It Says Something…

Miss Jiwaku told me about a news report regarding a Canadian who had murdered his girlfriend three years ago (but had pretended she’d drowned accidentally, pursuing a tennis ball), fled the country, gotten religion, but finally returned to Korea to turn himself in. He claimed he’d murdered her because he was afraid she was going to kill him. Okay, so…?

“Do you know him?” she asked, and mentioned that he’d been in Korea from 2001 until the time of the murder (in 2009), and had worked as an instructor at “a university in Jeolla Province.” I arrived in Jeolla Province in very late 2001, and I think it was in 2002 that a guy showed up as a new teacher in my workplace (a university in Iksan), after what had seemed like a year in Jeonju.

And the guy I knew was at least somewhat delusional, in a way that definitely affected his relationships. So… how about that? I actually have a sneaking suspicion I did know the guy, not that I’ll be visiting him in jail.

Even if the guy I’m thinking of isn’t the same person, it says something that the first person who came to my mind as a very likely candidate for being this guy was someone who spent years working with children in Korea. Brrrrrrrrr.

5 thoughts on “It Says Something…

  1. Not to be a pissant, Gord, but I think your readers have become accustomed to a little more rigour in your reflections. What exactly does it say, if indeed anything?

    If you are reflecting on the expat solipsism that either descends into (or expresses a pre-existing) sociopathy (or your own jadedness), then to what end?

    I apologize if I’m misreading you, but if I were to summarize this post, it would be along the lines of “Some foreigner killed a girl. Makes you think…”

  2. Matt,

    Thanks for the video link. I can say now for sure that it was NOT the guy I knew. (I wasn’t sure until I heard the voice though.)


    I’m pleased to have readers accustomed to anything.

    I was trying to say that it says something that, when I hear of a Canadian murdering a woman over what sounds very much like a paranoid delusion, fleeing the country, getting religion, and then returning years later to turn himself in, I don’t think anyone who works with kids should come to mind. But someone I know who did work with kids here for years on end — and got passed from one place to another, instead of being red-flagged as possibly unfit to teach here — did come to mind.

    Part of what I’m trying to say is that not only are hakwons responsible for who they hire, but they should also be responsible for sharing the information of who they fire, and why. Not that I think being fired from a hakwon should be an instant ban on residency here, but I do think that if a teacher gets fired from three such places in a row, and the notes include “seemed mentally unstable” or “children complained of fearing he might hurt them,” or whatever, that should, you know, kind of affect his or her later immigration applications.

    Which is to say, yeah, I think there should be psych eval screenings for those people who get enough red flags… by someone who isn’t just familiar with, but in fact is natively fluent in, the culture of the person being evaluated. (A bicultural Korean would be fine, of course — but the process would need to be transparent to some degree, and appeals would need to be possible.)

    Part of what I wanted to say was that the screening process — including looking at criminal records — isn’t half as effective as other methods could be. Over the years, I’ve met expats in Korea who seemed mentally anywhere from slightly ill, to dangerous.(They are a small percentage of all expats I’ve met, but it seems like a higher concentration than the general population in Canada, or the States.)

    Yet these people end up in Korea working with kids, and that disturbs me. In some sense, I kind of think that hakwon owners will never take the lead in figuring out whether their expat employees are suitable, and the bigots over at Anti-English Spectrum just want all expats out.

    But personally, I think that maybe the Korean government needs to have someone fluent (to a native degree) and trained in clinial psych to interview people when they apply for visas. The only way I can really understand what I’ve seen over the years is that Koreans and Westerners have different cultural codes for seeking out, and recognizing insanity, and those codes and what they search for seem to be culture bound. That, or Koreans are just more readily willing to overlook obvious mental issues as if they were cultural difference.

    I am also trying, these days, not to snipe pot-shots at Korea generally so much, and I was struggling to find a way to express the idea that I’ve met a lot of people in Korea who are obviously not mentally quite stable, but who somehow eke out an existence here. The guy I thought this was got into two fights — broke his arm in one, and then broke it again in another — and got away with them scot-free because his then-girlfriend was the niece of some big police official in the province at the time.

    Anyway, thanks for having high standards, I guess. :)

  3. Gord – good thoughts. I wish I had some more time to respond, but I’ll check in later as I’m working to a deadline at the moment.

    In the meantime, I hear what you are saying about the uneasiness that comes of making the connection, but I wonder if there is not some confirmation bias in your gut reaction. When it comes to that sort of story, who should come to mind?


  4. Stephen,

    Oh, no worries, come on back when you have time, if your thoughts survive the busy times. :)

    As for confirmation bias: well, I do have to say that I’ve met plenty of depraved Koreans (not just depraved expats) here, but… honestly, I’d like to think nobody who works with children would come to mind. I’d like it if people who would come to mind were unlikely to make it through the supposedly-stringent immigration process.

    And as for the specific guy who came to mind, I’m assuming you never did read Scott Burgeson’s chapbook, but the summary is that this guy who came to my mind was clearly delusional, had persecution fantasies, and was clearly violent (constantly getting into violent confrontations with Koreans). Haha, now I’m hoping he happens upon this post, as it would be amusing to see his comments here, and I think they would likely bear out my point. If, mind you, he realized it was him I was thinking about.

    He may have been lucky to have the loopholes he did — the girlfriend with a high-ranking cop uncle especially — but, you know, it was very shortly after I’d arrived in Korea (a month at most, I think) when I met another expat (locally called “Homeless Bill”) who’d just come in on a work visa, and who was bragging of his pedophile exploits that had recently gotten him deported from Taiwan. (He was bragging, like as if I was supposed to be all, “Yeah, man, cool!” or something.)

    “Homeless Bill” definitely was working with children. While that was in 2002, the measures used today to assess visa applications would not have flagged him either, as far as I understand them.

    But yeah, I suppose some confirmation bias would be possible. But how come since I moved to a “real” university department (with higher degree requirements for hiring), I can’t think of a single coworker who would fit the same sort of bill? For that matter, why in none of my past jobs prior to coming to Korea, does nobody fit that bill?

    Maybe I’m just tripping on the old observation that it’s easy enough to come to Korea that the dregs of the Earth are attracted here. Maybe I’m also unconsciously trying to ensure it’s clear I’m not among those dregs of the Earth. I dunno…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *