Subject : English Teacher Vetting Needs Tightening

DATE. 2010-03-25 오후 2:17:52 Visit. 2566

English Teacher Vetting Needs Tightening

By Kang Shin-who
Staff Reporter

Both immigration and education authorities have long turned a blind eye to loopholes in screening "unqualified" foreign English teachers.

That inattention occasionally horrifies parents and students when such teachers show their true colors. The latest case involves a Korean-American English teacher, who police said used to be involved in organized crime in Los Angeles.

According to industry sources, "hagwon" or cram schools have improved their screening, requiring teachers to submit copies of their graduation certificates on applying for positions, but small institutes often skip this procedure. This was the case with the former gangster teacher whose true identity was recently exposed.

Under Korean visa rules, native English speakers applying for the E-2 English teaching visa are required to submit police background checks and drug test documents. However, ethnic Koreans, who can gain a residential F-4 visa, are exempted from the screening procedures.

Earlier, The Korea Times reported about complaints from E-2 visa holders and problems with the "unfair" visa policy. In response, the Korea Immigration Service (KIS) said it would not change its policy to favor ethnic Koreans, while the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, responsible for overseeing hagwon or private institute teachers, said they would devise ways to close the loopholes.

However, the government has not come up with any measures in over a year to block unqualified ethnic Korean English teachers.

Immigration and education officials are passing the buck. "F-4 visa holders are allowed to do all kinds of jobs as it is a residential card, so hagwon supervisors have to weed out unqualified English teachers among the visa holders," said Jeon Dal-su, an official from the immigration office.

Chung Young-min, an education ministry official said, "If it''s a problem regarding visas, then it should be a subject for immigration authorities."

Police announced Tuesday they arrested a group of unqualified English teachers who habitually took drugs. Among them were two Korean-Americans, who were members of gangs in Los Angeles. One fled to Korea after allegedly murdering another Korean-American and the other was deported from the U.S. after being charged with attempted murder and drug offenses.

The two used to teach children English at hagwon in Seoul, using fabricated degrees.

This is not the first case when police have caught an unqualified English teacher, wanted by Interpol. In 2008, another ethnic Korean from the U.S. wanted for murder was arrested here having taught English at hagwon for nearly 10 years.

Currently, there are 50,666 F-4 visa holders and 22,018 E-2 visa holders as of December 2009, according to KIS. Among those with F-4 visas, the government does not know how many are involved in English teaching.

In the meantime, police plan to expand their investigation of native English-speaking teachers having criminal records or using drugs. "Many hagwon blindly hire such teachers due to the English education fever in Korea. They need to be more cautious in their recruitment," said a police official.

kswho@koreatimes.co.kr