ATEK: The Great White Hoax

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By Iwazaru

This is Part 1 in a series about ATEK’s past and present.

There is no truth. There is only perception. —Gustave Flaubert

Barely two years ago, The Association for Teachers of English in Korea (ATEK) officially stepped on stage to begin a show that by now has resembled something of a Shakespearean tragedy or the recent Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark” which has turned into a $65 million debacle.  ATEK’s vision was grandiose, its staff ambitious, its message scripted, its theater vast.

“We need information that helps us understand, protects our rights and gives us better access to services, improves our teaching, and makes living and working in Korea more convenient,” said founding President Tom Rainey-Smith of New Zealand, then 27, and one of the founding triad, at a press conference on March 11, 2009 to announce the launch or, if you will, the beginning of Act I.

At the time, Rainey-Smith, Vice President Jason Thomas, a Canadian, and Spokesman Tony Hellmann, an American, were all teachers with Rainey-Smith and Thomas also belonging to Amnesty G48 an official chapter of Amnesty International Korea for speakers of English based in Seoul.

Though details are mixed about the exact spark that motivated the founders—allegedly Rainey-Smith and Thomas were partly driven by the death of Bill Kapoun an expat teacher who died in March of 2008 as a result of injuries sustained during a fire in his apartment (Kapoun was not fully covered by Korea’s national health insurance plan due to his part-time status)—it’s clear that they wanted to try to help the many thousands of English teachers living and working in South Korea.

Yet in hindsight, it is obvious that they didn’t know what they were getting into and quickly ended up over their heads.  It wasn’t Kansas anymore—they stood in a foreign land with complicated laws, a byzantine immigration service, a shady private hagwon system, and, in part, a xenophobic and nationalistic populous.  Add to that the fact that many teachers are short-timers who have little interest in or stomach for some drawn out legal dispute when they could just head home or on to another land.  (Flying below the radar is far safer than taking on the men in shiny suits who hold little sympathy for foreign “guests.”)

Nevertheless, they came out firing—with what may have been blanks—presenting a plan to give accommodations to wrongly terminated teachers, to provide consultation with a labor attorney in disputes and to take on certain National Immigration Service visa requirements, especially those targeting E-2 holders who make up some 80% of all English teachers in Korea.  Bold. Broad. Naïve.

“We are not a union,” said Hellmann on that inaugural day—it was an “association”—as if to assuage any concern Koreans might have had, if they had any at all.  Still, saying you’re not a union but announcing plans to take on labor issues and provide legal consultation in disputes with Korean employers for a potential pool of 20,000 members appears antithetical not to mention amateurish.  But it was, after all, a non-profit organization, as Hellmann said.  As a result, Rainey-Smith, Thomas and Hellmann would be grappling with a gargantuan task sans remuneration—if they even envisioned 50 troubled teachers showing up with grievances, legal or otherwise, the magnitude of what they’d taken on might have manifested itself (or perhaps they did and ignored it).

What’s bemusing is that they’d had a year to size things up and had been in the news several times.  Rainey-Smith and Thomas conceptualized the idea more than a year before the March 2009 official launch and one source referenced a blog post—no longer active—that had Hellmann declaring, “ATEK became a concept because Tom Rainey-Smith and Jason Thomas independently decided something must be done about the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the accidental death of Bill Kapoun.”  Attempts to get Rainey-Smith to confirm this for this article were met with an odd e-mail from ATEK, not Rainey-Smith, which read, “As for the questions you have asked the former president Tom Rainey-Smith, ATEK will answer them.”  This was followed by the generic statement:  “After founding the association, writing a publication, and launching a national media campaign, Tom left his acting role as president.”  Whatever the reason for the subterfuge about the founding, it remains that ATEK operated “unofficially” for a year announcing and attempting to carry out plans but not accepting members.  They had a year to assess the environment and to identify targets and threats (both of which were blatantly obvious).

Nevertheless, ignorance firmly fixed itself to the name ATEK and, as Goethe said, “There is nothing so frightful as ignorance in action.”  The recipe had been written and disaster stood atop the page—within months of their March press conference, all three men would vacate their positions.  Despite their departure, the comedy (or tragedy) of errors and egos carried on.

