TIME South Korea

South Korea’s Labor Ministry Issued Sexist Job Advice for Women

A jobseeker looks at a board showing job information at an office of the Employment Information Service in Seoul
A job seeker looks at a board showing job information at an office of the Employment Information Service in Seoul on May 11, 2011 Truth Leem—Reuters

You don't mind a bit of sexual harassment, do you ladies?

Women in South Korea were advised by a government website to tell potential employers they do not mind sex jokes in the workplace, had no plans to get married and were willing to take on menial tasks like making coffee.

The statements were among job-interview guidelines posted on a site run by the country’s Labor Ministry, the Korea Herald reports

The post, which incurred the anger of several local advocacy groups and was taken down on Friday, compiled “ideal answers” for potential interview questions.

When a woman was asked about her opinion on sexual harassment, her response should be: “I wouldn’t mind casual jokes about sex and it is sometimes necessary to deal with [sexual harassment] by making a joke in return,” the guidelines stated.

Women were told to say, “I have no interest in getting married for awhile,” even if they did plan to get married, because the ministry said women often quit their jobs after marriage.

And of course no woman should be reluctant to make trips to the pantry. “I will do my very best even if it is just making a single cup of coffee,” is what the ministry told female job seekers to say.

A group of NGOs, including the Korean National Council of Women, denounced the post. “The government is in fact encouraging employers to discriminate against women,” they said in a joint statement.

[Korea Herald]

TIME South Korea

South Korean Ferry Captain Sentenced to 36 Years in Prison

SKOREA-ACCIDENT-BOAT-TRIAL
Sewol ferry captain Lee Joon-seok, center, is escorted upon his arrival at the Gwangju District Court in the southwestern South Korean city of Gwangju on June 24, 2014 Wonsuk Choi—AFP/Getty Images

The chief engineer received a 30-year sentence, while the other 13 members of the crew will serve up to 20 years

The South Korean ferry captain in charge of the vessel that capsized in April and killed more than 300 people, most of them high school students, was sentenced to 36 years in prison on Tuesday.

Lee Joon-seok, 68, on trial along with 14 other crew members for their role in the sinking of the Sewol ferry, was convicted of gross negligence, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors had demanded that Lee be given the death penalty.

The ship’s chief engineer was convicted of murder and handed a 30-year sentence while the rest of the crew were given sentences ranging from five to 20 years, South Korean agency Yonhap News reported.

Earlier in the day, South Korean authorities called off the search for the bodies of remaining victims with nine still unaccounted for.

[AP]

TIME South Korea

South Korea Disbands Coast Guard in Wake of Ferry Disaster

The coast guard has been widely criticized for their failure to rescue hundreds of students from the sinking ferry last April

South Korean lawmakers have agreed to disband the country’s coast guard in the wake of a ferry disaster that killed nearly 300 people.

The coast guard’s duties will now be taken up by the National Police Agency and a soon-to-be-established safety agency, the Associated Press reports.

In April, the Sewol ferry carrying 476 passengers, most of whom were students, capsized and sank while in route. 295 bodies have been found; some are still missing at sea.

The coast guard’s failure to rescue the hundreds of passengers who eventually perished on the sinking ferry was criticized by many in the South Korean government, including President Park Geun-hye.Prosecutors have also sought the death penalty for the captain of the ferry and life sentences for members of the crew. According to the AP, verdicts will come down next week.

[AP]

TIME South Korea

Relatives of the South Korean Ferry Owner Have Been Jailed

S. Korea Ferry With Hundreds Of Passengers Sinks
In this handout image provided by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard, a passenger ferry sinks off the coast of Jindo Island on April 16, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. Handout—Getty Images

A son and two brothers were convicted of embezzling funds

Three family members of the businessman linked to the ill-fated South Korean Sewol ferry, which capsized in April and killed over 300 people, were sentenced to jail on charges of corruption Wednesday.

