SeoulPodcast #132: MBC Roundtable

Jun 12, 2012 by

We discuss the MBC “Shocking Truth” video with the Seoul Global Study Group.


Let me throw in a disclaimer to start out. We talked about in the last show about the big Facebook group protesting the MBC “Shocking Truth” video. Earlier this week, I was contacted by Layne Hartsell, who I had worked with on projects in the past, to do a special roundtable with members of the Seoul Global Study Group.

That was before the incident brought up in the recording happened. The focus really should be on MBC and their actions. There is an accusation of some people calling Mr. Hartsell’s employer to cause trouble. I have personally seen documented proof that one person visited the office of his boss. To me personally, it looks like a personal vendetta a former moderator for this Facebook group has had against Mr. Hartsell and used his position as a moderator to poison the stream. That said, I have not seen verifiable proof yet that the leader of the group called the employer with foul intentions. In the expat community, that is one of the most egregious sins one can commit, since most foreigners’ welcome in Korea is on fragile ground anyway.

In 2006, I had a similar problem when my ex-employer tried to get me kicked out of the country because I complained to the labor board that I didn’t get paid. After three years, I ended up winning the case. But this tactic is one of the lowest tactics one can use in Korea with a foreigner.

You can take what Layne has to say with a grain of salt. I myself insisted on proof before I went ahead. We do talk about MBC in this recording, but all of this has to do with MBC and xenophobia in the big picture. If expats want to work together to get something done, they need to stop this behavior. Tactics like trying to get people fired and deported have been historically used by Koreans and expats and have derailed past efforts to get any significant change accomplished.

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  • Ian

    Just want to say I’m liking the new layout!

  • Steve MacKinnon

    First off:  No, the FB group leader did not contact the employer of Mr. Hartsell.  There is no proof because it didn’t happen.  Continuing to claim this, though he knows it to be untrue, puts Mr. Hartsell in the realm of libel.  Additionally, the former moderator of the page is exactly that:  former.  When it became clear there was a preexisting problem, he was removed as a moderator.  This occurred prior to the alleged visit to Mr. Hartsell’s employer.  To try to associate the FB group with any troubles that the employer has with Mr. Hartsell, or the employees at SKKU with each other is, in every sense, blatant fabrications.

    That being said, repeated requests to have Mr. Hartsell remove these slanderous, willful lies from the internet have been met with a series of illogical responses.  I wonder if, since I’m already being falsely accused by Mr. Hartsell of contacting his employer (Mr. Hartsell, if in a rational state, knows these accusations are false), and since Mr. Hartsell clearly has no intention to stop attempting to defame me over what boils down to his hurt feelings over being removed from my FB page, I wonder if contacting SKKU in a effort to pressure Mr. Hartsell to see clearly that he must remove the accusations and print a retraction is the way to go forward.

    I would like to hear valid alternatives to this, but rational discussion with an irrational person is not possible.

    • Steve MacKinnon

       Upon further listening:
      1) No one, to the best of my knowledge, has asked for Mr. Hartsell to be fired, whether myself, any group admin or anyone.  Period. 
      2) Misrepresentation:  The one person who did “visit the office”, not a representative of the FB or myself, is a co-worker of Mr. Hartsell.  The suggestion seems to be that this person came into SKKU solely over some squabble on Facebook.  This is a gross misrepresentation of the truth.  As far as I know, the two have the same boss and this person was visiting his own boss’s office.
      3) Once again, I did not have any conversation with Mr. Hartsell’s boss, either by phone or via email, and even if I had, which I did not, I would not have asked for his termination.  The complete lack of any and all ethics displayed by Mr. Hartsell in repeating this is shameful.
      4) Speaking of ethics, the initial suggestion – privately and directly from myself to Mr. Hartsell – that SKKU should be contacted was due to his continuous messages detailing to me private, embarrassing details of the internal affairs, past and present, of SKKU.  This was as part of an attempt to “bully” me into removing an admin of the page – a co-worker of Mr. Hartsell with whom there was a mutual dislike predating this FB group.  I asked Mr. Hartsell several times to stop sending me information on SKKU business (how ethical is that exactly?) and to stop involving me in both his personal beefs as well as SKKU affairs.  When he refused, and particularly when he started to speak as if he was a representative of SKKU on the matter of the MBC video and Facebook exchange, I suggested that contacting his employer with regards to the release of sensitive information to an unrelated third party (despite multiple cease and desist requests) in an effort to stop the constant stream of harassing emails.  I have not, as yet, made contact with SKKU as, from Mr. Hartsell’s later messages, it seems quite possible he is not in a rational state.  I’ve been exceedingly patient so far with this ludicrous game.
      5) I find it extremely ironic that, after demanding an apology for being banned from a Facebook group, Mr. Hartsell has banned and blocked me from his various events and pages on that website.  His demands are unbelievable in this context.

      Just some clarification.

      •  Hey Steve,

        I tried to contact you through the email you used on here, but it got bounced back. Would you like to come on the show to rebut and also promote the FB group? We’d love to have you on.

        • Steve MacKinnon

          I’d love to have the kind of free time needed to do things like appear on a podcast.  I wasn’t previously familiar with the show, but am very disappointed to see it used as a vehicle for defamation without vetting of “evidence”.  Unlike Mr. Hartsell, I’ve no desire for self-promotion, I just don’t appreciate having my character assassinated with blatant fabrications while I’m trying to do something good.

          Mr. Hartsell will eventually need to author a retraction and/or apology, and I hope Seoul Podcast gives that as much airtime as was given to the lies of Mr. Hartsell.

