This very morning, I saw the following Hackers Talk ad in the subway:
The tone is typically Korean: it busts your balls, but does so with a smile. Very roughly, the large text in blue font says: "If you've learned English for ten years but can't even speak [it] for ten seconds, you're an absolute beginner."* This sort of tone is consistent with the tone of a lot of Korean ads that evoke shame or guilt about one's own looks, abilities, circumstances, or accomplishments in life. I understand that Korean ball-busting is supposedly rooted in a subtext of compassion, but (1) I think that notion is baloney, as well as an excuse for people to act like jerks who simply say whatever they happen to be thinking at that moment; and (2) well... look at the smug, smiling asshole on that ad. He doesn't look compassionate: he looks like Nelson going "Ha ha!"
That said, as a former English teacher and current textbook-designing grammar-Nazi-in-residence, I kind of agree with the sentiment, and at a guess, I'm not alone among expats. The ad isn't simply shaming potential customers into finding a better way to master English: it's also critiquing 99% of the English-teaching methods out there by implying they're all a waste of time—a ten-year-long waste for many learners.
I, too, think that most Koreans "learn" English in a time-wasting, inefficient manner. The Korean style of language learning varies little from the Korean way of accomplishing anything in life: find the most difficult (random, unfocused, time-wasting, desperately last-minute) way possible to accomplish something, then keep working in that vein until you feel the requisite amount of sadness, frustration, and anger—at which point you can nobly characterize your meltdown state as han, i.e., a species of passionate existential bitterness. When Koreans do corner-cutting rush jobs that end up falling apart because of poor quality (Seongsu Bridge, 1994, comes to mind, along with the 1995 Sampoong Department Store collapse, the 1995 Daegu gas explosions, and the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster**), they have to go back and do it again, beating their chests in self-pity as they go, but never really learning any fundamental lessons. Do-overs are a colossal waste of time, effort, and money. In Korea, the culture is such that it's often more important to look busy than actually to be busy, and it's more important to work hard than to work efficiently. This isn't to detract from Korea's many impressive accomplishments both at home and abroad (e.g., the monumental Burj Khalifa, mostly constructed by Samsung and absolutely a thing of beauty that I hope one day to visit), but the Korean track record of inefficiency and unwisdom is clear.
Back to English learning. When Koreans study, their approach is often little more than the brute force of memorize, memorize, memorize. Memorization isn't really learning, except to the extent that it involves correctly parroting information for a test. The Korean approach to English has long been rooted in a parody of 1960s-era audiolingualism/structuralism: there's an immense focus on grammar (I'm not against focusing on grammar, to be sure, but I'm against an insane focus on it to the exclusion of real, dynamic context and actual, natural usage) and a mechanistic, robotic understanding of how conversation works: for Koreans, English conversation is the exchange of memorized phrases. Language pedagogy in Korea has its head thoroughly up its ass, and millions of students have gone through this assembly line, coming out with their brains twisted and their time wasted. It's a huge garbage pile, and it's a miracle that any students at all can speak or write passably in English. I'd contend that such students are accomplished in spite of the system, not thanks to it.
So the ball-busting Hackers ad may be on to something. But the real question, which the ad fails to answer, is: does the Hackers approach work any better? I'm pretty sure I know the answer, as I've discussed charlatanry before.
*The orange-ish text, right after the blue text, says "Escape from absolute-beginner English," and the final line in huge yellow font simply says the program's name: Hackers Talk, followed by a standard Korean-style "exit" icon, implying escape from the hell of linguistic newbiedom.
**Seongsu Bridge and Daegu are clear examples of corner-cutting rush jobs thanks to sloppiness during construction that led to disaster. The Sewol ferry isn't as obvious a case of a "rush job," but I contend that it is one all the same: the ship was overloaded with cargo in an attempt to send out as much material as possible in as short a period as possible. The Korean "hurry-hurry" mentality was definitely at work. Safety standards were deliberately overlooked, and this includes the refurbishing of the ship itself: the ferry, originally Japanese, had been illegally expanded to allow for greater lading capacity.