Korean authorities say that graft may have contributed to the sinking of the vessel, which was illegally modified and overloaded. The boat was owned by the Chonghaejin Marine Company, in which the late tycoon Yoo Byung-eun had an interest, the BBC reported.

Yoo’s 44-year-old son Dae-kyun was convicted of embezzling $6.8 million from company funds and sentenced to three years in prison, and two of Yoo’s brothers were also handed jail terms of one and two years respectively on similar charges.

[BBC]

TIME Military

U.S. General Cracks Down on South Korean ‘Juicy Bars’ Linked to Human Trafficking

Women "are subjected to debt bondage and made to sell themselves as companions, or forced into prostitution"

The commander of U.S. troops in South Korea has thrown down an order to all military personnel: no more “juicy bars.”

The bars sell overpriced juice often exchanged for the companionship of young women, who might have been illegally brought into the country and held against their will after owners strip away their visas, officials say.

“They are subjected to debt bondage and made to sell themselves as companions, or forced into prostitution,” Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti wrote in an Oct. 15 memo. “The governments of the Republic of Korea, the United States, and the Republic of the Philippines have linked these practices with prostitution and human trafficking.”

Scaparrotti said military personnel will now be barred from providing “money or anything of value” in exchange for an employee’s “companionship.”

“This includes paying a fee to play darts, pool, or to engage in other entertainment with an employee, or buying a drink or souvenir in exchange for an employee’s company,” he wrote. Troops who fail to comply with the new rules may be subject to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Military Times notes that the crackdown on “juicy bars” follows a similar move announced last year by Air Force Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas for a base outside Osan Air Base, south of Seoul.

 

TIME China

Chinese and South Korean SAT Students Face Nervous Wait After Scores Delayed

Though disappointed, students and teachers expressed confidence that the incident wouldn't hurt chances at schools

College hopefuls in China and South Korea are frustrated but bearing up after the company that runs the SAT announced it would withhold scores for all students in the two countries who took a recent test, amid an alleged cheating scandal. The delay could hold up scores until after the Nov. 1 deadline to apply for “early decision” at U.S. colleges and universities.

“A rat spoiled a pot of soup, Chinese’s reputation is ruined by these scum,” wrote one user of China’s Twitter-like microblog Weibo.

Others expressed incredulity with the need to cheat: “For most Chinese students the SAT is a piece of cake. Even you fail this time, you can try later. There are multiple opportunities in a year, there is no need to cheat.”

According to Grace Wong, executive director at the Princeton Review’s Hong Kong and Shanghai division, which runs SAT prep courses for students in both cities, her students are not too concerned at the moment.

“I think they only have to worry if they are actually implicated in the cheating scandal,” says Wong, who has fielded calls from students wondering if the delay will affect their admission chances. “Then there will be a problem.”

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the SAT, has said that it is not releasing exam results for all students living in China and South Korea who took the test on Oct. 11 until it concludes an investigation into “specific, reliable information” alleging cheating. The delay comes just days before the Nov. 1 deadline for “early decision” at U.S. schools.

Students writing on College Confidential, a message board for college hopefuls, on Tuesday night at first expressed confusion that their scores were marked as “available” yet no score was listed. The mood turned to alarm when one student posted an email from the College Board, which oversees the ETS, warning of “additional quality control steps before scores are released” that may take up to four weeks.

Wong says most students who are applying early decision to U.S. schools already have SAT scores from past tests, though they might have been hoping to get higher marks on the Oct. 11 test.

Indeed, for one student writing on the message board, three weeks was too long to wait — the application was due that night, and the student had been hoping to send in better scores than those on previous tests.

“My school in Korea is requiring me to send in my common app by tonight (midnight) but I am 100% sure that my score improved from my 2 previous tests and I want my best scores to be on my common app,” the student wrote. “But my counselor says waiting another day will be risky — what should I do???”

