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When English Teachers Feel Racial DiscriminationThe saga continues with a new press release airing some of the grievances of foreign English teachers in Korea and suggesting that the history of Korea explains this discrimination but that globalization and mutual understanding will take care of the problem.

Native English instructors have been using the English teachers’ forums at to complain of the racial discrimination they receive.

If you look at what they write you will see that they believe that and Koreans have a strong ideological inclination to discriminate against and persecute them, and that in their daily lives they are treated differently from Koreans. Below are some writings English teachers have put on about discrimination.

- i haven’t met my Korean girlfriend’s parents even after six months of dating.
- Kids run up to me and insult them in Korean and don’t do the same to Korean men.
- At stores and restaurants people don’t talk to me, they just show me the total on the calculator.
- People don’t sit next to me on the bus even though there is an empty seat.
- When I’m waiting in line at the hospital or a restaurant people just call out “foreigner” instead of my name.
- When I’m with a Korean woman other people talk under their breath about us.
- My girlfriend won’t kiss me or hold my hand when other people can see us.
- When taxi drivers see me and another person waiting by the road, they go by me and pick up the Korean even if I was ahead of them.
- In a bar or club some guy I don’t know will go up to the Korean girl I’m with and whisper in her ear, and she starts to look at me funny and goes somewhere else.
- Other people are driving as fast me on their scooters but the police only stop me.
- All of the lingerie models on TV are white women.
- Korean men treat my white girlfriend like a prostitute.

Compared to the past these kinds of situation have considerably declined, I thought, but I guess they still happen sometimes. We don’t intend not to know about these things, but even if we do know, I don’t know if people will agree that they amount to special discrimination. Even so many English teachers are saying that they have bad feelings, they think differently from us. So to prevent these kinds of things from happening our society must continue to become enlightened.

This is because we have strong memories of how the great western powers looked down on resident foreigners, studied history in school, and in the 18th century sent missionaries abroad and because some US soldiers get drunk and create trouble, attack women, or commit theft, all of which leaves a large impression on us and is sometimes reported on TV or in newspapers.

To say that these things don’t exist is to cover up history or insist that the media not report them, and to take a detached view of right and wrong. With the recent trend towards globalization in Korea, we are better-informed and see more gentlemanly foreigners, and as we come to understand their rational approaches to scandals our prejudices are greatly ameliorated and we come to have more respect for them as people, but, as in this incident, we can see that those kinds of good works are always forgotten leaving only the problems still in mind, so I don’t know that all Koreans are so discriminatory against all foreigners.

In fact these problems have improved a lot from years ago, so it is possible that we are indifferent to them. But suddenly with the adoption of native English education and many native speakers coming to Korea to teach, I want to point out my prediction that the two groups of young people who know little about each other – young Koreans who have a slight inherent sense of superiority and the group of native English teachers who don’t know much about Korea — have a high possibility to clash.

But this wariness of various kinds of foreigners is actually quite insignificant, and as the problem is our level of consciousness which can be changed according to our work position, the two groups all need to work to be patient and understand the other.

[Reference materials]Historically during the first clashes between Korea, France, and the United States the country’s name was Chosun, and for a long, long time Chosun had lived peacefully and until the 18th century known very little of Europeans. Seeking to acquire new colonies the great powers of Europe fought to penetrate into Asia and Africa, and tended to always send Catholic priests ahead. In Chosun in the 18th century French priests came and communicated Catholicism to Korea, but because they inevitably caused discord with Chosun customs and ethics and attempted to teach the destruction of Chosun customs and social order they were denounced by the Chosun government and finally many converts to Catholicism were killed along with nine French priests. On this pretext the French then raised a navy and crossed into Chosun, setting fire to a village and offices before making off with 19 boxes of artworks being kept there. This incident, known as the Byeonginyangyo, is the most shameful incident in Chosun. This is the account of it we learned in history class. France still refuses to return the stolen books, and we cannot forget the incident. In the incident known as the Shinmiyangyo, a pirate ship of the United States, the Sherman, sailed down the Daedong River and breaking into and stealing treasures from a royal tomb, killing people who attempted to stop them and setting fires and sinking a boat of the Chosun military, and over 400 Chosun soldiers were killed. Of course, the fleets of France and the United States did not act in war against Chosun, but they caused a lot of damage and wounded many Koreans, and after the incidents was planted in the hearts of the citizens a distrust of foreigners which has persisted to the present day.

If native English teachers knew that we cannot forget these incidents, perhaps they would understand to some degree. If the US or French militaries were to go into Korea and commit those sorts of outrageous acts, what would happen? If one or two of their citizens were sacrificed they would come together in patriotic retaliation, and maybe when seeing us today they would still viciously chastise us. So looking at it objectively, taking discrimination equal to that previously mentioned as happening in Korea and calling it racism is of course not a good thing for us to do, but if we understand their history a little we wouldn’t know what qualifications there are to talk about our unhappiness.

After World War II we received much help from the United States and also send troops to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq at the request of the US, and the two nations are very friendly. And Korea has developed its economy to become one of the world’s wealthy nations and now learns English and aims to climb higher in the global market.

Good works are always beset by difficulty, so it would be good for us to overcome that and learn to forget those things. We still hold a lot of distrust and anger towards foreigners in out hearts, but we are getting better, and through quickened globalization it is all being forgotten. And we are embracing them.

This is what I’m saying, and I hope that young foreign English instructors will listen to what I have said about what their ancestors did, but I wonder if they will ignore it and still call me a racist….


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