We’ve been getting the question about racism in Korea for a long time. Then, in last week’s video Richard mentioned that he thought Koreans are more concerned about race than they are about size when it comes to foreigners in Korea. This brought an onslaught of requests for us to talk about race and racism issues in Korea. So we did.
Gotta say, we’ve mostly been avoiding this question. But in light of doing controversial topics, why not? If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it? I know from personal experience it always better to just jump in and try, and maybe make some mistakes along the way instead of putting things off.
Obviously it goes without saying that with the exception of being Korean, Richard and I probably one of the most preferred ethnicities if we are in fact going to live in Korea. It’s honestly become somewhat of a running joke in one of my Master’s Degree courses that I am the ideal native English speaking teacher. In other words, employers of native English teachers (roughly speaking of course), prefer white skin, blonde hair, big bluei-sh eyes, thin, small face, somewhat attractive and female. Oh, and from the US with an American accent too. Can’t forget that part. Korea’s the only country in Asia that we’ve heard about that seeks American or North American English speaking accents when hiring native English teachers here.
And yes, appearances do matter, because you have to send them your photo before they will hire you. Attractive teachers could in fact equal more money for some of these educational businesses here.
But honestly, they do hire English speaking teachers from all seven of the native English speaking countries, and usually it’s not a problem. The culture has been changing and opening up to new ideas, and I believe some employers will take a competent employee over an accent any day. Or at least they should since that’s what matters most, right?
Regarding how they view and judge others outside of their own culture, it’s hard to say without at least saying what’s happened to us. How can we know for sure what the experience is like for black or latino people without actually walking in their shoes? The answer is we can’t. We’ve heard LOTS of stories, most of which aren’t necessarily good, and I’m sure if you’re reading this then you might have heard or read something about it as well. People here can be quite judgmental, and it doesn’t make the recipient of judgment feel good about it either.
One time when I had a parent teacher day at the hagwon I used to work at, it was immediately pointed out to me once that the mother of one of my students was half Filipino and half Korean. Didn’t matter to me, but apparently it did to my boss. In one of my classes at Kyung Hee, there is male Chinese student, a female student from the Philippines, and a Korean American. While it may be surprising to some (though it’s not surprising to me), the student from the Philippines and the Korean American girl tend to hang out together and the Chinese students usually hangs out by himself in a class full of mostly Korean students. As well, Richard has 3 international students in one class this semester, one from Europe and two from African countries. They all chat and hang out together usually before and after class, and the Koreans usually do the same. The nice part is that they many of them have all become friends, the Koreans and the foreigners. They chat together before and after class, and seem to get on well. It’s nice to see that sort of inter-cultural friendship happening naturally.
What does all that mean? Maybe it’s just an indication that people from similar backgrounds are more confortable with each other and what’s familiar. You can draw your own conclusions.
I do want to note that some of what I was saying about how Korea adopts different things and improves upon them was an idea that was developed and discussed in one of my graduate courses on culture and language. I definitely wanted to mention that because my professor sometimes actually watches these videos. He may even be reading this as well, and in case you are I just want to tell you that obviously I really enjoy your class, especially if I’m bringing up what I’ve learned from class in one our videos. ☺
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