Tag Archives: xenophobia

New World

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After a few hours to absorb it, I’m still numb at the reality the world has woken up to. It’s not gonna be as catastrophic as many people have predicted, I’m sure, but it is sad that a person at his most vile was rewarded the highest office in the land. This is what the world has come to. I’m not an American. I’m a Canadian. I’m not even in North America at the moment. I arguably don’t have a dog in this fight. But as a person who likes to think he’s decent, who cares for others (women, minorities, disabled people, the poor), someone who values facts and science, and as an immigrant of color, the world is a darker place. I could go on and on, but let me just list a few lessons learned from the whole thing.

  1. Do not get too comfortable with progress. I believe this is the hubris of the Democratic Party. They believed that since Americans voted for Obama twice, the country is essentially progressive and it would reflect easily on the ballot. Instead of going full progressive with Sanders, they decided to go with what their donors want and ran with the weaker candidate. And they’re not the only ones who got too comfortable. People who decided to stay home, voted for third party candidates, or sat this out because their chosen candidate (Bernie) was not in the ballot basically cost the election due to their hubris. No one will ever remember your vote for Jill Stein. No one. Every social gain must be cherished and protected. And now it’s too late. The little good that Obamacare did will now almost certainly be taken away.
  2. Obama should’ve done more on his second term. Despite what the right wing would have people believe, he was never that progressive. He’s more like a traditional conservative. And unfortunately, now he will only be remembered as the first black president, nothing more. He should’ve aggressively pushed for progressive policies because no matter what, his opponents will always demonize him. And now he will be gone, he will be demonized and blamed for America’s future ills, and all of that with not much to show for.
  3. Politics is a team sport regardless of how you personally see it. I like Obama but there are several things I could criticize him about. I like our prime minister, but I don’t like it when he tries too hard to be viral on the Internet. I’m a feminist, but it annoys me when feminists don’t know the difference between feminism and misandry. This election saw people wedded to their teams regardless of their candidates’ flaws. “He’s unqualified, but…” I believe people supported their team not so much for the good of their cause but just so the other team would lose. This is why those Bernie Sanders supporters didn’t turn out for Hillary. They took their ball and left the playground. This is why so many people voted against their own interest. It’s for the good of the team.
  4. The media is the worst. The media has to change. So much stock has been put on Hillary’s e-mails but none on Trump’s taxes. Instead of ridiculing him and his cronies out of the building for their nonsensical and sometimes dangerous rhetoric, they got a seat at the table. For ratings, they gave the most unqualified man to run for office free advertising. And to be fair and balanced, they entertained the ideas of liars and science-deniers as if they have any value other than to appease viewers who would rather not be educated otherwise. People were not held accountable for their lies and their biases. Even when Trump’s supporters are attacking media personnel, the media would gladly ignore all of that for a few more clicks. Less than 24 hours of Trump’s win, People magazine is already running a puff piece on Trump’s “adorable” grandchildren, forgetting that one of their own reporters claims to have been assaulted by Trump in 2005. They also forget that so many equally adorable minority children right now are more insecure because Trump has vowed to send them all away.
  5. The media is the worst, but the Internet has made us all dumber. I’ve seen so many people who I would’ve assumed are intelligent reference stories and articles that are easily debunked. Because of the Internet, we now mostly go to Websites that confirm our beliefs. I’ve seen lawyers and other professionals cite the likes of Alex Jones, Roger Stone, and Dinesh D’Souza as if they’re not professional charlatans. Shouldn’t these people be more critical? What’s amusing to me though is that now that the conspiracy theorists and those suspicious of the government have taken over the government, who will they be suspicious of now? They run the place. Who will they rant and rave against when their man is the leader of the country? Will people stop stockpiling guns now?And speaking of the Internet making us all dumber, I won’t be going on Twitter as much. Arguing on Twitter has never changed anybody’s mind.