ETS spokesman Thomas Ewing told TIME on Wednesday that “universities generally do their best to accommodate late scores from students when there are extenuating circumstances.” He added that ETS “will make universities aware of the circumstances and can supply students with a letter to share with the schools to which they are applying.”

Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, also told TIME that “the administrative delay will not hurt the chance of admission for an individual applicant.”

Hamilton Gregg, a counselor at Harrow International School in Beijing, said he was working with students to evaluate their prospects at early admission to their favorite school with their current SAT score. He said many students would apply as normal on Nov. 1 but some might now apply regular decision, given unalleviated concerns that colleges might not accept the late scores, even if higher than older scores.

“It’s really up to the school if they’ll wait the three or four weeks,” says Gregg, who also runs a private college-admissions-counseling business in Beijing. “Some schools could just say, No, too bad, sorry for you. But I’m trying to be an optimist and say, O.K., this is such a big issue, the schools will understand and wait.”

Meanwhile, though Gregg’s students are upset, “they understand why someone would have cheated,” he says, adding that while he is confident none of his own students were involved, they know all too well why someone would have done so: the pressure to succeed can be unbearable.

“Students here feel like, If I don’t get into an Ivy League school, I’m basically useless,” he says. “American students and their parents of course go through the same thing, but it’s magnified in China. There are a billion and a half people here. SAT scores keep going up and up.”

This isn’t first time that South Korea and China have been blistered with an ETS cheating scandal. In May 2013, the company canceled an SAT exam for about 1,500 students in South Korea over allegations of skulduggery. In 2001, the ETS also won a lawsuit in China against test-prep juggernaut New Oriental over its publications of full copies of old tests.

Nevertheless, Gregg is incensed by the latest scandal. “Someone is so selfish that they put tens of thousands of students’ futures in jeopardy,” he says.

Some students on College Confidential held the College Board responsible. “Most of us are innocent,” wrote a “Chinese test taker” who “took the test in Nepal” on Oct. 11. “How could test materials be reached? Isn’t it because of [the College Board’s] own leak in security?”

— With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

TIME Education

Allegations of Mass SAT Cheating Delay Test Scores in China and South Korea

Students in China and South Korea who took the SAT on Oct. 11 will have their test scores delayed

All students living in China and South Korea who took the SAT on Oct. 11 will have their test scores delayed and reviewed because of allegations of widespread cheating, officials from the College Board and its global test administration and security provider, Educational Testing Service (ETS), tell TIME.

The allegations of cheating, which are “based on specific, reliable information,” according to the officials, could be held up for as many as four weeks, potentially excluding some students for “early decision” or “early action” admissions to U.S. colleges and universities. Each individual test score will be evaluated for evidence of cheating.

“The College Board will make universities aware of the circumstances and can supply students with a letter to share with the schools to which they are applying,” ETS spokesman Thomas Ewing tells TIME. “Students should contact their preferred schools for more information.”

“Universities generally do their best to accommodate late scores from students when there are extenuating circumstances,” Ewing adds. Even if test scores are delivered in November, they will be reported as October scores, he says.

Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, confirms that “the administrative delay will not hurt the chance of admission for an individual applicant, since any scores that arrive before our review process is complete will be considered.” He adds that students from countries like China where there are no SAT test centers available are not required to submit SAT scores.

The College Board has faced cheating scandals in the past, although this appears to be the first time “reliable allegations” have affected more than one entire country at the same time. “We have conducted administrative reviews in a number of countries over the years including the United States when we want to assure that no student gained an unfair advantage over students who tested honestly,” Ewing says.

In May 2013, the College Board canceled a scheduled exam in South Korea because of allegations of widespread cheating, affecting an estimated 1,500 students. That was the first time allegations of cheating affected an entire country.

Students from China, India and South Korea now make up roughly 50% of the total number of international students in the U.S., according to a 2013 Institute of International Education report. The number of Chinese students studying in the U.S. has increased by 20% every year since 2008, reaching nearly 200,000 in late 2012.

