me more than that once to have sealed transcripts mailed to my employer. And schools I worked for have verified my degree themselves on a few occasions. Not good enough! Now I need to get it verified, by my employer, through the Korean Council for Universities Association. No doubt this will cost me some more dough.

The cost for the new federal CRC through the Canadian RCMP will be 25 Canadian dollars. It can only be paid by certified check or money order. Well, foreigners can't get certified checks in Korea undoubtedly because one or two people sent their money home via certified check and Koreans have this drastic aversion to that practice. My Korean friend who had a business in Korea for several years is moving to Canada and has no idea how she will transfer her money there. And she's KOREAN! Foreigners can no longer use credit cards or debit cards to access THEIR money in Korean banks even though the bankers will always tell you they are international cards and even put phony Cirrus/Maestro or whatever stamps on them. They don't work. And if you take cash out of a Korean bank, go to another country and find a Korea Exchange Bank, they will not exchange the Korean cash for you.

And there are other problems too. New rules for foreigners needing their alien cards to do practically everything in this country. I couldn't even get into the country on a tourist visa without having a ticket out even though the immigration officer told me I could. YES, immigration officers and bank tellers actually ARE being trained to lie to foreigners. Not really a new practice but it IS new policy. Also, in order to use my bank account in Korea I need to continuously update my bank book. The other day I tried to do that and was asked by the teller to show her my alien card. I have no alien card but showed her my passport and my visitor's visa that is good till the end of February. She updated my book and froze my account. New policy. FURTHERMORE, if you are trying to get a job here and need the CRC you must find a bank somewhere, (and good luck with this one!), that can give you a Canadian money order. Most tellers don't know what they are and will lie to you and tell you their bank doesn't issue them. If this happens you need to go to another teller and maybe another teller, (possibly in the same bank), until you finally get one who knows what money orders are. THEN you need to ask for CANADA dollars because they don't know what Canadian dollars are. And you might even have to use the letters O.D.D. because this is the term used only in Korea for something that is used only by foreigners who have never heard of it. THEN after all of that they may ask you once again for your alien card to get the money order needed for the CRC needed to get the job needed to get the work visa needed to actually get an alien card. In short, if you don't have a job in Korea, you can't apply for one because you need an alien card to get an alien card. New policy!

But none of this matters to Koreans either. So long as they think they are safe from the .0001% of foreigners who are nasty to Koreans. Why would any foreigner be nasty to Koreans?

I, and plenty of my colleagues, am suffering through all of this craziness that almost seems designed with the sole purpose of making things as tough for foreigners as possible, for the right to work at facilities with slogans like "Global Elite," "Global Future," "Globalization For Tomorrow," "We Love Foreigners," and other such irony. I admit I made up that last one. We are stringently abiding by Korean laws, being fingerprinted, scanned and interrogated to make sure we haven't so much as jaywalked in our lives to work at institutions that routinely practice academic fraud, degree selling, cheat on standardized testing, fudge attendance and marks and ask or even REQUIRE us to do so as well. We are forced to verify our credentials on about a bi-annual basis for the honour of working at these institutions who commonly maintain 75% minimum grades for all students and hand out "diplomas" and "degrees" to people who haven't even shown up for class.

Not only that but the trend is now toward accepting only teachers with Master's degrees in related fields like TESOL, TEFL, Linguistics etc. AND they are paying less and less money.

What do you suppose will be the end result of all of this? I know, because over the 10 years I've spent here this sort of thing has just been snowballing. What is going to happen is the businesses, (and make no mistake, it is erroneous to call them schools), will need these Master's-holding teachers because they have promised them to the parents of their prospective students, (who are notoriously knocked out by letters after a person's name), but the teachers won't be available BECAUSE 1. it's too hard to jump through all the hoops, 2. Koreans don't like foreigners and make it obvious, 3. if a guy gets a good degree the first place he'll try to use it WON'T be Korea. So the businesses, not the teachers, the businesses will get to work forging fake documentation for workers they hire at their schools. The government will eventually find out but will not punish the Koreans, rather the foreigners will be disciplined and deported and it will make all the TV news reports, newspapers and Korean media and we'll be at it ONE MORE TIME. In my career here this is the 3rd discernable cycle of this that I have noticed.

It's a funny, funny place this country they call Korea! That's why some clever foreigner invented "OINK!" which means Only IN Korea!

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