If you build it they will come?

The impression that ATEK’s Web site gives to a first-time visitor (and perhaps to those whom return) is one of complexity, superficiality and bloated bureaucracy.  At a glance, any common user sees the typical parent categories: About Us, Member Forums, National Directory, Local Directory, Join and side bar categories like Join ATEK! (the second of at least five join options on the front page), Bylaws, Help, Survey & Reports, Employment/Legal, Ethics, Commissions (Hagwon, Public School, Social, Human Rights), News, Learn More and so on.  When one hovers over the National and Local Directories’, menus drop with 23 and 16 different subcategories, respectively.  The message seems to be:  We are big; We are important; We make things happen; Join the mission!  A mantra that beats in the chests of the leadership and could easily translate into an alternative acronym: Awesome, Terrific, Exceptional, Kick-ass. Surely there is nothing wrong with self-promotion, building the brand and doing it with chutzpah—such is the digital age.

Yet, after spending some time sifting below the elaborate surface and pulling aside some curtains, it’s easy to get the feeling that they built it but hardly anyone came.  While the leadership drafts extensive Bylaws, creates innumerous posts to be filled (currently there are 64 leadership posts and only 21 are filled), announces aspirational agendas and delegates inane tasks, the ranks remain sparse and recruits aren’t exactly lining up (the current membership number stands at 1221).

According to the Korea Immigration Service, some 25,000 English teachers currently reside in Korea with the large majority, approximately 20,000, being E-2 visa holders.  ATEK’s Web site seems built for numbers like this but, if the data are accurate, reaches about 5% of the total.  A membership breakdown sits on the site for anyone to see and might lead to some head scratching.  It’s important, first, to understand that ATEK has both local and national councils with the local councils containing Provincial/Metropolitan Associations (PMAs) that elect individuals to aid teachers in that region (there are 16 regions across the peninsula).  Those same PMAs elect the National Council members who operate on a countrywide basis.  Bicameral might come to mind.  Where it gets murkier (or clearer depending on what you’re looking for) is in the “classes” of membership:  General and Associate.  General members are confirmed teachers who, one would think, must make up the majority of the association.  Associate members are, according to ATEK, “everyone who is concerned about the status of education in Korea.”  With this clarified, a glance at the membership breakdown reveals general members numbering 136.  One.  Hundred. Thirty. Six.  Associate members number more than 1,000.

Regardless of that shortcoming stands the fact the there is barely a skeleton crew running the association—simply, many of the leadership positions have “none” next to their titles.  Positions like Vice President, Emergency Needs Committee Chair, Blood Bank Coordinator, Hagwon Commission Chair, Public School Commission Chair, Human Rights Committee Chair and many more are empty.  Almost no one is in charge of positions that deal with the core concerns of the association.

So what happens when you build it and they don’t come?  When you rule over a kingdom of none?  Clearly, the show must go on—people have titles, roles, duties, egos.  Appearances must be kept, prides preserved and any internal positioning squashed.

But it’s hard to prevent infighting in an organization that’s desperate to make progress, faces constant critiques and requires council representatives to dedicate their time for free.  It’s even harder in an organization that attracts egomaniacs, ladder climbers, resume builders and short-timers.  Remember that the three original founding board members stepped down within months of the launch.  ATEK is now on its third president and so many other people have come and gone that it’s difficult to keep track on a daily basis (the vice president just left after only a few months and the Web site doesn’t even have a Webmaster).

When asked about the leadership void, current President Jae-hee Oh, an English tutor in Busan who’s been president since September 2010, said, “We in ATEK’s leadership are the first to admit that this is not enough. More than anything, we need people to step in the fill these positions so that we can reach the goals we have set out for ourselves.”

However, a recent meltdown among the leadership, which will be covered in a future installment, contradicts Oh’s response and reveals continuing quandaries within ATEK only a few years on.

Part Two Coming Soon at 3WM.

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41 Responses to “ATEK: The Great White Hoax”

  1. Richard Cabesa Says:

    Man.. this is some shite writing..