Under current rules, Chinese students without foreign passports must travel outside of mainland China to take admissions tests for U.S. universities. “Chinese national students interested in taking the SAT are welcome to take it in SAT testing centers in Hong Kong, Macao or any other country such as Taiwan or Korea, among others,” the College Board website reads. Those with foreign passports can take the test in China at international schools.

“The scores under question are for Chinese test takers who tested outside of China (not Hong Kong) and NOT for those taken at the international schools in China,” Ewing says in an email.

“Based on specific, reliable information, we have placed the scores of all students who are current residents of Korea or China and sat for the October 11th international administration of the SAT on hold while we conduct an administrative review,” according to a statement from the College Board and ETS released Wednesday to TIME. “The review is being conducted to ensure that illegal actions by individuals or organizations do not prevent the majority of test-takers who have worked hard to prepare for the exam from receiving valid and accurate scores.”

The College Board sent emails this week to all students affected by this round of allegations of cheating. “Dear Test Taker: We at ETS are highly committed to quality standards and fairness,” the email reads. “After every test administration, we go to great lengths to make sure each test result we report is accurate and valid. It is with this objective in mind that we sometimes take additional quality control steps before scores are released. For the reasons stated above, your October 2014 SAT scores are delayed because they are under administrative review.”

The email ends by denouncing “organizations that seek to illegally obtain test materials for their own profit” and asks that individuals share any information with the College Board that could help in the investigation. “We take action on all credible information and go to great lengths to ensure each test result we report is accurate and valid,” the email says.

— With reporting by Tessa Berenson

Read next: This Is How the New SAT Will Test Vocabulary

TIME North Korea

Kim Jong Un’s Mystery Disappearance May Be Solved

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attends a military drill between KPA Large Combined Unit 526 and KPA Combined Unit 478
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a military drill at an undisclosed location in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyangon Oct. 24, 2014 KCNA/Reuters

The North Korean leader was reported to have surgery

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un apparently underwent ankle surgery in either September or October, according to a report Tuesday, which may finally explain his recent six-week disappearance.

Kim wasn’t seen in public between Sept. 3 and Oct. 14, the Associated Press reports, an unusually long absence that led many outside the reclusive country to speculate whether he was sick or had even been thrown from power. When Kim finally returned to public view, he appeared to have lost weight and was using a cane.

South Korea’s intelligence agency reportedly learned of the leader’s surgery — a foreign doctor was said to have removed a cyst from Kim’s right ankle and warned it could return due to his weight, busy schedule and smoking habit — and told lawmakers in a closed-door meeting.

[AP]

Read next: A Former Doctor to North Korea’s Founder Thinks He Passed on Health Problems to Kim Jong Un

TIME South Korea

South Korean Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for Ferry Captain

Lee Joon-seok
Lee Joon-seok, the captain of the sunken South Korean ferry Sewol, arrives at Gwangju District Court in Gwangju, South Korea, June 10, 2014. Hyung Min-woo—AP

Capsizing in April killed nearly 300 people

Prosecutors on Monday requested the death penalty for the captain of a ferry that capsized off the peninsula’s southwestern coastline and killed nearly 300 people in April, marking an unusually severe punishment in a nation that hasn’t carried out the sentence in almost two decades.

CNN reports that the request was made during the closing arguments in court, with the prosecutors charging that Lee Joon-seok and three crew members of the sunken Sewol should be held guilty of murder for failing to deploy life rafts or life vests as the ship lurched into frigid water. Hundreds of high school students died inside of the flooded vessel on April 16, stoking widespread outrage at what became known in the local press as one of South Korea’s worst peacetime disasters.

A 30-year prison sentence for the crew member who was at the helm at the time of the ship’s sinking was also sought.

