Monday, September 24, 2007

Click Over: A brief history of scapegoating English teachers in Korea

I'm all about doing nothing, which means just hanging out or relaxing, or traveling during Chuseok.

However, since I'm typing this on my computer in my apartment, guess what? It's all about hanging out and relaxing this Chuseok holiday.

I met up with ZenKimchi and a pair of other friends yesterday. We had a great meal at a new Viennese restaurant in Itaewon, Chef Meiji. At one point, the conversation went to the perception of teachers in Korea and how, in some ways, it's declined over the years and is just pretty bad.

I wouldn't know about the first part. I came here after the Asian Financial Crisis. While I have had people telling me about how great it was, my internal reaction is "so what? Things change." During that time I was completely focused on other things and, for me, it would have been a longshot to even consider teaching English here.

Things did change for me. My parents died. I was beyond sad. I realized that but for the company credit card, expense account and my field days I didn't like my corporate job. I had nothing to loose, so I quit. Also, during that time I had taken the LSAT and applied to law school. A few months later got into law school and moved to San Francisco. I realized about halfway through I didn't want to be a lawyer either. So, needless to say, things changed, as did my perspective and approach. When I finally arrived in Korea, I was full of a lot of optimism. I think that's what helped me adapt and roll with the negative aspects of being here. Living here is good if you're a cynical Pollyanna like me. That basically means I'm a realist but I'm also able to see those positive aspects of being here too. Sue me. To those who have had bad expat experiences in Korea my apologies, but sometimes I actually like it here moreso than home.

One negative aspect is how Koreans generalize to excess. It's probably because being from a society where everyone looks the same and pride themselves on having such a distinct culture that they see foreigners in the same way, as a monolith. Specifically there is a tendency to scapegoat English teachers here. Honestly, I've got a resume that most Koreans would kill for and I've yet to experience too much discrimination because I'm a teacher. Probably, that's due to the "status" of where I've taught as a university/college instructor. That's not the case for a lot of other English teachers because schools range from hagwons to private businesses to the Korean military. There are different ranks and levels of status that go with all of those positions. And, as I've written about before, there are some "interesting" types here. There are the teachers who can't get a job back home. There are those teachers who slip through the cracks because a lot of schools don't bother to verify credentials. These teachers do hurt the reputation of foreigners, but I know more good teachers who have it together than scary freaks or runaway criminals.

Anyway, here is A brief history of scapegoating English teachers in Korea from the Gusts of Popular Feeling blog. It's long and very detailed, so just click over to read it.

Now it's time for me to go shopping and pick up some dinner. Happy Chuseok everyone.


Here is another - The Hankyoreh: Even born in Korea,‘foreigners’ feel sting of discrimination

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