  6. The terrorists have won. Osama Bin Laden wanted to ruin America by crushing it from within, to destroy its fundamental values. Privacy rights are gone, first amendment rights are crippled, torture will definitely be making a comeback, America will be making more enemies with Muslim groups, freedom of the press will be attacked, US-grown hatred is at an upswing, etc. etc. White Americans, this not how you make friends and find peace.
  7. Distraction is king. Trump is the distraction candidate. He is the shiny object which gained networks ratings. Unfortunately in terms of politics, the easiest distraction to a domestic problem is foreign action. Bill Clinton was accused of this during his Lewinsky period. They said he bombed Iraq and Bosnia whenever he had problems domestically. Expect more violence with Trump. You can accuse Bill Clinton of being many things, but he was never inept. He was a smart and savvy politician. Donald Trump has failed in almost every business he had a hand in. Expect more problems with him, and expect more actions overseas.A part of me took comfort that the big schadenfreude I was expecting with a Hillary win has been delayed to a series of mini schadenfreudes in the span of four years. It would be four years of “I told you so.” Now that the US alt-right is basically running the US government, they would be the ones to blame for their own ineptitude. Unfortunately, these future disasters would have real and global consequences. And as decent person, in the face of tragedies, it’s very hard for me to relish schadenfreudes.
  8. Do not expect to be saved by the Democrats. They won’t. They are just as to blame for all of this. The Republicans played a great game of obstructionist politics during Obama’s presidency. Don’t expect the same from Democrats. They are weak and they only take action for their donors. Even Obama is guilty of this. One of the few exceptions is Senator Elizabeth Warren. She consistently stood for her principles and fought the banks. And the current president-elect has called her “Pocahontas.” The only way to get out of this quagmire is to take money out of politics. That was the crux of Bernie Sanders’ campaign and he is right. People in government spend more time calling for donors instead of actually governing. Taking money out of politics makes government officials more accountable to the people they actually represent.
  9. Polls are useless. Or at least the current model needs to be readjusted.
  10. Campaigns are filled with BS promises and the Trump campaign will be no exception. Obama promised many things but barely delivered. The last time I checked, Guantanamo is still up and running. The same thing will happen with Trump.
    • Black people will not find a friend in him. Years from now, I’m afraid Chicago will still be used as the go-to example for black communities mired in poverty and violence.
    • The wall will not be built. It simply won’t. The tall wall with underground protection and scanners all over the place is a figment of conservative imagination. Mexico will not pay for such a thing.
    • Hillary will not be prosecuted. She is now a neutered threat. Benghazi will always be referenced as an example of Democratic failing, but I believe they will no longer be too fixated on those e-mails.
    • There will be no Muslim bans. Life will be harder for Muslims and many minorities but there will be no such bans. This is impossible to implement and a nightmare for the US to defend in the face of its allies.
    • Obamacare will not be replaced with anything better. Obamacare is not particularly good, but it won’t be improved by the coming government.
    • TPP will be approved. Trump said he doesn’t want it, but everyone in the government does, even Hillary.
    • Women who get an abortion will not be punished. Abortion will be very difficult, but I just don’t see women going to jail for losing a child. Am I naïve? I like to think people are better than that.
    • Deportations will increase just like they have under Obama, but there won’t be families in camps nor storm troopers knocking down doors. Life would be harder for undocumented immigrants. There would be more hate crime for sure. But the US would still be taking advantage of them when it comes to labor and other things.
  11. People will make all sorts of excuses to say that the US is not bigoted. It is. Trump didn’t win due to economic insecurity or because of people’s need for a change in the political system. More white people with higher incomes voted for Trump than for Hillary. Wisconsin’s unemployment dropped under Obama and it still voted for Trump. People got richer under Obama. It’s not about the economy.And it’s not about the political system either. If it was, then you wouldn’t have the most useless long-toothed politicians still in office. You wouldn’t vote to give the Republicans the House and the Senate when they have basically stopped government functions for eight years. It’s not about the system.It’s about hatred and resentment. It’s about white men resenting being “cuckolded.” It’s about people being suspicious of blacks, Muslims, LGBTQ, etc. It’s about women not trusting other women as well. It’s about people being backwards, and Americans being called deplorable and embracing it.