    1) It includes the retarded self-abegnation and contradiction of:

    “allegedly Rainey-Smith and Thomas were partly driven by the death of Bill Kapoun”

    to the same statement later presented as fact:

    ATEK became a concept because Tom Rainey-Smith and Jason Thomas independently decided something must be done about the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the accidental death of Bill Kapoun.”

    2) The grammar is subpar with passive phrases like “by now has resembled something of a” instead of “now is.”

    They stamp that kind of shitty writing out in third grade, in most native-speaking English nations.

    3) Then there is the always classic, “attribute unsubstantiated failings” thing:

    “(or perhaps they did and ignored it)”

    “it is obvious that they didn’t know what they were getting into and quickly ended up over their heads”

    “The message seems to be”

    LOL .. Those kinds of things will need citations..

    Did I say “shite?”

  2. Billy Says:

    Rather sensationalist writing for something not that sensational. Unless there’s a sex scandal, financial impropriety, or some other high profile malfeasance in part two, does this story really need the gossip rag level of journalism used here?

  3. Erik A. Cornelius Says:

    I have absolutely no stake in this game; I’m a corporate guy who neither works in education nor needs union representation.

    Despite my lack of personal interest, this article is incensing. It’s a hatchet piece that doesn’t even attempt the least amount of journalistic integrity. What did ATEK do to get on your bad side? I’ve left my full name on this comment, please feel free to investigate me next.

  4. Dave Says:

    Right from the beginning, it came across as the product of waeguk beer talk, and should have stayed in the bar.

    I suppose it has had one benefit for those involved. Think of all those 20-somethings who now have on their resumes, “Public School Commission Chair” etc of some important-sounding national organization.

    For those who will go on to apply to non-education jobs back home, that probably looks better than “One year at Ding Dong Dang Wonderland School”.

  5. melanie Says:

    All ways thought ATEK was some kind of resume builder for people who were not quite teeachers and not quite travelers. Good write up.

  6. don'tH8! Says:

    melanie seems you are not quite a teeacher. or not quite a teeacher of english at least. what is the difference between not quite a teeacher and a bona fide teeacher? why are people who teeach in korea so often considered something less than teachers? are you a teeacher? did you feel your elementary school teeachers were all teeachers? what is a traveler? how can i be a not quite traveler? i think instead of being a teeacher or traveler i want to be a resume builder.

  7. Chris in South Korea Says:

    don’tH8 – try following your name. Don’t hate someone just because they make a typo.

    Russell – hope life is well with you and your future non-profit startup. The line on how ATEK is a ‘new organization’ was old a year ago, however, and is bordering on a blatant lie. ATEK is two years old. In two years, the organization is still in a ‘start-up’ phase? Hundred million dollar movies get made faster than that. That the structure has people moving in and out every year allows for zero institutional memory – especially when the underlying foundation gets changed by each successive generation.

  8. Mike in Seoul Says:

    Chris is right, on both accounts.

    ATEK is past the stage where they can blame failure on ‘being the new guy’.

    I was interested in becoming an officer in ATEK before, but strange things started happening.

    The website was down for some time, so my friends couldn’t even join for a week. And there was this thing going on on the forums, but then it disappeared from the forums like they were trying to hide it. After that, all the people in Seoul, where I am, just disappeared or left last month, but their terms weren’t up. I can understand one or two people having to leave, but all of them?

    As for Russell enticing Iwazaru with ‘juicy’ and ‘privy’ information, from what I’ve seen, I highly doubt that there is anything ‘official’ worth anything that Iwazaru or another reporter can’t find on his own. It seems ATEK likes to publicize anything it can anyway. What happened to their legal program and their thing with the police? There was once an announcement about those things, but that’s all I heard. It was announced, and that’s it.

    ATEK seems very shady and incredibly disorganized. What I’d like to know is if they’re hiding any skeletons in their closet. I’m afraid that if they are, then they may do more harm than good in representing us teachers.

    Just imagine what it would mean to all of us if one of these ATEK people or a president or something like that turned out to be a sex offender in his/her home country.

