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What's it like to be a visible minority in South Korea

 
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SportsandCars



Joined: 23 May 2018

PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2018 3:23 pm    Post subject: What's it like to be a visible minority in South Korea Reply with quote


Hi,
I live in Canada, and I'm considering teaching english in South Korea. I'm a visible minority (black), and was wondering how blacks are treated there (generally speaking). I've heard that blacks can experience a lot of discrimination, where as others have said not so. Just want to gather info before making a big decision, from those living there or who have lived there. Thanks.
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Keeper



Joined: 11 Jun 2012

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is racism towards anyone who is not Korean. There are many who believe that the Korean race must be kept pure. If I had to guess at a percentage then maybe 30-40 percent feel that way. It's stronger with the older generations. You may encounter some but in the end, it won't matter.

First off, I think you need to get it out of your head that blacks are the only minority here. If you are white you are also very much in the minority. That would be me and I've gotten stare-downs. I mean they will not look away. If that bothers you or you have thin skin then this isn't a good place for you to go. Blacks/whites are a curiosity for many. There are many schools who hired blacks because of Obama. In fact, that may be a much more common nickname for you ("Obama") than any racial epithet.

I've heard stories of innocent children who try to rub the hands of blacks to see if the color will come off. That's not racist its curiosity. I've had children rub the hair on my arms like I was an animal because Koreans don't typically have any hair there. It's odd things like that. You just need to smile and ignore it. If you can't then find a different place to work.

I will leave you with one black person I know here who is mentally very much affected by others here. She is paranoid, lives alone and demands respect from students. It is to the point of it being a psychosis. She believes they are being disrespectful when in fact they are only treating her as they would anyone else. She cannot accept the fact that their culture is different. I can't really go into too many details but it's really rather sad.
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SportsandCars



Joined: 23 May 2018

PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Keeper wrote:
There is racism towards anyone who is not Korean. There are many who believe that the Korean race must be kept pure. If I had to guess at a percentage then maybe 30-40 percent feel that way. It's stronger with the older generations. You may encounter some but in the end, it won't matter.

First off, I think you need to get it out of your head that blacks are the only minority here. If you are white you are also very much in the minority. That would be me and I've gotten stare-downs. I mean they will not look away. If that bothers you or you have thin skin then this isn't a good place for you to go. Blacks/whites are a curiosity for many. There are many schools who hired blacks because of Obama. In fact, that may be a much more common nickname for you ("Obama") than any racial epithet.

I've heard stories of innocent children who try to rub the hands of blacks to see if the color will come off. That's not racist its curiosity. I've had children rub the hair on my arms like I was an animal because Koreans don't typically have any hair there. It's odd things like that. You just need to smile and ignore it. If you can't then find a different place to work.

I will leave you with one black person I know here who is mentally very much affected by others here. She is paranoid, lives alone and demands respect from students. It is to the point of it being a psychosis. She believes they are being disrespectful when in fact they are only treating her as they would anyone else. She cannot accept the fact that their culture is different. I can't really go into too many details but it's really rather sad.


Thanks for your detailed response, it's definitely helpful. Totally, I get the reality of racism, that's not something that overly bothers me, because it exists everywhere & the racial groups targeted are all different.

The sense I get from your response, are that students & the public are generally curious, not racist towards foreign teachers who say are a different race than they are. Sorry to hear about that teacher you mentioned. I think teaching abroad is so much an individual experience, one person can have a positive one, and another a very negative one.
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Annashi1993



Joined: 01 Jun 2018
Location: Toronto, Canada

PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:26 am    Post subject: Racism for Asian Canadian Reply with quote

Hello everyone,

Sorry to hijack your post OP!
I am considering to teach English in South Korea as well!! I am Canadian and also a visible minority(Chinese, to be exact).

Will I face a lot of discrimination and racism as well?

Thanks!
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PRagic



Joined: 24 Feb 2006

PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chinese would hardly be considered a 'visible minority' in Korea. Just had this discussion with some Korean colleagues the other night while out on the town. They said that they more often than not cannot distinguish between Koreans and Chinese themselves.

So do you mean you're Chinese-Canadian? Candian citizenship? No worries. They might ask you what generation you are, or where your ancestors are from in China once they find out your ethnicity, but other than that, yawn...you're Canadian.

You're more apt to have to put up with crap based on your gender or age, unfortunately, but that'll largely be determined by where you work and specificities of your work place and neighborhood. I've known loads of women who have had awesome experiences here, women of color included.
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Been There, Taught That



Joined: 10 Apr 2007
Location: La Crosse, WI, USA--for the moment

PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Last edited by Been There, Taught That on Sun Jul 08, 2018 12:51 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Been There, Taught That



Joined: 10 Apr 2007
Location: La Crosse, WI, USA--for the moment

PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the other hand, you'd be well advised to take things on an individual basis and not build up too many negative expectations beforehand.

