Friday, February 26, 2010

Robots: A Tool of Xenophobic Koreans

Koreans are among the most xenophobic people on the globe. Despite the globalization Koreans have remained strongly xenophobic. At first, I thought this had to do with their long occupation by the U.S. military, but it goes far deeper. Koreans are generally obsessed with racial purity, absolutely opposed to immigration from the poorer nations of Asia, and have a history of strong reactions against other non-American white nations coming to Korea in large numbers to work.

In recent years, this xenophobia has manifested itself in a strong reaction against English teachers. Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling has studied this intensely and has provided many examples. Koreans see English teachers as drug-using alcoholics who come only to sleep with Korean women. Miscegenation fears aren't just an American phenomenon. However, the onslaught of globalization has made it imperative for Koreans to learn English. So how to overcome the dilemma of needing the skill and hating the teacher?


During the second decade of the New Millennium, robots are expected to replace a number of English-speaking teachers here, who come from such countries as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

At a robotics forum, which brought together 150 experts from across the country late last week in Seoul, participants predicted that English-speaking robots would fill the shoes of native speakers in the future.

"By around 2015, robots should be able to help teachers in English classes. By 2018, they should be able to teach on their own while communicating with students," said Kim Shin-hwan, an economist at the Hyundai Research Institute.

Reliance on technology is not going to alleviate the need for living English teachers, but this incident is a window into just how much Koreans resent having non-Koreans living in their country.