    Gosh. I can’t believe I just wrote that much. People representing me in Korea is just so important. It gets me riled up. We get so much BS here already.

  9. Iwazaru Says:

    Richard, thanks for the pointers. Your first holds little water as I again said no verification was given by R.S. Second, the phrase “has resembled” is present perfect (i.e., up to this point (or as of now–whichever you wish–) your comment has resembled something of a….). Lastly, unsubstantiated doesn’t apply because it’s self-evident and already substantiated in what ATEK has and hasn’t done. That, a third grader could ascertain. Look forward to reading some of your writing.

  10. funnymonkey Says:

    Erik said: “I have absolutely no stake in this game; I’m a corporate guy who neither works in education nor needs union representation.”

    Sure Erik, I believe that just as much as I believe in Santa Claus. This part of your comment speaks directly to your motive, “I’ve left my full name on this comment, please feel free to investigate me next.” Paging Tony Hellmann, paging Tony “Anthony” Hellman to the brown courtesy phone please.

  11. Chris in South Korea Says:

  12. Charles Montgomery Says:


    Led here by Chris’s strange knob-job elsewhere.. I suspect he, like you, recognizes a topic that might get a lot of heat going. Good webwork!

    stayed here for discussion of bad writing between RKMonkey and Imonkey..

    Imonkey doesn’t seem to understand that passive voice depends on where the action occurs related to the subject, not the verb tense? The sentence in question is passive.

    And this is classic circular logic:

    “Lastly, unsubstantiated doesn’t apply because it’s self-evident and already substantiated in what ATEK has and hasn’t done.”

    Sweeeet! It’s substantiated because it’s obvious!

    Anyway…. good job with the post that started all this.

    Creating a sock-monkey in the semi-illiterate “melanie” was a stroke of genius.

    This is some pretty entertaining shadow-puppetry.

    Your devoted fan..

    (LOL .. it’s also my real name, so your other sock-puppet can get appropriately offended)

    And man… I love finding a good grammar fight!

    See you at the HBC festival!

  13. The Chosun Bimbo Says:

    Since when did we start laying down the Grammar Nazi line on writings upon these here Internets? Jeebus! Give it a break!

    The article, despite flaws in grammar, successfully communicates the writer’s points, and it is up to the reader to interpret as biased or lacking in facts etc.

    I thought it was a reasonably good read.

    I question whether there is any malfeasance going on. In contrast I can’t help but agree on the point about ”resume building”. The bylaws and over inflated titles (and egos) puts me off joining any sort of organisation like this and can imagine more time is being spent within ATEK aimlessly debating these things when time could be spent doing more practical things.

    I look forward to the second part, just to see where this thing is going, if not for anything else.

  14. Erik A. Cornelius Says:

    funnymonkey – I don’t know who Tony Hellmann is.

    I read this post after receiving a link to it by email and, after reading it, thought it poorly executed enough to deserve comment. (And seriously, who the hell would make up a name like Erik A. Cornelius?)

  15. foobat Says:

    sigh. there is a lot of build up in what is essentially a dribble about facts already known to most. tis a shame (but perhaps indicative of Korea’s expat bloggers) that the purveyors of this site, in an obvious attempt to milk more readers, split this article up into parts. hopefully the rest of this article will actually be useful in what remains of the ATEK discourse that is floating about in 2011.

  16. wetcasements Says:

    ATEK started as a mess and remains a mess. The goals are noble, but c’mon — just going to their website and seeing the position titles gives me a headache. “National Internal Communications Coordinator”? Really? Talk about organizational bloat.

    It also didn’t help that when people raised basic questions about the role and mission of ATEK its supporters basically called people lazy and/or apathetic. Great marketing strategy there guys. Way to rally the troops.

  17. Henry Fool Says:

    Thanks for this story on ATEK. I met this white chick English teacher in Thailand last summer and she was pressing the flesh on being a developer of ATEK. Everything about her was farce. The white Goddess administering to the locals. I hope you destroy these pretenders in part 2. H.F.

  18. admin Says:

    To those commenting that they wish we hadn’t split this up: sorry. It isn’t a matter of trying to get readers to return (they do that already), it’s a matter of practicality. Very few people take the time to read a seven or eight PAGE article (unless they are subscribers to the New York Times Magazine.)