I myself am a white US citizen who worked in Korea for almost 4 years, cumulatively, and am on the way back. I never personally experienced any instances of specific ethnic predjudice. I was the kind who listened to instructions, did my job and had concerns I discussed rather than complaints and grievances I aired.

The places I worked at had various profiles, but I never once was paid late--except for that hagwon in Pung-dong near Ilsan that was run by a nice-guy businessman and finally started experiencing student decline and closed down shortly after I left. But it wasn't too late, because he really wanted to save face by not doing wrong by his foreign workers.

In fact, I worked in Dongducheon in 2008, near the DMZ, at a fairly prominent school with a very confident no-nonsense female head teacher who was black, and she was a well-adjusted mother of a 2-year-old, quite respected by teachers and kids alike. I think it was because the owner/management required it that way.

So it may make a difference where you teach, and just in case mine was a rare coincidental experience, which I doubt, in the end you have to be open to 'new things' on and off the job: cultural differences, unique ways of doing things you've never seen nor even heard of before (like the lack of separate one-family homes, for which there just is too little land space, in favor of 23-story apartment communities, and that goes along with little if any green space in the cities), a proud national history expectant of respect (which is the theoretical case wherever in the world you go), a family culture that is fairly exclusive of outsiders (though friendships are easily made and secure), etc. Work-wise, you may even have to get used to a much lower level of control over your class, job and general environment than you would naturally expect. But, in fortunate cases, you may not.

There's a lot to love about Korea, but a lot you can be resistant to, if you're that kind of person. Being nevertheless a lover of my own country, I actually prefer to be in Korea for its conservative (Confucian) overall mindset, meaning, in one way, that Koreans are not geared toward ALWAYS speaking their mind on every little thing that bothers and offends them and damn the rest of society--as Western society seems to be inclined toward. Societal order does still take precedence.

Older Koreans love to talk, and, whether you understand them or not, will talk to you for hours if you're willing to listen. They've seen a lot, good and bad, especially those who go back to the early 1950's. I met one at his shoe stall in NamDaeMun marketplace in Seoul, and, in exchange for helping him with his English, he gave me a new pair of shoes and took me home to meet his family and have dinner. Just go to any PoJangMaCha https://www.10mag.com/why-pojangmacha-street-food-is-what-you-need/ and you'll meet Koreans. As I've come to know: if you want to meet Koreans who are always happy to see you, be a good customer.

All in all, I think you have as good a chance these days as any other qualified person. Most non-Korean peoples have precedent in Korea, no matter what Koreans 'think' about them: that's just the way the world has become these days.
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Been There, Taught That



Joined: 10 Apr 2007
Location: La Crosse, WI, USA--for the moment

PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Yaya



Joined: 25 Feb 2003
Location: Seoul

PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

More black Americans and South Africans are teaching in Korea, though they do put up with far more crap. That said, one would THINK they face a lot of racism and stuff, but I've asked a few and they said they like living there; more Korean men are also marrying black women (I know of two) and such. One is a DJ on weekends and others like Korea and stay there.

I'd say stay on your toes when getting your first job but you'll definitely have an advantage being from Canada as opposed to being from the U.K. or Australia (Koreans favor the American accent most). Good luck and don't let challenges prevent you from living life.
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jvalmer



Joined: 06 Jun 2003

PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

First thing, Koreans are kind of insulting (or we North Americans are just too soft), but that doesn't mean they don't like you, or respect you.

You will encounter difficulty finding a job guaranteed. But if your willing to work anywhere, then it won't be too hard. As for racism, well it's partially based in race, and nationality. At first they'll think you're from some African country, but once they find out you're a Canadian, people will treat you much better. As for Asians, same deal. If you're ethnic Korean though, you'll expect you to know Korean (or at least be pretty strong at it), or at least basic customs. It ain't too hard, just don't make your superiors look bad. Also, almost never, never, refuse a drink from someone older, if you're a guy (you can later hide the fact you aren't drinking, or just drink it).

As for outright hostile racism, Korea is a walk in the park, compared to Canada. Vast majority of it is more of the ignorant curious kind, not the violent beat you with a baseball bat kind.
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Wangja



Joined: 17 May 2004
Location: Seoul, Yongsan

PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am not a teacher of English. I am a British white male of a certain age - therefore here a visible minority - and have been based in Korea for 20 years.

I have always been treated with the utmost respect.

(Come to think of it, as a white male of a certain age, I am already a minority in my own country, but not so visible a minority).
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