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Tony Choi, who owns a small hagwon in Gangnam, says it’s the parents’ prejudices that cause hagwon owners to favor hiring white teachers.
Parents are influenced by images from the media – such as those showing that white people are naturally good at speaking English while nonwhites aren’t, or that black people are criminals, less trustworthy and uneducated – which he says leads even overseas-born Koreans like himself to have a hard time finding a job.
“Me, just getting there, (the parents) wanted me fired after three months.”Brendan Spencer, 28 and from St.
Louis, feels he gets a “lack of regard or respect” from his coteachers – “like I’m lesser,” he says.
He says the school does not consider race, but rather career, nationality (for visa eligibility), passion and English-related studies.
He speaks to the manager on the phone, and everything seems fine. “White okay.”Many foreigners would agree that, even if their experiences here are generally positive, Korean racism and xenophobia are impossible to ignore.
The Korean practice of including a picture with the resume leaves nothing up to assumption, including skin color.
Deíja Motley, 34, has a master’s degree, TOEFL certification and years of teaching experience, including time in Japan and university work in Haiti.
“So, it’s not fair to put the blame on hagwon owners for not hiring blacks or kyopos (overseas Koreans), because hagwons are a business, and a lot of parents want their kids learning from someone that they perceive as an ‘English teacher,'” he says.
While general openness to foreigners seems to be improving, Choi says he thinks that hiring discrimination will get worse from a business standpoint.
It does not look good to parents and may (give the academy) a bad reputation and lose in competition against other hagwons with white teachers,” he says.