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   Foreign English teachers launch new organization
   4399    2009-03-13
Source : Joongang Daily

March 12, 2009

A group of foreign English teachers launched an organization yesterday that they say aims at improving English education in Korea while solving difficulties faced by foreign teachers here.

Called the Association for Teachers of English in Korea, the organization says one key objective is “visa portability,” or the ability to shift jobs without first having to leave the country. “We are not a union,” said ATEK spokesman Tony Hellmann. “But we hope that with a unified voice, we will be able to counter some of the negative public perceptions surrounding the [English teaching] profession in Korea.”

“We would like ATEK to be seen as the construction site for a home away from home for teachers,” said Tom Rainey-Smith, the president of ATEK, in a press conference at Seoul Global Center. “The need for such an organization has increased with the importance of the English language in South Korea. As more and more teachers are recruited from around the world to come to this country to teach, we have assumed the responsibility of improving the English education of future generations of Koreans”

He said that until now foreign English teachers “have never had the opportunity to speak with a unified voice, engaged at the national level.”

The teachers’ association called on the Korean government for more equal treatment in terms of E-2 visa requirements. Prior to its official launch, the association already started its “Equal Checks for All” campaign in early February, encouraging teachers to file online complaints with the National Human Rights Commission, asserting that drug tests and HIV tests required only for E-2 visa holders are discriminatory.

ATEK’s officials said their Web site ( offers various tips for English teachers who either are already teaching in Korea or are planning to do so. They say ATEK offers benefits such as an application that allows teachers who do not speak Korean to generate personalized progress reports so that parents can know how their children are doing in school. Ther group plans to conduct a series of surveys on the Web site so that many teachers can share information on work conditions. It also plans to provide temporary legal assistance to teachers in particular employment disputes.

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