Sean Jones was on his way for a job interview last week in Seoul and received a disturbing text message that reads “Hey Sean. Sorry they just told me they actually want a white teacher.”
“I was on my way to the interview when I received a text message from my recruiter stating that they only want a white teacher,” Sean told The Korea Observer.
“Regardless of my two plus years of experience, TEFL certification, great references and the ability to speak intermediate Korean, I was turned down before even given an opportunity to speak with them.”
To add insult to injury, the 30-year-old American from Oklahoma experienced racial discrimination again two days after the incident.
This time he received a facebook message that reads, “I am sorry. I just found out today that my school is one of ones that won’t hire black people.”
Sean claims that if Korean schools want to teach their students about western culture then they need to be exposed to all people of western culture.
“This is telling students that black people are bad and white people are good. Why should white people get all the privileges?” he asked. “White privilege is not right. We all deserve an equal chance.”
Sean, who has traveled to a dozen countries, finds that Korea is the most direct about their racism.
It is no wonder Katie Mulrennan, an Irish teacher, was also recently refused a job because of the perceived heavy drinking habits of her countrymen. She received a message that claims she would not be hired due to “the alcoholism nature of your kind.”
“The problem is that there is no law to protect people against discrimination. Not just racism but sexist and discrimination against older people,” Sean argued.
“In Korea, a club can publicly say, ‘no foreigners’ and it is socially accepted. Like I said, there has to be help from native Koreans to change this practice.”
An official at the National Human Rights Commission of Korea acknowledged that there is no anti-discrimination law in Korea and it would be difficult to take any punitive action in most of the cases.
She, however, hinted that Sean has a good chance to shut down the hakwons, or private academies that practiced racial discrimination against him.
“This was a clear violation of the National Human Rights Commission Act which stipulates that people should not be discriminated based on their race or gender,” an official said.
“We cannot directly punish those hakwons but we can make recommendations to government authorities, in this case, the Office of Education, so that they can urge problematic hakwons to stop their discriminatory practices or even consider revoking their license.”
An official of the an English language academy in Seoul, who was chiefly responsible for the discriminatory text message that Sean received on Nov. 10, claimed that her academy often has to eliminate certain candidates because their students are too young and scared of strange foreigners.
“Our students are as young as 4 years old and they even find it difficult to interact with Korean adults,” she said.
She, however, offered an apology to Sean, saying she should have given a chance to meet him for the interview and make a decision based on job applicants’ characters and qualifications, rather than based on their skin colors.
“We were desperate to fill a position and had already found someone by the time when Sean was asked for an interview by a recruiter,” she said.
“I suspect that there was some miscommunication between him and the recruiter.”
Nevertheless, Sean pointed out the academy should be held responsible for racism.
“Even though they are adjusting to what parents want, they are responsible for giving the students a true view of what western culture is truly like,” he said.
“Also though it’s not the recruiter’s fault directly but they assist in the racism when they help the schools to only find white/females. If I were a recruiter I would refuse to work/help any school that practice discrimination.”
Some suspect that Seon was rejected because of his medical history of encephalitis, but the recruiter claims that this wasn’t the case since the academy was not aware of his past illness.
Encephalitis is not a contagious disease and Sean has fully recovered from it.
If you have an English teaching job to offer Sean, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sean majored in Spanish and has taught English in Korea for over 2 years. He has a TEFL certification of 120 hours.
If you are a recruiter and want to advertise new job openings from open-minded hakwons or schools, you may post your ads on koreaobserver.com/jobs.
Please give me some encouraging words to Sean Jones or share your thoughts.