    If we had run the whole thing, this comment roll would be filled with “TL;DR.”

    Looking forward to reading part 2 myself!

  19. Chris in South Korea Says:

    @admin: fair play to split it up.

    The question has been raised of motivation: is 3WM more interested in constructive criticism or tearing down? By revealing these “continuing quandaries”, you’re in a position to do either.

  20. The Bobster Says:

    Gonna side with this who might say this is piece lacks balance.

    The purpose is clearly to persuade rather than inform, and nothing wrong with that, but perhaps the opening of a multi-part series ought to have focused more on the simple facts of history rather than the slant that is very clear immediately, from the title and the first paragraph and all the way through. Having a point of view is fine, makes for more interesting writing but you’re better off – we’re all better off – if you earn it first.

    Seems the author is opposed to ATEK, but I can’t say I’m exactly sure why. It’s a purely voluntary group which so far is not even allowed to solicit donations, so everyone involved is subtracting energies from their own lives and concerns for any efforts they put into it. Is there malfeasance, someone seeking gain at the expense of others? Were promises made and broken? Is ATEK merely inept?

    Perhaps we’ll learn more about that in later installments.

  21. Chris Says:

    This blog post may have ruffled some feathers but what it does is discuss ATEK in an open manner, blemishes and all.

    Before anyone attacks the author as some sort of anti-ATEK propagandist, one should really read up on ATEK itself, including the early days and the recent past.

    The post may have been negative in tone but then again, ATEK has hardly been a shining beacon of efficiency, organisation or effectiveness.

    About ATEK itself, as a distant observer I can say that it made a wise and necessary choice when it moved away from the shrill human rights advocacy route it had initially taken. The fact that the founders stepped down was both planned and a forced consequence of the actions of one of the founders. If you want to know more about this, do your research and read up.

    ATEK went the quieter route and stopped making false or innacurate claims as to whom it represented. That was a wise move and it eliminated a bad habit of early ATEK of publishing anything just to get the name of the organisation in the news.

    ATEK started out with completely unrealistic goals considering the nature of the ESL community in Korea, the means at hand, the resources they had, the laws of Korea, the expertise they had.

    What ATEK was and seems to still be is an organisation mostly staffed by part-timers who donate their time. Because of the laws of Korea, it is also a non-profit organisation and as such has no significant budget (resource issue). On the expertise front, it has what experts are willing to donate as far as time and expertise is concerned.

    All of these are hard facts that dictate what this organisation can and cannnot do. These facts should also guide the association down a more modest path where it could be quite beneficial and efficient. That role would be an information network for teachers and a resource for teachers to network with others. Period.

    Trying a larger scale role would mean ATEK would be efficient at nothing by trying to do too much.

    To do more ATEK would need a significant budget, permanent full-time staff that includes experts in various fields.

    As it stands, ATEK barely has 2000 members. The bulk of the members are general members, a category that does not require that the member be an actual teacher.

    Votes for positions have had such low voter turnout that they flirted with the absurd. Positions remained unfilled and the turn over in personel is troublesome. That last point is to be expected for an association staffed by part-timers and in a country when the vast majority of the target members (foreign teachers) stay for 1-2 years. It makes you wonder what the actual membership number is and if ATEK keeps old members on the list in order to inflate membership.

    The sheer number of officials and positions is mind boggling and frankly reeks of resume padding.

    ATEK needs to scale down massively and focus on a limited and clear mandate if it wants to be effective and taken seriously.

    It is interesting that over 2 years after its launch, ATEK remains largely unknown to foreign teachers. In fact its existance is often unknown to many teachers.

    I worked in Korea for over 10 years before moving back to Canada. I made many friends and contacts in Korea. I return there at least once per year. Last winter while on a long vacation in Korea I got a chance to meet many foreign teachers through friends or by visiting schools where friends work. I have to say that 8 out 10 teachers had no clue what ATEK was. That is something that speaks volumes.

    When you try to be everything at once, you all too often end up being nothing at all….

