After Voices of NY’s special project on Korean “parachute children,” The Korea Times has continued to report on the practice of “chogi yuhak,” or “early study abroad” for Korean students. Reporter Jiha Ham, (who previously told Voices of NY his own story of studying abroad) reported on the physical and sexual abuse that some visiting students face in their homestays — and the complaints of host families about their visitors’ misbehavior. The article is translated from Korean below.
After reports of an incident in which a Korean homestay host was arrested and charged with repeatedly assaulting the Korean students who stayed with him, there are growing concerns about homestays. Many students studying abroad suffer violence or other abuse from their host family or other students. This kind of problem has happened not only in Korean homestays but also in American homes.
A high school student, identified as Choi, 17, who came to Long Island to study, was physically abused by his homestay parents. Choi’s host family said that he was spoiled and acted out with them, but he said that his body and mind were badly injured by the harsh violence. The homestay agency took him out of the home, and moved him to another home.
Another student, a middle school girl identified as Shin, 14, was sexually assaulted by her host parents’ son. She said she continues to suffer, even now, because she can’t forget her ordeal with that son and her host parents’ abuse.
There many cases of homestay violence these days. Last year, a Korean who runs an agency in Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to the sexual harassment of a 16-year-old girl. And this year, students who lived in the same Korean homestay house fought each other brutally, and were arrested.
Causes and Background
Other than sexual abuse, violence in homestays sometimes starts with small conflicts between the host family and the student, which grow bigger so that they became hostile to each other, and finally the conflicts spill into violence.
Some of the host families coerce and control the visiting students’ studies and attitudes, treating the homestay students as a lucrative business. Many visiting students who have experienced homestay abuse argue that the host families use their authority as substitute parents to do things that don’t make sense at all, like ask for more money.
On the other hand, some homestay hosts say that the students are to blame for this conflict because they resist the basic rules of a homestay house and and they take liberties and misbehave. For example, they play music loudly late at night, do all kinds of misdeeds in the house, lie to their host parents, or snatch their homestay payments.
A man who runs a homestay, identified as Park, said “Physical assault or abuse is only one aspect of the problem. Many host families suffer because of the delinquency of their homestay students.”
Experts said that the families who run homestays must think carefully about whether they are really ready to accept more children. They should get support and education about raising teenagers from a professional agency to prepare themselves and their homes for a homestay.
Parents who want to send their children to abroad should also carefully assess the facilities and environment that their children will live in, and teach good manners to their children, to minimize the potential for conflict.
The executive director of the Korean Family Counseling and Research Center, Resina Kim, said all the parties should prepare carefully for a homestay.
“Host families have to take care of their homestay students more than their own children, and parents have to investigate over and over again when they send their child abroad,” she said. “Sexual harassment often occurs when students live with other people of the same age and of a different sex. Being aware of the risk factors and preparing for safety in the first place is really important.” She added that parents should avoid placing their children in houses with students of the other sex if possible.