          Email was fixed

          • Ian

            The issue could easily be given tons of airtime if you went on the show…  I don’t think those who run the podcast want to have 30-40 minutes of one guy (Hartsell) saying sorry. 

          • Steve MacKinnon

             I’m not really a spokesman, and I doubt a podcast with me talking about why I don’t like being slandered would make for a good show.

        • Matthew Cross


  • Concerned Listener

    First off, I noticed that the interviewer referred to Mr Hartsell as a “real professor” – and I think we need to clear the air on this matter.  

    I have been teaching in Korea at a university for a decade, and I have encountered countless ESL instructors here who work at universities who fancy themselves real professors. This is often because many Korean universities will elevate the status of their ESL instructors to “assistant professor” in order to report that they have x amount of “foreign professors” which gives a little boost to their ranking…and a boost in ranking often means a boost in funding.  
    The problem I see with this is, though most of us take this title with a grain of salt, there are quite a few folks here who let the word 교수 go to their heads. And some, unfortunately, take it to the enth degree of delusional. Allow me to clear something up…a professor is an appointment granted by a university usually indicating that the person is a senior and/or respected academic in their particular field. In other words, you are not a professor until you are made one. Period. And let’s be honest…how many actual professors have we known, aside from an MFA which is a terminal degree, without a Ph.D or a doctorate of some sort? Yes, there are plenty of people with Maters degrees that do some sort of research…but that makes them researchers, not professors. And yes, there are plenty of people with Maters degrees who teach or give lectures at universities…but that makes them instructors or lecturers, not professors.      

    I’ve been acquainted with Mr. Hartsell since he joined the faculty of his present university…and I can tell you with absolute certainty that he is NOT what any respectable academic would consider a professor despite what he claims. Yes, he has been allowed to do some of his own independent research on the SKKU Natural Science Campus, but title of assistant professor has been given to him by the language institute – aka, his actual employer. 

    Furthermore, Mr Hartsell’s accusations against the MBC facebook group has zero to do with principle and everything to do with a childish inter-office spat at his university. Steve MacKinnon makes this point below. I would also like to add to that that Mr Hartsell has been on a relentless smear campaign against several of his fellow co-workers. He has publicly leveled false accusations (mostly on facebook) of racism, harassment, physical threats, violence…to name a few…and not one shred of proof for any of it. 

    And as much as Mr Hartsell promotes free speech, if he were consistent with his principles, we would practice it. But this is not the case. 

    Here’s a link:

    This is Mr. Hartsell’s facebook group. It is an open group which I have been privy to for quite some time. There have been countless occasions where the individuals who he has leveled accusations against attempted to defend themselves only to find their postings promptly deleted and profiles blocked from the page. 

    Here’s another link: This is but a sample of his ranting and self-promoting. 

    This is the supposed “prestigious” human rights “magazine” based out of Norway that Mr Hartsell writes for. I invite any reader with any critical thinking and research skills to judge for themselves whether or not this is truly a prestigious and scholarly publication or just a mere blog. 

    Mr Hartsell is published. This is true. But if anyone were to do a bit of digging, one would find that these publications are either self-published, in non-peer reviewed publications, or on blog sites. He is a very good self-promoter, but that’s about the extent of it.  

    No offence to the show, but I think the interviewer should do his homework on his guests a bit more. And I think that, in the spirit of fairness and free speech, he should allow someone, and believe me, there are many, to voice an opposing point of view on this matter. But from what I have gathered from this interview, the interviewer is clearly showing bias and favoritism towards Mr Hartsell’s take on all of this. 

    Believe me when I say that there is a whole other side to this that is not being allowed to come to light. 

    •  Thank you for all the info. Mr. Hartsell also immediately corrected me when I called him a professor.

  • Concerned Listener

    Follow up to an earlier point…with evidence.

    Mr Hartsell has claimed, “professionally, over the past year, I published papers in two of the worlds top journals: IEEE and the London School of Economics, as first author. Those were reviewed by an international panel of peers.”

    This is a misleading statement. 

    This cannot be considered a peer-reviewed publication. This is an IEEE conference publication. It is not in an IEEE journal or magazine which have peer-reviewed articles. There are two famous co-authors on this paper. Fair enough. A peer-reviewed process requires the submission be sent to a number of reviewers that should be experts in the field of the publication. Conference publications, however, have an inherent conflict of interest since the conference participants need to pay fees in order attended. 

    Another important factor is that IEEE conference proceedings are not in the SCI (Science Citation Index) or SSCI (Social Science Citation Index) publications…thus there is NO impact factor for these kinds of publications! Anyone in academia knows this. 

    His another one: 

    This is a paperback yearbook from the Global Civil Society program at the London School of Economics (

    An important comment from the publisher is, “the yearbook is a collaborative project, in which academic analysis is interlinked with activist perspectives.” Given the fact that between 1993, when Mr Hartsell recieved his MS degree in Biology from Virginia State University (thesis advisor Dilip K. Sen), and 2011 there are NO SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATIONS WHATSOEVER…it is up the interested reader to decide to which of these two groups does Mr Hartsell belong: academic or activist. 

    • Steve MacKinnon

       Contact information for Global Digest: Email: Tel: 82)1086858860. For Donation–IBK A/c No. 631-000444-02-019.. Simple template. Powered by Blogger.

      So the contact is a Korean phone number, not a Norwegian one…. and with donations… what are the specific laws regarding setting up a charity and collecting donations here in Korea? 

      Finally, the answer the first inquiry, “Powered by Blogger” would suggest a blog, n’est pas?