Recruiter In Korea

The Honest Truth About Recruiting in Korea

Korean Race Relations and the ESL Recruiting Industry

with 7 comments

We have a strict policy at our agency that schools cannot request a certain ‘look’ or reject an application based on race, ethnicity, appearance, or nationality as long as the applicant meets the requirements to obtain the E-2 visa.  This doesn’t stop them from asking for a young, attractive ‘American’ teacher or a tall, handsome British lad.  To be honest, if the ideal type requested is available, we do send them their way.

However, if not, and we send someone that doesn’t exactly fit the mold that they are looking for, it is still up to them if they wish to accept or reject.  If the rejection is deemed unreasonable, then down the priority list they go.  Schools understand this for the most part but they usually come up with the excuses, ‘oh, the parents are very sensitive to race’, ‘that person doesn’t look like a native English speaker'(?!?!?!), ‘she doesn’t look like she can adapt to Korea’.

Perhaps the applicants for teaching positions in Korea back west are not too aware or simply don’t care for the archaic attitudes that some Koreans still have regarding their ‘great homogeneous society’.  It’s usually an unpleasant surprise they realize once they land on the peninsula.  Koreans don’t want the west (or the world) to know this.  In fact, some like to go as far as to tout this country as a ‘great multicultural society’.  While the multiculturalism is there, with the record number of ‘economic refugees’ applying for teaching positions and 3D workers (dirty, dangerous, difficult/demeaning) from southeast Asia, the dividing lines between race in Korea are all too visible.

Well now the ‘secret’ is out.  There was a recent uproar (and minor victory) among foreigners in Korea when Bonogit Hussain, a 29-year-old Indian man was on a bus in a Seoul suburb with a Korean female friend, and was berated and insulted with racist and sexist slurs from a Korean man named Mr. Park.  Mr. Park was subsequently charged with contempt.  The story made it to the New York Times and details the sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant discrimination that foreigners face in Korea (thanks to Brian in Jeollanamdo for the link).

So how are employers allowed to be discriminatory against qualified applicants who are applying for these teaching positions in Korea?  As you all know, a photo is required for submission along with a resume whenever one applies for a teaching position in Korea.  Some of you may not know but a photo is required for any type of employment in Korea (whether it’s full time or on a contract basis).  If you ever get a chance to look at a Korean’s resume, there’s a square blank at the top where one inserts the photo (Koreans all must use the same template because every resume I’ve seen looks the same!).

Of course, photos are not necessary for a job application in the U.S. or Canada; applicants usually interview in person anyways.  However, the topic has been widely debated on various HR/Recruiting sites.  The resounding response to the debate as to whether applicants should put their photos on resume seems to be NO.

We’re looking for English teachers NOT fashion models dammit!  I do understand the employer’s perspective however that since an in-person interview is not possible, then a photo could at least give slight insight into the person’s character, friendliness, etc. but we all know that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

We once hired an instructor for a major chain in Gyeonggi; great college, 3 years of teaching experience, great personality, and awesome interview.  When she finally made it to Korea and met the employer guess what they discovered?  She was an amputee, missing one arm.  Now this usually wouldn’t bode well in Korea (if you worked here more than a month you would know) but the employer loved her and felt that this instructor who was physically ‘different’ would set a great example for the students that not all people are the same colour, size, and shape.  Turned out to be a great instructor and continues teaching to this day.

I would love to see the day when we can submit resumes to employers WITHOUT a photo.  Everything will be based on the interview and the qualifications listed on the resume.  It’s only a pipe dream though:(


Written by recruiterinkorea

November 4, 2009 at 11:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses

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  1. I’ve been wondering this for a while? Does the school you come out from really make a difference in the recruiters eyes? I’m not talking about the ivies here but, other highly regarded schools?

    Hasn’t made much of a difference for me here.


    November 5, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    • For some schools it does. Honestly, most schools really don’t care as long as you show you will be able to work well with the students. However, it never hurts a resume if you graduated from a well-known school. Smart directors know that it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person will be a great instructor though. But in terms of appealing to parents, it’s a good thing; ‘our instructor graduated from Harvard’.

      Schools specializing in AP, SATs, or other advanced subjects will scrutinize universities more closely.


      November 5, 2009 at 1:39 pm

  2. […] we all well know) is relatively closed-minded compared to the West.  Even E-2s of colour have a tough time landing a job.  It’s quite obvious that their soon-to-be Indian counterparts won’t […]

  3. […] a comment » I’ve discussed Korean race relations and the ESL recruiting industry previous.  Anyone who has taught or teaches […]

  4. […] Recruiterinkorea has discussed race relations in the hiring practices in the ESL industry, but the star of the show […]

  5. […] to do with age, race, etc., but recruiters can get fed up too when employers keep asking for a specific type of candidate which has little or nothing to do with their potential teaching ability.  In fact, the best […]

  6. […] before and I know that anyone that has lived in Korea for more than one day is well aware that racism is alive and kicking here.  I happened upon this thread on ESL Cafe and wasn’t too surprised to read the following: […]

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