Are you a well qualified English teacher? Great. Are you Irish? Not so great. You must be an alcoholic.
An experienced English teacher has been denied a job in Seoul simply because she was Irish and the school decided that all Irish people are alcoholics.
Katie Mulrennan (26) is an English teacher from Ireland with 3 years experience teaching English abroad in Spain, the UK and Middle East. She has also been living in Seoul for the past two years which means she is more than qualified to teach in one of the English schools in the country.
Katie recently saw an ad for teachers from an agency and applied through them for a job teaching English in the capital.
She was stunned to receive a reply from them stating, “Hello Katie, I am sorry to inform you that my client does not hire Irish people due to the alcoholism [sic] nature of your kind.”
She told the BBC, “When I got the email, it was so abrupt and short. I actually laughed when I read it initially,” adding, “In the end I took a deep breath and sent back a reply that was a little bit sarcastic as I couldn’t believe the email I had received. But I haven’t heard anything back since.”
Aside from the blatant stereotyping, this comes from a country where alcohol consumption is actually higher than Ireland. According to WHO they drink more per capita than the Irish and alcoholism is a major problem in the country.
Katie has since found a job at a normal school.
This story has generated a lot of comment, much of it lighthearted. Sure, the Irish like a drink and that isn’t a bad thing, is it? Ha ha, we’re all friends.
But for every white person turned down for a job teaching for some nonsensical reason there are a many, many, many, more black and Asian teachers turned down who receive no mention whatsoever in the press.
South Korea has a problem with racism and stereotyping and it’s no secret that less qualified white Westerners are often preferred over more qualified black or Asian teachers.
What happened to Katie happens to non-white teachers every day of the week in Korea: a stupid and ignorant prejudice denies someone a job. Some say the situation is getting better and there is no doubt that more black teachers are working in Korea now, but there’s a long way to go yet.
So sure, let’s smirk at this silly depiction of the Irish, but let’s not forget it’s just the white tip of a very large, much darker, iceberg.
Teaching English in South Korea – a general guide to teaching in South Korea
Korea, People, Racism. – a look at working in Korea as a black teacher.
Racism in Teaching English – a general look at racism in teaching English.[ratings]