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English teachers’ group connects Seoul police with expats

The Association for Teachers of English in Korea, an all-volunteer national support and information sharing network for English teachers, will serve as official advisors to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency by providing policy and procedure recommendations as part of the newly established “Foreign Affairs Advisory Committee.”

The committee, also comprised of members representing Filipino, Nigerian, Chinese and other key migrant groups, is intended to establish open communication channels between the various expat communities in Korea and the SMPA.

Mark Barthelemy, a bilingual volunteer with more than 10 years experience in Korea, will represent ATEK’s members who come predominantly from the seven English speaking countries that send teachers to Korea.

Barthelemy attended the inaugural meeting on June 17 at SMPA headquarters in Jongno-gu, which was chaired by National Security Department Director Kim Ki-yong. Committee members had the opportunity to make statements and ask questions of several top SMPA officials.

“I am personally pleased that Mark accepted our invitation to join the Advisory Committee,” said Deputy Director of Foreign Affairs Choi Ho-ryul. “As our city’s expat population continues to rise, Seoul’s future as an increasingly multicultural city is inevitable making it imperative that we do our part to engage and learn from our expat communities.”

The SMPA made it clear that they recognize their duty to serve and protect everyone in Seoul. The Foreign Affairs Division invited Barthelemy to be a guest presenter at the “Multicultural Training Program,” a series of lectures meant to prepare the city’s officers for interactions with expats and tourists.

“It is a great honor to participate in these trainings and to represent ATEK on the committee,” said Barthelemy.

“SMPA’s willingness to reach out to expat communities is a major step forward. Giving ATEK’s members a voice will enhance the city’s readiness, and will boost Seoul’s image as a truly world-class city that welcomes people from everywhere.”

Barthelemy, who first came to Seoul as the first American Chamber of Commerce intern in Korea, made three separate one-hour presentations in Korean detailing how officers can communicate effectively regardless of language barriers. The talk highlighted the vital role English teachers play in the family of Korean education -- preparing Koreans for life in a global economy.

He encouraged attendees by saying, “Your English isn’t perfect, so what? -- just try to speak anyway.” He went on to teach some useful phrases like, “Please speak easy and slowly,” and “I am here to protect you.”

“Mark’s entertaining and informative presentation provided our field officers with invaluable advice for engaging expat residents and tourists across cultural and language barriers,” said Choi. “I received a lot of positive feedback about how enlightening it was to hear an expat speak in Korean about inter-cultural communication.”

Greg Dolezal, ATEK president and a resident of Busan, believes that this program is an excellent model for all of the provincial and metropolitan areas of Korea. He suggests that officers in Seoul share their experiences with their counterparts in other cities.

“I was recently approached by the Busan Foreign Affairs Division to establish better communications, said Dolezal. “It’s clear that the SMPA is looking for the same kind of partnerships that have been our highest priority.

This appointment in Seoul goes a long way to achieve our goal to be a respected voice for teachers through consultancy and developing trust through these relationships.”

“I’m confident that Mark will be an asset to the SMPA as he is to us,” Dolezal said. “We expect him to report to us often and share his insights so we can improve our organization and help more teachers.”

Though outspoken in the past on important issues facing teachers, ATEK officials state unequivocally that it is not a union and nor a political advocacy group. The organization is driven by the fundamental belief that Korean people are best served by English teachers who are professionally competent and who find fulfillment in their lives in Korea.

ATEK works to improve the lives of current and future English teachers through a myriad of initiatives ranging from the creation of online resources to the development of partnerships with key external organizations. In 2009, ATEK published “The English Teacher’s Guide to Korea” in conjunction with the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s “Seoul Global Center.”

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