Probably the hardest lesson to learn is that the bullies win. They do. It’s very hard not to learn that lesson after yesterday. Don’t get too comfortable in your high horse because the bullies win. It’s very hard not to learn that lesson just looking at the news throughout the world. Putin has bullied his country for years and will probably do so for more years to come. Assad is still in power. And now Trump, who has insulted every person who was not like him, is the leader of the free world. The likes of Martin Shkreli are not villains who will someday face justice because the world is right and good. No, the world does not care for your morals and decency and will reward the bully.

Take comfort in your morals and decency because that’s all you have for now. Hug your children and hope that they may never face a bully in their life. Because someday that bully… that bully who makes fun of their religion, their culture, their disability… that bully who grabs them by the pussy, might very well become their leader.

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Sad Day for 2016

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Tonight, I learned just how dumb, racist, xenophobic, and sexist our neighbors in the south can be. I’m a Canadian living in Seoul, but I’m sure I would feel the effects of this myself. A few minutes ago, the stock market just crashed.

There’s so much to say about the elections, but one thing always comes back to me: moral licensing. The goodness of voting for Barrack Obama has allowed Americans to be increasingly vile towards minorities. Not quite the same, but as I read on Twitter, someone wrote “every good that black people has earned, has always been met with punishment right after. “ Americans have allowed themselves or at least others to be vile because they felt they already did good with their previous vote. “We can’t be that bad, we elected a black president.” It’s a damned shame.

I don’t have much energy to write about this much. It is a very scary time in the world right now and I’ll probably dissect this much further a bit later, but perhaps some ice-cream would do me some good right now. Let’s all take a bit of small comfort wherever we can and face tomorrow a bit kinder to our neighbors, but more suspicious about our dumb, racist, xenophobic, and sexist world.

In other news, last night, I saved an ungrateful, old Korean woman from being pinned by a bus as she cut in line at the bus stop and rushed towards an oncoming bus. I had to pick her up and drag her back to the sidewalk to keep her from getting crushed. Second person I saved this year. I’m the Korean Spider-Man.

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God Bless Honest Bigots

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I’ve written about dealing with racism and prejudice now and then. It’s something I deal with occasionally here in South Korea, from either Koreans or fellow expats, and it’s something that I haven’t quite gotten used to. I try to remind myself that Canada also has its own racial issues, and that I would probably face a different set of racist incidents and attitudes even if I never left Winnipeg. I believe as Canadians, due to our history and multi-cultural background, we are better when it comes to racial relations, but we’re not THAT much better. After all, as I mentioned, I do encounter bigoted expats now and then, even Canadians.

Now while the occasional sting of prejudice is something that I have come to expect, especially as a mixed couple here in South Korea, it’s always more painful when I hear about my better half dealing with racism because of me. Last night, I learned that my wife was defending me from a rather racist American who was making crude remarks and somewhat racial innuendos about me. I have met this person once; I thought he was decent enough. We had dinner and drinks once, and he was fine. I didn’t think about him much afterwards. I just wish he was decent enough to make comments to my face when I met him rather than wait until I’m not around and offend my wife. And although none of this is my fault, I can’t help but feel demeaned by such comments and attitude, and sorry for my wife for having to deal with such things.

The racist barbs are meant for me. I’ve taken it before. I’ll never get used to it, but it’s something that I can deal with.

And so let’s talk about Donald Trump. While there are many things that I find abhorrent with Donald Trump and his followers, there’s one thing I can appreciate about the whole thing. Among the racists in his group, they belong in two camps of bigoted attitude: there are the ones who truly embrace their own racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, and there are the ones who try to hide their bigoted nature, the alt-right or the anti-PC crusaders who trumpet freedom of speech or whatever cause they claim to care about. God bless the first group. We all see them for what they are. Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” And God bless them for it. They have the courtesy to tell you what they are, to tell you to put your guard up, don’t cross this line and hide your children.

