Asia News Weekly Weird

Korea doesn’t want drunk Irish teachers

Asia News Weekly
Written by Asia News Weekly

Making the rounds in the news is the tale of one Katie Mulrennan. She’s a 26-year-old Irish woman who recently applied for a teaching job in South Korea. Why is she in the news? It has very little to do with her, but rather with her rejection.

Mulrennan was turned down from a prospective teaching job not because she was unqualified, but because she was Irish. The recruiting company she had contacted to find her a new job let her know what was what.

“I am sorry to inform you that my client does not hire Irish people due to the alcoholism 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. I was annoyed about it. But I can also see it was a little bit hilarious as well.”

South Korea is a small, homogeneous country with very little exposure to foreign populations. In fact, only about 2% of the nation’s residents are non-Koreans. This story demonstrates an underlying problem with the country – exposure to diversity and what discrimination is.

Given how much South Korea worries about it’s perceived image on the world stage, it’s ironic that a video making the rounds this week is of a South Korean man downing 4 bottles of soju (which is about 20% ABV) in less than 2 minute has gone viral.

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

But acts of discrimination in South Korea are routine. It’s common to see job postings for “white only” or “female only” teachers. About three months ago, a pub in Itaewon barred “Africans” from entering because some South Koreans were afraid of contracting ebola… but that ban was only extended to dark-skinned people. Just this week, Korea Nazarene University posted a job announcement clearly stating drinking, smoking, and homosexuality were not allowed.

To be truthful, South Koreans are friendly, caring, and welcoming. However, just like everywhere in the world, a few bad apples can spoil the bunch or give a bad impression. What’s needed is time, education, and frank discussions. It’s the only way we, as a global society, can move forward.

What are your thoughts on this issue? How can we create a more open society, devoid of prejudices? What’s the best approach for addressing the issue in homogeneous societies? I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter.

This podcast is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

About the author

Asia News Weekly

Asia News Weekly

The Asia News Weekly podcasts brings you the biggest stories from the Asia-Pacific region.

  • John Lee

    I am not sure why you felt you had to defend Koreans or Koreans’ drinking culture. It was not Koreans who rejected her job application for “the alcoholism of her kind.” It was one Christian university.

    • Yann

      Actually, the Christian university and the Irish rejection are two separate cases.
      Problem is, there is no anti discrimination law in Korea.

      • John Lee

        How are they separate? The Christian university rejected the Irish woman a job for her ethnicity.

        The objection that I had was that this article pointed out that it is hypocritical for Koreans to deny her a job because of Korean drinking culture. But Koreans did not reject her. One school did. The school should be criticized, not Koreans.

        • james


          • John Lee

            Learn to think.

          • Steve Miller

            This podcast/article doesn’t attack Korea in any way. It notes that it was ironic the school chose to deny employment based on perceived “alcoholism” when a viral video was making the rounds. It also states that isolated incidents, such as then , can spoil an image and perhaps the reason we see many such incidents in Korea is due to the 2% foreign population and lack of a diverse population.

          • John Lee

            Yeah, about that viral video. What about it? It had nothing to do with the woman not being employed. If it had been the university employees drinking, then, yes, it would have made sense to bring it up.

          • Steve Miller

            Actually it was commentary about image and perception. If the school (not the university you’re mentioning) declined to hire based on a perceived image of “alcoholism” by Irish people, then it sets a double standard and bias since the perceived image of much Korea is viewed as also drinking in large quantities. Even the latest stats put the number of shots of liquor consumed by Koreans at almost twice that of Russia.

          • truemoboy

            ‘Korea’ didn’t reject her. She’s already found another job. This
            inability to differentiate the individual from the group, to make one
            person represent his/her entire ethnicity… what’s it called again?

          • John Lee

            Sorry for the late reply. I was away for a few days. I find that comparison problematic.

            When the school told her they would not hire her because the Irish are drunks, everyone rightfully called it out as being racist.

            But those same people are now saying “What about Koreans? They are a bunch of drunks, too!”

            A plague on both houses, I say.

          • ran

            Spot On!

          • Qwerty

            Yeah but heading is deliberate and misleading. Tabloid trash

  • Sophie

    In the BBC article it mentions that she found the potential job on Craigslist. This hints that the response which has caused such a fuss was written by a rookie recruitment agent and so it’s unfortunate that this individual and their odd use of the English language has caused such a stir. However, things like this surely happen everyday and as there is no binding legislation to tackle such petty mindedness it doesn’t seem like things will be changing anytime soon.

  • ran

    Many of the Americans that died during the Korean War were black Americans. Remember what the Japanese did to you? If America leaves S. Korea and we pull out all assistance and stop allowing Koreans into the US, N. Korea will attack.If they refuse to adopt an anti-discrimination law and seriously crack down on ignorance and racism perpetuated in their schools & society, then we should leave S. Korea, immediately. No more American military bases. Boycott their industries, actors, singers etc. Let them go their own way if it makes them happy claiming ‘pure’.

  • zoso13

    what is there to argue about this poorly constructed “hasty generalization” arugment.

Click here not to show this pop-up box again.