[CNN]

TIME

The South Korean Ferry Tragedy Has Exposed a Bitter Political Divide

Sewol Disaster Impact On South Korea Continues
A man holds a candle as protesters continue their fight at the Sewol ferry protest camp September 16, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. Paula Bronstein—Getty Images

Incredibly, right-wing groups in South Korea have a problem with families of Sewol victims continuing to mourn their loved ones

When the Sewol ferry sank in April, South Korea was united in trauma over the tragedy of a routine ferry ride that somehow resulted in the deaths of around 300 people, many of them high school kids.

More than six months later, that grief has mutated into bitterness along political lines, and given rise to a slow-burn faceoff between antagonistic civic groups in the heart of the South Korean capital.

In Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul’s symbolic center, amid groups of tourists taking selfies, relatives of some of those who died on the Sewol and their supporters have, for more than three months, been camped out in a makeshift tent city. And on a sidewalk across the square, civic groups with a very different take on the issue of the sinking have set up their own camp.

The relatives are calling on the government to mandate a thorough investigation into the cause of the sinking. “All we want is the truth,” said Kim Sung-shil, the 50-year-old mother of a high school boy who died in the sinking. More than six months after her son’s death, Kim still introduces herself as “Dong-hyuk’s mom.”

The families and their supporters argue that corruption and corner-cutting were behind the sinking, and need to be rooted out. The company that operated the Sewol is believed to have violated safety regulations by overloading the ship and failing to train the crew in how to carry out an emergency evacuation. The government’s emergency response has also been criticized for being late and ineffective.

When it went down on Apr. 16, the Sewol was carrying 476 people, only 172 of whom were rescued, many by private vessels who went to the scene to help out. Ten bodies have still not been recovered.

“If we never find the real truth behind the tragedy, our society will just become a darker place where people fear for their safety,” Kim said.

In part because most of them came from a working class suburb, victims of the sinking have become identified with the political left, leading to a forceful backlash from right wing groups that have their roots in red-bashing. Across the road from where Kim is camped out, right-wingers argue that the grieving families have been at it long enough and it’s time to get back to business as usual.

“It’s time for someone to stand up and say enough is enough,” said Bae Sung-gwan, a conservative activist and retired career soldier. He added, “At the time of the sinking, everyone felt sympathy for them, but a long time has passed and that sympathy has run out.”

In late September, while Sewol families and supporters were holding a hunger strike, rightwing activists held a protest of their own where they feasted on pizza and fried chicken directly in front of them.

Kim Sung-shil said of her conservative adversaries, “I have no idea why they’re here. It’s like they don’t have families.”

The Sewol incident and its fallout even led Lee and some associates, all graying men, to revive the Northwest Youth Association, a conservative youth group with a history of anti-communist purges.

After the 1951-53 Korean War, South Korea was, for decades, led by military dictatorships who argued that harsh controls were necessary to protect the country’s fragile peace from North Korean communist infiltration.

Some far-right activists also still believe that South Korea could at any time be overrun by communists from North Korea. “The leftists are using this [the Sewol sinking] as a chance to seize power. If they come to control the government, our country will be vulnerable to communists,” said Kang In-ho, a rightwing activist manning his side’s main table, gathering signatures for a petition seeking for any special Sewol investigation to be cancelled.

Parliament was deadlocked for weeks due to disagreement over the composure of the investigative body and the limits of its authority. The ruling and opposition parties reached a compromise on the law in early October, but the families are refusing to accept it on the grounds that they weren’t given a say in choosing who will carry out the investigation. The bill mandating the investigation will be passed at the end of October, once parliament finishes regular audits of government ministries.

The outdoor struggle is therefore likely to continue, even as Seoul’s crisp autumn weather segues into the bitter cold of winter. Kim says she’s in for the long haul. “I know Dong-hyuk is watching,” she said. “I can’t give up now.”

Kang In-ho says it’s time to move on from the Sewol tragedy. “The economy is suffering because they’re trying to keep everyone sad.”

But, Kang says, he’s not ready to move on from his own activist camp just yet. When asked how long his group planned to keep their post, Kang points over his shoulder at the Sewol families and says, “One day longer than them.”

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