The second group is more insidious. They are the ones that claim that they are not bigoted, they are just principled. They are not sexist, but just friendly. They are not racist, but just curious. So many buts… “buts” that don’t matter to the receiving end of bigotry. And what gets me with this second group is that now and then, they would surface when the person they are being bigoted about is not around. They peddle their “soft” bigotry when the person who would most likely correct them and give them an honest dialogue is not in the room. “I didn’t realize your friend was gay.” “Did you know she’s dating a black guy?” “I don’t think your Korean girlfriend would understand.” It is more insidious, because these people are never honest about their biases, you let them in in your life, and then they do their damage. Of course, a person can be forgiven for an innocent dumb comment now and then, but as a person who’s been on the receiving end of several racial barbs, I know a bigoted statement when I hear one.

Here’s an example. A few years ago, a woman I met in Seoul assumed I didn’t have an office job because I was brown. She was concerned about this, and inquired about it when I wasn’t around. I would’ve preferred she be upfront about it, and saved me the time I spent being pleasant with her. In her mind, she wasn’t being racist; she was just concerned that I might be misleading people regarding my employment. But what pains me is that other people had to confront her about bigotry and be offended and frustrated for my sake. Westerners are no better of course. I’ve heard friends answer for me the question, “is he really Canadian? Where is he REALLY from?” when I’m not around. This is a question a person would almost never ask about a white Canadian.

So thank you, openly bigoted people. Thank you for showing your colors for those people who choose not to willingly associate with you. Just like nature puts bright colors on its poisonous vermin, you flash your warnings for all other creatures to see. I worry more about the soft racism that hides itself. It is too cowardly to face you up front. It deals its damage when you’re not looking and when you least expect it. Unfortunately, last night, my wife had to deal with it.

On a more positive note, Canada is dominating the World Cup of Hockey this year. Carey Price is a wall. The competition is a bit limited, but it’s still good hockey. It’s a good primer for the NHL season.

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On Fear and Admitting It

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I know where President Obama was coming from when he made the speech to commemorate the Sept. 11 attack. It was a good tribute to the victims of the attack as well as their loved ones. He used the moment to try to unite people into a common purpose, much like after the attack, when Americans were united, so much so that George Bush had a great approval rating.

What got me however when he said, “…as Americans we do not give in to fear. We will preserve our freedoms and our way of life that make us a beacon to the world.” This is simply not true.

While there was courage displayed after the attack, especially with the first responders, there have been so many actions which can only be described as being inspired by cowardice. Iraq was invaded due to fears of phantom weapons. Americans have surrendered their rights to privacy due to fear of terrorism. Airports have been a security nightmare. People have been tortured and locked up indefinitely because of fear. The Middle East has been destabilized exactly because of fear. It caused a ripple of nationalism and xenophobia which crossed over to Europe. And right now, a megalomaniac is close to becoming the president of the United States, running on fear against Muslims and immigrants.

You cannot say Americans do not give in to fear. Americans buy guns in exceedingly high numbers exactly because of fear. They fear terrorists. They fear gay people. They fear minorities. They fear their neighbors. They fear their government. Police officers shoot black people immediately because of fear. Fear is big. And as tragic as it is that 3,000 beautiful lives were lost on 9/11, because Americans were afraid, thousands more died in the Middle East afterwards.

What happened in 9/11 was a great tragedy. Out of that tragedy are stories of courage and strength of spirit. Unfortunately, there are far too many other stories of cowardice and cynicism. This cowardice and cynicism has a persisting and pernicious effect that adapts and evolves. It touches the lives of a greater number of people than the glimmer of bravery that shone in the face of 9/11. There were several great virtues shown after the attack, there were moments of true bravery, but you cannot honestly say that Americans do not give in the fear.

Americans gave in to fear, and the whole world felt it.

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Dick Fisted

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I met a Canadian teacher a couple of weeks ago. He’s only been on the country for three months. It was showing because I had to teach him a couple of things regarding Korean table manners, which really made me wonder about his handlers. They really should’ve taught him better or he could’ve been more observant.

My friends and I were talking with him when the subject of the HIV test came up. In South Korea, in order to be issued a visa to teach English, a foreigner must have a criminal background check as well as an AIDS test. Now, I don’t mind the criminal background check. In fact, I believe it should be par for the course for any instructor in any country to have a criminal background check. The HIV test however is a tad insidious.