  22. ohh ohh ohh Says:

    “Nevertheless, they came out firing—with what may have been blanks—presenting a plan to give accommodations to wrongly terminated teachers, to provide consultation with a labor attorney in disputes and to take on certain National Immigration Service visa requirements, especially those targeting E-2 holders”

    “Firing blanks” If I’m not mistaken accomodation has been provided, pointing teachers into the direction of an attorney – yes – but I don’t think ATEK claimed to “PROVIDE consultation with an attorney.” I don’t get your point about “firing blanks” when the things above have been done as well as god forgive E – 2 teachers for filing complaints with the Human Rights Commission against Korean Immigration for discrimination.

    Perhaps following through on the things above is what Iwazaru doesn’t like. If I were to guess I’d say you’re an F – visa holder. Must’ve been offended that the E – 2 visa holder was originally the focus and felt ignored or left out.
    ooh ooh ahh ahh…oohh oooh AAHHHH eee eeeeeeeeeeee!
    Shame on ATEK

  23. Marty Says:

    I considered doing something official with ATEK when they first got started. I tried to get some local meetings going
    and failed. Couldn’t find a single teacher in my city wanting to meet and discuss a local chapter. No matter,
    ATEK created a group and, I’m sure, counted every single one of the same people who showed no interest as full General members. I know their site listed a group for our
    city and I knew there wasn’t – it just isn’t that big of a city and most were apathetic about the causes.

    Whatever… Anyway, mu point is that I wouldn’t trust any number ATEK comes up with for membership. They counted all inquiries as members.

  24. The Bobster Says:

    @Chris in South Korea : I find it interesting that you speak here of making “constructive criticism or tearing down” and yet on your blog you speak in a rather lofty way about professional journalism and basically insult everyone who’s ever written for this site by saying it’s full of “stories written by people who couldn’t get them published elsewhere.” I wonder if you really believe this.

    Chris, not everyone who sits down to a keyboard wants to be a mouthpiece for the KNTO or the Itaewon Chamber of Commerce, a.k.a. Groovy Magazine (or whatever the latest advertising rag on the rack at 3 Alley Pub is being called). Those of us who would rather write something else deserve better than an attitude of (unwarranted) superiority.

  25. admin Says:

    Amen, Bobster.

  26. Chris in South Korea Says:

    @The Bobster: you misquote me – I didn’t say that about all of 3WM’s pieces. Go back and try again with a fuller quote.

    It’s completely fine to write your thoughts, whether or not they jive with what the powers that be desire. I do indeed speak in a lofty way about professional journalism – that sh!t’s hard work if done right. When it is, though, the words read clearly, persuasively, and the message doesn’t get lost because the author has a clear bias. Let the record show that I don’t claim to be a professional journalist, nor would I claim my blog is up to those standards

  27. wetcasements Says:

    @CiSK you wrote “Perhaps part 2 of 3WM’s story on ATEK will enlighten readers on why they sought them out as a target to berate. More than a few 3WM stories are an interesting read, but 3WM’s version of independent media often reads as a loosely-associated group of stories written by people who couldn’t get them published elsewhere. 3WM may well be ‘provocative, smart, [and] entertaining’, but influential isn’t yet something I’ve heard said about them.”

    Honestly, who cares what you’ve heard? You’ve come into this thread and tried to be both a moderator and self-appointed tastemaker. You are neither.

    As for “people who couldn’t get them published elsewhere,” that’s pretty much what a blog is, yours included.

    Sorry if that’s harsh, but I know how hard it is to run an arts/opinion journal, even a small one. Poetry and fiction are hard sells these days, much harder than write-ups of the latest burger joint in Itaewon.

  28. admin Says:

    OK, Chris. We’ll save Bobster the time:
    “More than a few 3WM stories are an interesting read, but 3WM’s version of independent media often reads as a loosely-associated group of stories written by people who couldn’t get them published elsewhere.” Who needed a “fuller” quote?

    And we recall that you submitted a story a few months ago that was not run…something about orgasms. Do you remember that? What does it imply if you submitted something to a source that, according to you, publishes stories that people couldn’t get published elsewhere and your work doesn’t get published there?

