The K-blogs, Marmot's Hole in particular, are abuzz with talk about one Mark McDowell (above, with some of his students), an English teacher in the central Korean metropolis of Taejŏn [대전, Daejeon] who lost his job at Hannam University when it was discovered he had been convicted of child molestation back in the United States in the mid-1990s.
It was quite interesting when the story first broke, a lot of expats seemed willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. After all, without knowing too many details, it seemed like this might be a case of some poor sap being railroaded by big bad immigration and their xenophobic marching orders. That was, after all, something that many people could sympathize with, and Korea's notoriously "gist of the facts, ma'am" English-language media had been known to sensationalize or otherwise inaccurately report on stories surrounding Korea's international population.
The Marmot's Hole is a major node of the English-speaking universe in Korea, so it is no surprise that "the guy" in question himself came and gave his side of the story.
But as details emerged and facts came out, better judgement seemed to prevail. Maybe the Korean authorities were right about this one. This guy was complaining that his expunged record in the United States should never have ended up on the desk of Korean bureaucrats, but the K-blog Kollective was suggesting that he was probably guilty and even if he wasn't, he exhibited tragically poor judgement and probably shouldn't be anywhere near young girls anyway.
A few people went one step further, linking to McDowell's homepages and pointing out the pictures of Mr McDowell with a couple young Korean girls (one of whom he ominously called his "sweet friend"), as well as his apparent obsession with one leotard-clad Olympic gymnast.
[UPDATE on February 9, 2009: "The guy" came back to the Marmot's Hole, labeled everyone caught up in the "pathetic witch hunt" as "moronic piles of human garbage," "psycho bastards," and "simpleton hate mongers" with "no ability to reason properly." If anyone sees something wrong with his website, "then they're the perverts," he informed us; Such people are "only seeing what's in your own filthy minds." Thanks for the FYI. END UPDATE]
The pitchfork-wielding mob seems to have completely turned on him (much like what happened when Marmot added "Yankee Anieyo!" to his blog roll before recognizing that the guy wrote about his sex fantasies with his elementary school-aged children). McDowell's side of the story sounds more like rationalization than wrongful conviction, they say, and I tend to agree. I'm loath to dig into someone's privacy, but when a convicted child molester is engaged in work that puts him around children, maybe public safety trumps privacy.
I'd hate for someone to think that I had done something such that I deserved to have my personal details plastered everywhere, but I wouldn't be putting myself in such a situation in the first place: Even if he is innocent (or convinced of his innocence), he should know better than to actively seek employment that would require him to be around children. America as a nation is sensitive about child endangerment (and maybe rightly so; from personal experience, I believe that molesters of children are more pervasive than we often realize). At any rate, he deserves to be booted out of South Korea, not to have physical harm come down on him, lest anyone is thinking along those lines.
From his description of events, such as his note to Marmot's Hole linked above, Mr McDowell clearly believes he was unfairly convicted and imprisoned. He has also stated so in forums on Megan's Law, a California statute which requires sex offenders to register and make their presence known to their neighborhood.
I discovered the post on McDowell's opposition to Megan's Law when looking for evidence to see whether the Mark McDowell in Korea is the same Mark Holland McDowell that one Marmot's Hole commenter discovered through the Megan's Law search function. It's not, since the other one, a former youth pastor from Camarillo, California, is in jail (second link here).
Not to make light of child rape and molestation, but it almost seems like being named "Mark McDowell" puts you in a high-risk category for committing such acts.
Anyway, through the search I discovered Mark McDowell's own website (pedophileophobia.com) designed to "combat the ever growing hysteria over pedophilia":
On the website he talks openly (though I wouldn't say "frankly") about his own case, in an overview of his interest in the subject of pedophilia hysteria and in what appears to be a legal appeal of some kind that provides substantial details of the case with his own subjective (and self-serving) views mixed throughout (e.g., saying the accusers had committed "felony perjury").America has become a pedophileophobic insane asylum. More and more adults are having their lives ruined everyday by false or exaggerated allegations of child sexual molestation, oversensitivity as to what constitutes molestation, and exaggerated claims of harm. Naturally, no one wants their children to have sexual interaction with grown adults, but the current hostile climate toward sex crimes has been mainly due to a hand-full of high profile cases where the child victim was murdered -- not because of an increase in inappropriate adult-child sexual interaction itself. The anger and hatred generated by those few crimes are being vented upon any and all who have the misfortune of being convicted of any sex related crime, regardless of how minor it may actually be. Even men caught urinating in public in one state are now having to register as sex offenders!
Ironically, the root cause of all this, death at the hands of a pedophile, is one of the most rare causes of death of children -- less than being killed by lightening. Fewer than a dozen children a year die at the hands of a sex offender as compared to 30 or so who are killed by lightening. Furthermore, over 1,000 children die at the hands of their own parents, over 2,000 children lose their lives due to drunk drivers, and over 3,000 lose their lives due to firearms. Yet, we do not see drunk drivers having to endure life-long registration or being beaten to death in prisons; nor do we see owners of firearms having such ownership disseminated to neighbors, so children can be warned to not go in or near such households
Just a thought, Mr McDowell: Maybe the Korean authorities found out about your convictions not by someone in the United States revealing information that had been expunged, but by googling your name and finding the stuff you'd written about your own case. Think about that before you spend $10,000 on a lawyer to go after someone Stateside.Sphere: Related Content
That said, I truly am sympathetic to the possibility that an innocent person can be wrongly accused of something like this. But his own description itself sounds extremely self-serving, while the pictures of him with his hand on the waist of his adolescent (?) female students, his determination to teach children when propriety would dictate otherwise, his attempts to cover up his past so he could get employment as a teacher, etc., doesn't paint a picture of an honest and innocent victim.
Mr McDowell, please leave Korea. Go somewhere and work with adults, where your past will be irrelevant. There is a need for foreign residents of Korea to challenge some of the laws and effect improvement to the legal and social systems in Korea, but you are not the one to do it. I dare say you and your bad-faith acts will set us foreign nationals back a bit, and I don't want that. Go away.
I seem to recall hearing that Rosa Parks was by no means the first Black to refuse to give up her seat, but the local NAACP was waiting for someone like her with an impeccable background to stand up (figuratively) for their rights so that they could push the merits of the issue without getting bogged down in the details of the personality involved. You, sir, are no Rosa Parks.
Get your ass up and out of Korea. Go back to America and get a job suited for your situation. Fight this alleged pedophilia hysteria, if that's what your calling is. But don't set foot in some other Asian country and start teaching kids again, hoping that the authorities there have not yet caught up with your case.
Okay. This is way too heavy. Must end with some lighter fare, which means it's time for the Kushibo Kwik-E Kwiz!
QUESTION: Which of the following McDowells is probably not a pedophile or perv of some kind? (Choose one.)
Answer in next week's issue!