8/4/09

Race in Korea

A few years ago when I was active with the Harvard outreach office I was named a Harvard Graduate School of Education Goodwill Ambassador.

I read in today's Korea Times that the office of tourism in Korea is inviting foreign residents to be Tourism Ambassadors.

I guess this is a good chance to add being an ambassador not just to a school but to an entire country to my resume.

According to the article there are 1.2 million foreign residents in South Korea.

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Korean Government's War on Private Education

Here's an amazing story in today's Korea Herald about the government's ongoing war against private education in South Korea.

Can you imagine any level of government in the U.S. having to pass laws to prevent people from studying after 10 p.m.? One thing we do have in America is Midnight Basketball, than you Bill Clinton, in some urban areas.

I do wonder just how late Koreans would pay for education if the government didn't crackdown on such education services.

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Private institutes and profiling

A person of "Indian decent" [sic] in a Henry Louis Gates state of mind asks: "Am I being rejected strictly because of my race?" The person is trying to get a job in South Korea teaching English.

By the way, I'm not trying to make fun of the writer's spelling, it may have just been an editing mistake.

The ask the expat answers in today's Korea Herald:

1) "Korean society is slowly working toward racial tolerance, but still appears to be some time away."

2) "Well, it's all about enrollment, money, stereotypes, fear and mothers. Perception is king and while the average mother doesn't have anything against non-Caucasians, she is more comfortable with what she knows and likely prefers her child to be taught by a white teacher."

Then, the expat writes:

An example is a private school in Dobong-gu, Seoul that two weeks ago put up an
ad on a popular job site for foreign teachers. The ad read, "American or
Canadian, if possible American, black is okay, but not 100 percent black." The
school was forced to remove the explicit rejection of "100 percent blacks" in an
updated job advertisement recently.

The expat then gives some advice: 1) Apply directly to schools rather than using recruiters 2)
Play the game but recognize the cost of using recruiters. 3) Don't assume the worst, because it isn't just race but being different that gets one eliminated from resume pool.

A couple of random thoughts:

* It is easy to beat up on Korean mothers for wanting white teachers. But then, I've been out with people at restaurants who don't feel like they are eating "authentic" Chinese food if the cook isn't Chinese. I suspect that my best friend, a black man who is a trained chef, can probably outcook most Chinese people when it comes to Chinese food. Not sure what should be done about people's personal preferences.

* I've actually had a manager at an institute ask me if I knew any white American teachers she could hire. I said that I couldn't recommend anyone for a position I'm unqualified to fill. She answered that I'm too expensive and overqualified, that she would love to have me teach at her institute. She said she didn't have anything against black people or any people in general but that as manager of her institute she had to respond to the wishes of her customers. Her adult students and the parents of children complain when they hire Africans, Brits, Europeans.

* I'm not the darkest brother in the world so I often have people asking me what my race is. Asians, the police and black people are pretty consistent in labeling me as black. Latinos often disagree. A little while ago when I was the lead instructor of an intensive three-day English language seminar the Korean recruiter who set up the whole thing explained to the teachers and students that "Casey's black, but he's not really black. When you see him, you won't even recognize that he's black." A Korean-American who was going to be working with me on the project later told me she couldn't wait to meet me to see what a non-black black man looked like...

* I've got Koreans grabbing my butt and trying to kiss me on the head...so I guess that race relations are improving. Yet another way I am being an international ambassador!

* A few weeks ago when I was hanging with a colleague a Korean man approached us in the subway. He said that I look like a famous actor.

My colleague (a white guy who is one of the blackest white men I've ever met) offered up Samuel L. Jackson. The Korean man disagreed, suggesting Michael Jackson. He even wanted to take a photo with me. A few days ago someone suggested that I look like Barack Obama. Another suggested Michael Jordan. I've even been compared to Mike Tyson. It seems that I look like whichever black person is in the news at that moment.

By the way, I snapped this photo earlier today: You can get a nice suntan here, at a place about a block from my apartment in Seoul.

















linked by Booker Rising

2 comments:

The Expat said...

I think things are slowly improving, but it'll take years of positive exposure and time. My concern is not only the mothers, but views and opinions held by children. Many still view "black" as rural African.

Casey Lartigue said...

You're right, it does take time. That doesn't do much in the short-term for the Indian person looking for a job...

Anyway, if the Indian person is really interested in teaching in Korea then he should start somewhere in the countryside or he may need to start somewhere that may pay less. If he proves himself at one place he may be able to transition somewhere else.