    Lastly, it’s nonplussing that you started out here saying, “The line on how ATEK is a ‘new organization’ was old a year ago, however, and is bordering on a blatant lie. ATEK is two years old. In two years, the organization is still in a ‘start-up’ phase? Hundred million dollar movies get made faster than that…,” then moved on to “is 3WM more interested in constructive criticism or tearing down?” A fine lesson in prevarication.

  29. Chris in South Korea Says:

    @wetcasements: “Honestly, who cares what you’ve heard? You’ve come into this thread and tried to be both a moderator and self-appointed tastemaker. You are neither.”

    You’re right – I never claimed to be either. I see no more options on my screen than you do on yours. If you’d like to connect being a critic with being a “self-appointed tastemaker”, so be it.

    @admin: your supposed anonymity guarantee notwithstanding, I was rather proud of that story, and felt it was a good fit for your site. I was also informed that it was cut at the last minute, one of the monkeys being overruled by the others. What does it say about me? Considering there was initial interest and a story accepted but not published, that makes 3WM no different from any other place that accepts guest posts. Which is ok – merely a reminder that not everyone is published in every place just because they submit something there.

    Admin, I am not your enemy – a critic, perhaps, but a critic of both parties involved. ATEK has more than a few faults, but the choice to tear something down or constructively criticize remains yours.

  30. wetcasements Says:

    “but the choice to tear something down or constructively criticize remains yours”

    Do you see why people are accusing you of cognitive dissonance here?

  31. Mike in Seoul Says:

    @CiSK: I’m not sure it is 3WM or anyone else who would tear or bring ATEK down. Both the Russell guy and Greg on your site have said that others have criticized them in the past but they’re still here. Just plain criticism is not going to bring anyone down.

    If ATEK is hurt by what is in this article it won’t be for something that 3WM or you or I said. I think it will be because of something that ATEK has done. We suffer the consequences of our own actions.

    They’re the ones telling us that being against them is being against teachers, and that not being with them means that we’re lazy slobs or something. No, neither you nor I will bring them down.

    They’ll do it to themselves. Just them and no one else.

  32. The Bobster Says:

    “Let the record show that I don’t claim to be a professional journalist, nor would I claim my blog is up to those standards”

    Good thing, too. A professional journalist would have casually mentioned somewhere along the line that he’d had a piece rejected by a publication he was getting ready to trash in public (along with the dozens of people who’ve contributed to it over the past year).

    Finding that out after the fact makes you seem somewhat petty, a little bit mean, and perhaps even slightly vengeful. And, yeah, less than credible and even verging on dishonest.

    I have to say, I’m very disappointed.

  33. ohh ohh ohh Says:

    Chris in South Korea,
    “ATEK has more than a few faults,”
    I take that as an attack toward more than a few CURRENT volunteers. If only they could be as “professional” as YOU and all the OTHER nay-sayers. I’d surely be happy to be cool like Chris, Iwazaru, thethreewisemonkeys, and all the other peeps. How do you do it, can I learn or will you be teaching a class on the subject any time soon?

  34. jake Says:

    Results dont lie. ATEK is what it is. Deal with it. Arguing here won’t change it. Change your name and ip address but the facts won’t.

    This union shit is utterly jokes. The brainchild of a drunk ass in itaewon using energy that was better left for a bar patron.

  35. Chris Says:

    Bobster, I am sorry but I have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to my comment here.

    I was not being superior nor trying to be a mouthpiece for anyone or any organisation.

    I participated in the ATEK debate on hub fo sparkle (I wrote the “undecided” position post in that debate).

    I have stated over and over that I think ATEK CAN be a beneficial force for Foreign Teachers. I argued that point on Daves ESL with Mr Hellmann for a year prior to the launch of ATEK. I continued on that line which is: scale down and focus on what you CAN ACTUALLY achieve.

    Sorry if in your eyes that is sounding superior.

    Not my intent at all.

    As for ohh ohh ohh, your response is typical of some ATEK supporters who respond to any criticism of the association with one of the following:

    1- Why don`t you join up and do something instead of doing nothing and complaining.

