Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What the ... solidarity?!?!?!?

And now for something completely different. A post not about the usual suspects (AnonyJohn, KKKorean Sentry, Korea Times).

The brother of one of my co-workers lived and taught in South Korea. P, my co-worker, went to Seoul 5 or more years back to visit his brother. Last night we ended up talking about life in South Korea.

He was not impressed with Seoul or Koreans. Overall, he found Seoul a fairly dirty city and the citizens rude. Which I can't fully disagree with. Compared to Halifax Seoul is pretty dirty. Hell even Cheongju is. If you can't block out the staring, pointing, spitting, and such behaviour people do come off as rude.

Another co-worker had joined and was listening to our discussion. He asked why the ESL teachers didn't form a union so they wouldn't get screwed over. P, who is one of our shop stewards, couldn't stop laughing for a while. He knows how that would end up.

I mentioned ATEK to them. Now, I am NOT an authority on the life, times, and fall of ATEK. (Here are some links you can check out if you want to find out more.) When I first heard about it I reserved judgement. Part of me hoped they would do well. Part of me was pretty sure they would fail. Part of me just didn't give a shit because I wasn't part of them even though they claimed to represent me.

For me, the certainty that ATEK was doomed came about during the Swine Flu BS of 2009. People were exposed to H1N1 at an EPIK (or was it GEPIK?) get together that summer. The Koreans were sent home to be self-quarantined with their families. The foreigners were all put in a hospital. Some were whisked away from their apartments by ambulance to be quarantined. They were stuffed in rooms with few creature comforts to while away their time. 

A group of ESL teachers on the internet got together and organized help for the "prisoners". They rallied people to donate books, games, food, anything that could help the "patients" while away their time. It was a great idea and the organizers still deserve a tip of the hat for their efforts. What does this have to do with disappointment in ATEK? Everything.

This was the perfect opportunity for ATEK to show that they were there to help ESL teachers regardless of the problem. They did jump on the bandwagon many days after the aid was started but for me it was too little to late. (AnonyJohn has decided to be my own little Grammar Nazi. Did I use the right "to" AnonyJohn?) They should have been there for these people from the start and they weren't. If ATEK couldn't be there at a time like this when would they be? At that point I figured they were doomed to failure. Unfortunately, time would eventually prove me right. 

It is kind of funny when I think back. I had held back any criticism of ATEK before that moment. When I mentioned on another blog that I thought ATEK had screwed the pooch this time the reaction from some of the ATEK pushers was funny. One of them told me to get off my high horse. Seriously?  An organization that claimed to be there for ALL ESL teachers, except F VISA holders, whether they accepted the representation or not, was NOT there for some ESL teachers in need. It was the perfect moment for ATEK to shine. And they were no where to be seen until they started to ride the coat tails of the few who started to help the people in quarantine. To me that was very telling. ATEK went for the big headlines (human rights complaints) instead of helping the little people.

It wasn't even just ATEK itself that had me thinking it would fail. My own dealings with other ESL teachers had a hand in that. When the owners of Ivy School were screwing Spock and myself over it was the perfect time for the foreigner ESL teachers to stick together. After all, if they would fuck one person over they would, and did, fuck everyone over. But that isn't how the others saw it. They were more worried about themselves than anything else. So they paid lip service to Spock and I but did and said nothing else. Immediate self-interest and preservation trumped anything else. but I am starting to digress. :)

It was an interesting conversation with some co-workers that brought back some memories of my time in South Korea.


  1. Yeah, I remember that.
    I also remember other foreigners I worked with promising solidarity, and then caving in to the hagwon owner later on.
    It was no wonder we always got screwed.

  2. Yeah, while it is easy to blame it all on the Koreans this attitude (selfishness?) on the part of foreigners deserves some of the blame.