Taejon, South Korea
Letter to the South Korean Minister of Education
Dear Mr. Kim,
To begin with, I am writing to bring to your attention to what I consider a serious error in my recent selection as Foreign Teacher of the Year in South Korea. As I valiantly tried to point out to the awards committee, I was only visiting this country for a month and was simply helping a few of the Sisters at the St. Mary’s High School with their English. Teaching a class of nuns does not strike me as being worthy of any kind of special recognition. For one thing, I had no discipline problems at all. And yes, I refrained from becoming romantically involved with any of them, but it wasn’t as difficult as it sounds.
I will admit that during this time I was working without a salary, but the committee’s declaration of this as a shining example for other foreign instructors here to aspire to strikes me as misguided.
In any event, I have reluctantly decided to accept the award: a round trip ticket to Tacoma, Washington (also known as “The Paris of South Puget Sound”). Strange that the second place winner will receive two round trip tickets. But I will try to use them as soon as I receive them.
Now, at the risk of causing an international incident, I must nevertheless continue to protest your decision to present the award next week at St. Mary’s school. The 8:00 a.m. time in particular strikes me as especially inappropriate. I mean, have you ever actually SEEN an early morning Korean high school class? Some of the students (most of whom study four to five hours a night before leaving the school at ten) wobble in like twelfth-step alcoholics following an all night binge. Others lie sprawled across their desks, semi-conscious. An ambulance team presented with this scene would find itself performing emergency triage.
May I ask what, exactly, are you preparing your students for, extended POW internment? High School should be one of the best and happiest times of our lives (and would have been in my case if it wasn’t for the acne attack my junior year). From what I have seen of your educational system, it’s only a matter of time before President Bush sends over a hostage rescue team, then orders a follow-up air strike. Do you really want to visit Guantanamo Bay that badly?
I know, I know. Foreign teachers in Korea, like small children, should be seen and not heard (and maybe not even paid). I just felt it my place to use my brief, exalted status to speak my mind. And having the Education Ministry Police confiscate my passport will not change my views nor my plans to escape. For I, along with a dedicated group of seventeen-year-old freedom fighters (who, by the way, have permission from their parents), are determined to break out of this educational hellhole, bound for a place where we can teach and learn in genuine harmony. Under the cover of darkness we will boldly strike forth…for the Worker’s Paradise of North Korea!
With Best Wishes for Your Health,
A Determined Foreigner