    - This is amusing because it is based on the assumption that non-members do nothing to help foreign teachers.

    2- You must be a frustrated F-visa holder

    - Amusing too because that is irrelevant to the debate.

    - Also amusing for the miss-interpretation of what actually happened initially. E-2 Teachers did not spontaneously lodge complaints with the Human Rights Commission. ATEK founders and an Associate Foreign Professor of law spearheaded a campaign to encourage E2 teachers to fill out a pre-written complaint letter.

    That is a completely different kettle of fish.

    Furthemore, at that time ATEK had 3 members (founders) and launched its campaign BEFORE it was an officially established association while claiming to reprensent all foreign teachers.

    Last but not least: SOME E2 teachers lodged complaints, not all and certainly not the majority.

    On another note how do you know what individual teachers do or do not do in the community to help other westerners? Do you even understand the difference between an E2 visa and a F-visa?

  36. admin Says:

    For the sake of clarity:

    Chris and Chris in Korea are different people. Chris, Bobster hasnt made any comment relating to you or your comments that I can see.

  37. Chris Says:

    I saw that AFTER my response admin!

    My apologies for the mistake.

  38. Conor Says:

    @ everyone: Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr

    Ye can’t can’t beat a good constructive dose of deconstructive criticism…and as for the self importance, sure where would bloggers be without it?

    Coming soon: Episode II – Why What I Say Is More Important Than What You Say

  39. ohh ohh ohh Says:

    “As for ohh ohh ohh, your response is typical of some ATEK supporters…”
    My response was not in anyway “typical” as you tried to say!
    Let me get this right, a few E-2 visa teachers in S. Korea got together and had a plan to start a group(Leaders of ATEK), then F-visa teachers got angry because they thought this, that, and the other thing might happen so they reacted and started an anti-ATEK group called AFEK. How classy is that? It’s interesting how AFEK originated and be sure to Wiki that!

  40. Roboseyo Says:

    @ohh ohh ohh

    I’m not a representative for either ATEK or AFEK, but I’m a member of both. While it’s true that some of founders of AFEK were critical of ATEK during its opening stages, AFEK is much more than an anti-ATEK organization. If that’s all it was, it would have faded into irrelevance long ago; instead, the community there is thriving. On AFEK’s discussion boards, there are commenters who are pro-ATEK, anti-ATEK, as well as some who really couldn’t give a flying rat’s bung either way.

    ATEK has done more than people give it credit for, but less than people hoped. Let’s hope this series adds some constructive points for ATEK’s leadership to consider in setting its future direction… because if all it accomplishes is to gather every negative thing said about ATEK in one place, well, when Peter talks about Paul, we learn as much about Peter as we learn about Paul.

  41. Mike in Seoul Says:


    Weren’t ATEK’s biggest accomplishments the thing with the Seoul Police, the legal program, the supposed blood bank database, and sending the letter to that HIV commission?

    The accomplishments regarding the Police and letter to commission have been debunked.

    So what about the blood bank thing? Wasn’t that headed by someone in Seoul who has since exited, along with the rest of that group?

    What about the legal program? What’s going on with that? I don’t see that law firm on your website anymore.

    As for the comment about Peter and Paul, the statement is misleading because it suggests that these articles reflect badly on 3WM somehow, but it’s true because sometimes telling a story says something about the storyteller. When Fox News tells us Obama is a socialist, it reflects back on Fox News and its ideology.

    But what about when Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, etc. tell us about some sort of government corruption or malfeasance, like the case of NY Rep. Charlie Rangell?

    ATEK, like Rangell, brought itself this public scrutiny because it comes out and says it’s our voice while doing things that we don’t like. Don’t tell me you represent all teachers, build yourself up, and then act the way ATEK has acted. ATEK brings this scrutiny and criticism on itself through its own actions.

    It seems the only lasting accomplishment of ATEK has been to pad the resumes of its former national leadership members, like that [name redacted]. ATEK is listed as an organization with 500-1000 EMPLOYEES on LinkedIn. Geez, wouldn’t it look awesome to have been the leader of an organization that large?

    My dad had a saying you might be familiar with, “Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

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