The requirement was put into law a few years ago at a time when Korea had a rash of high profile criminal cases involving Korean teachers taking advantage of their students and either getting light sentences or being reshuffled back into the system. It was also a time when suspicion against foreign men specifically was being encouraged by a hate group who pushed stories to online outlets and TV networks which were more than happy to propagate them. The media would show stories villainizing male English teachers. Curiously, they tend to ignore female English teachers.

Lawmakers responded by making the HIV test a requirement, ignoring the fact that there were no credible stories about foreign English instructors spreading HIV, and that the law does not address the actual problem of leniency towards actual Korean criminals. Failing the HIV test would prevent foreigners from working in the country. It’s a xenophobic law which suggests that foreigners harbor HIV and doesn’t consider the possibility of foreigners catching HIV from a Korean partner. UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon, who happens to be Korean himself, urged the government to end the tests, calling it a violation of human rights. But the government ignored him, and the tests remain as a requirement for foreign English teachers to this day.

What’s funny is that it being a requirement for English teachers, that in itself reflects on its origins: the suspicion against male English teachers. It is not required for any other work visas, even for entertainment visas, which in many countries have been the avenue to which prostitutes enter. Korean men have also been frequenting South East Asian countries and have relations with prostitutes themselves. There are establishments in these countries that are geared solely towards Korean clientele, and yet no one is checking Korean men for HIV after coming back from their business trips.

Given this background for the law and the test, it was a mixture of amusement and sadness when the English teacher I met said that he too had to take the test, but instead of being annoyed or outraged at the requirement as well as the presumption that foreigners bring HIV to the country, he was rather nonchalant about the whole thing. He said that his handlers explained to him that it was a requirement for health insurance purposes.

Now, I don’t know how much time he spent considering this explanation. But there are so many holes in that excuse that it doesn’t take much to disprove. Are they testing for HIV so they could pay for the instructor’s expenses? If they fail and they are not allowed into the country (only about 20+ countries do this), doesn’t that show discrimination? And if they are testing for insurance purposes, how about testing other medical conditions, something without a stigma, perhaps diabetes or asthma?

Attitudes towards foreign men have slightly improved in recent months. Travel shows dominate network television, and foreign men speaking in Korean now appear in Korean talk television. This new trend has people forgetting that just a couple years ago, the fear of the foreigner scourge has been put into law, and that it continues to be a requirement to this day. And while things are currently better, it will only take one or two high-profile stories before the media sparks another moral panic. The Korean National Police Agency just recently announced a cracking down on crimes committed by foreigners by “forming voluntary crime-prevention groups” in response to an increase in foreigner-committed crimes by 5000 a year. In my opinion, this is small when considering the increase of the foreign population in the country. But I read that action as empowering local hate groups and vigilantism, and I suspect that like before, it is a misguided response to an altogether different problem.

Now, someone please explain to that naïve teacher why the HIV test is a bad thing.

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My Package Is No Good

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Back after the Chuseok break (that’s the Korean Thanksgiving holiday). Didn’t do much art, but I did send art to galleries for future shows. Unfortunately, one Korean postal worker didn’t want to deal with me and just wanted me to go somewhere else. The exchange, which was all in Korean, went like this:

Korean postal lady: You can’t send these.

Me: Why not? I sent packages like these here before.

Korean postal lady: You can’t.

Me: Why not?

Korean postal lady: Go to Gwanghwamun postal office.

Me: Why can’t I send these here?

Korean postal lady: Go to Gwanghwamun postal office.

Me: What’s wrong with these packages?

Korean postal lady: You can’t.

Me: Why?

Korean postal lady: Go to Gwanghwamun postal office.

Me: Good job, lady.

Very helpful. I did go to Gwanghawun postal office. Everything went fine. I explained the earlier exchange and the postal worker there had no idea why the packages were rejected.

Now, I’ve been in South Korea forever. I’m trying to learn the language, but sometimes, even when I speak the language, people don’t have the courtesy to address me like a normal person and explain things to me so I could understand. What’s the point of learning the language if people won’t even talk to you, especially a government employee? Luckily, I know exactly what “gwanghwamoon oocheh cook” means, but could you imagine if I was a foreigner who didn’t speak a lick of Korean? They would be lost, feel dejected, and have this awful story about their racist experience in the post office. And poor Timmy who is waiting for a present from grandpa living in South Korea would never receive his package.

Of course, this was just a minor incident. And just as the lady wasn’t helpful, others more than made up for it with their willingness to assist me. Unfortunately, it’s the negative experiences that often stick to memory more than the positive ones. I remember people cutting in line and not minding other people more than kind, considerate strangers. Just look at this article. I’m still writing about a five-day old incident when other more positive things have happened to me since.

I guess what I’m saying is, forget that lady! She probably doesn’t deserve it, but for the rest of the country, I really wish she go straight to hell. People like her ruin the experience of being in this country with their lack of empathy or sometimes downright xenophobia. The same is true for many countries. Most people are friendly and hospitable, but there’s a few that would ruin the whole experience for people, the asshole minority.

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Quick Boring Post About Editors

It goes without saying publishers need to invest on good editors.  They are almost as vital as the writers themselves. Being in Korea, I notice that editing English text seems to be more of a discretionary afterthought; that is if it’s even considered at all. It’s really a shame that a country that is so invested in learning English, people aren’t really concerned with being accurate in applying the English they paid good money to learn. It’s the reason why Koreans can sometimes be just as bad as a lot of Asian countries in misappropriating the English language (www.engrish.com/).

Editors are vital not only in ensuring grammatical accuracy but also in making sure that contents are appropriate, non-offensive, and sensical (a term which a good editor will catch as not being a “real word”). I’ve been studying Korean and using this book which was published in the country. I imagine it’s designed for foreigners who wish to learn the language in the hopes of interacting with Koreans and perhaps visiting the country. Instead, it gave me an insight into the writer’s xenophobia, lack of sensitivity and outdated grasp of reality.

Horrible

Why would the writer want North Korea to go bankrupt? Doesn’t he/she realize that the country has millions of people, presumably former countrymen, starving? How about the rather casual use of cancer in a language training material? Classy! You also don’t catch cancer like the flu. Your body develops it. As for the bit about Salman Rushdie, I hoped that the book was written in 1989, but sadly, it was written long after Rushdie came out of hiding. Also, why would a news organization report that a writer, who is in fear of assassination, is still in hiding? Who is this news for? Terrorists?

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This last bit turned me off the most.  The book was written by university professors… educators. And yet their jingoism reeks off the page. The Americans are not colonists in South Korea. They are partners. They have just as much to gain from being here as the South Koreans. How could such a sentence be of any help to the American wishing to learn Korean?

Korean publishers as well as anyone in Korean media using the English language, please hire editors. Hire editors and pay them well.

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Tattoos and Foreign Crime, What?

And yet more tattoo designs. This time, turtles. The request was to do a sea turtle realistically based on a picture. I don’t really recommend doing a straight-up realistic representation because it might look like some image you’d see from Hallmark Cards. Anyway, here’s a template.

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Here are variations to which colors can be added. I guess we can go anywhere from the template.

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More designs to come.(?)

Living in a foreign country, it always annoys me whenever I hear news of expats behaving badly. It’s mostly because there’s a great chance that the xenophobic media would use the story to paint everyone with a wide brush. This is how all teachers here were made to require HIV testing prior to getting a teaching contract. A move so backwards, so 90’s AIDS scare, that the UN condemns it.

Anyway, just this morning, I read that an expat that once did commercials and TV gigs here is now charged in Cambodia for purchasing sex with minors. Ugh. They still play his commercials now and then.

There’s word on the Internet that “his friends knew that he had issues” and that they confronted him about it. Also, that perhaps he was inappropriate with some of his students sometimes. But these are all stories, and so far I’ve yet so any hard evidence of crimes here in South Korea. Unfortunately, such stories are often more than enough for the media here to create a “hard-hitting piece” against foreigners. Next thing you know, all foreigners here are Diane Keatons to this guy’s Woody Allen (or maybe worse, we’re all Woody Allens).

Hopefully, the local media which is bound to pick it up would treat the story like an adult, a conscientious adult with a job.

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