The QiRanger Adventures

Rascism and the State of Affairs for ESL Teachers in Korea

with 20 comments

Over the past few months, I’ve received a handful of requests to make a video and blog about racism in Korea. I’ve resisted to post on this topic, since I really don’t have a good handle on the situation, because I don’t see it coming from the Koreans I interact with. However, today in one of the blogs I follow, The Korean tackles that question head-on. I think he took a look at the issue and did a fair job at looking at both sides of the racism card.

I will add one thing to the topic: while in Korea, I find the most racist people here are not Koreans, but rather  foreigners who have come here to teach English or serve in the US military. Most often, they look down on those here and think of Koreans as a lesser people.

It’s something that I really dislike, since I’ll see one foreigner complain about how they (foreigners) are treated and then in the next breath say something negative and racist about Korea or the Korean people. One of the things that Jo and I worried about when coming here was how she would be treated. A Korean friend of the family kept on saying, “Don’t go to Korea. They hate other Asians.”

When Jo got here, we found out just the opposite: She is warmly welcomed by everyone in this country and the only racism she finds comes from white foreigners. I (and The Korean) think the attitude stems from not knowing what it is like to be a minority in a new land. That being said, I’m really thrown for a loop when I see someone from the west (who would be classified as an ethnic minority) make racist comments. I would  think they would know better.

I really hope that in the years to come, the world does become a smaller place and these outdated notions of superiority will go the way of the Do-Do.


Written by Steve Miller

February 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm

20 Responses

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  1. I’m always amazed to find people racist. I know some people are more ethnophobic and it looks like racism, but overall, even with my knowledge in psych, I don’t understand racism. Hell, maybe I’m a bad example, I’ve had african-canadian friend when I was really young, my best friend (15 years of frienship and counting) is asian and my roomate is from Rwanda. :p

    I’m also surprised and saddened that foreigners travelling in Korea are racists. I can understant that they could disagree with few things (we all have an idea of how a society is.. usually representing what we’ve grown in), but racism? I always thought people travelling were more open minded. Or maybe it is a new tendency with raising generations (young people in there 20’s, backpacking and working aroudn the world during summer’).

    Anywho, I agree with you, I hope same thing 🙂 And like I said, I get the feeling that my generation, those who travels at least, are more open minded, curious about the World and wht it has to offer. Hopefully as we grow up, generations behind me will do the same and then slowly the world can be a better place.. at least in term of lack of racism 😉


    February 9, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    • I really hope so… but it will start with those that backpack, etc. and intermingle with those native to the countries their visiting. So many times, the expats I see here have no Korean friends or make any effort to get to know anyone outside their school or close circle of expat friends. That’s where it really starts to bubble underneath. The foreigners think that their way is always better, and more often than not, start to think that their country has the answers to all the world’s problems.


      February 9, 2010 at 1:17 pm

  2. One of the many experiences I am expecting to encounter once I get to Korea is occasional racism. I am actually looking forward to it. Many times in America I feel very privileged even though I am far from rich. I’ve had it pretty good. My students often ask very racist questions about my leaving to Korea, and it is out of complete ignorance. (I live in Nebraska, there are 3 people out of 615 in my school that are not white Americans)

    I am from Tennessee originally and have seen racism, usually against Black or Hispanic Americans, first hand.

    Perhaps it will take me out of my comfort zone to be discriminated against, perhaps show me the “real world” to say from another perspective.

    But that is one of many reasons I am coming to Korea, to live many new experiences, and learn from as many as I can!


    February 10, 2010 at 9:09 am

    • Well said, I agree! When are you planning on going to Korea? I’m hoping for July.


      February 10, 2010 at 9:24 am

      • Heading in August is the plan. Got everything lined up on this end, just waiting for jobs to open up!


        February 10, 2010 at 11:14 am

        • Cool, yeah I’m getting as much stuff ready in advance as I can. Good luck!


          February 10, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    • I used to see all kinds of things back in the states, but nothing like when I used to live in Texas. Now there was some racism!!!!

      I hope you’ll find Korea to your liking! I really enjoy things here!

      If you start a blog/youtube channel, please let me know.


      February 10, 2010 at 2:37 pm

      • That’s the plan. I have going, but it’s going to be pretty slow until I get there. Still trying to decide between a FLIP HD video camera, or just a good digital camera for my video needs. Any suggestions?


        February 11, 2010 at 12:54 am

        • Unless you’re going to be making a huge number of videos, I think you’d be better served by getting a good camera with a video function. That way, you can get your great stills at high resolution and also make some movies.


          February 11, 2010 at 8:31 am

  3. Korea, in my opinion, is just like any other country in the respect that most of the population are fine with foreigners, but there is a small minority who choose to discriminate based on race. I think the reason people feel that Korea is racist is that the minority of people with racist tendencies in Korea also happens to be more vocal than their fair minded counterparts.

    It’s unfortunate, in my opinion, because some of the greatest acts of kindness I have ever experienced have come from Koreans trying to help me get along in their country.


    February 11, 2010 at 3:18 am

  4. This is an issue that really worries me. For me, I’ve always wanted to go to Korea to teach ever since I entered the School of Education in my university. I have a rough time sometimes over here in the US, so I wonder how bad it will get when I’m over there…

    Since I’m a Muslim woman, and wear a hijab… I’ve gotten a lot of weird things that have happened. Since I’ve interacted with a lot of Korean people here at uni… a lot of them have really bad views of me and don’t even take the time to know me. I’m so worried when I get there it will be even worse to socialize and just live life.


    February 12, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    • I can imagine that must be a scary thought. I have only know one other Muslim teacher while I’ve been here in Korea (and she wasn’t that strict about following the required guidelines). I wonder if you were to get a job in Seoul near the Mosque if things would be different?


      February 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm

      • I wouldn’t say I’m strict… the only thing that distinguishes me from others is wearing loose clothing and a headscarf and I don’t eat pork or drink alcohol. I’m still a regular girl who likes to have fun and enjoy life.

        I heard about the Mosque in Seoul but I would also like to be able to branch out and get to know the people there in Korea. Though I’m Muslim, I don’t see how that could make me incompatible to have a friendly relationship with others. I don’t see religion as something that separates me from others, on the contrary my whole family is Christian. 🙂


        February 16, 2010 at 7:41 am

        • As with all things, I think how you approach life and others greatly reflects on how one is treated. It sounds like you’ll have a great time here while approaching life with that attitude!


          February 16, 2010 at 8:31 am

  5. Hey! Thanks for the specifics ! I found it insightful with some research I’m doing right now. I’m going to bookmark this blog and return. What other resources are there on the same subject? Keep it up!

    Mortgage Modification

    February 20, 2010 at 12:20 pm

  6. Can you believe this story from Denver?

    I just saw this story and had to share it with all of you.

    This poor woman, just can’t believe that this actually happens in this day and age, what a shame.

    I just thought it was important to share.

    (CNN) — Three police cars pulled into Christina FourHorn’s front yard one afternoon while working from home just before she was supposed to pick up her daughter at school. The officers had a warrant for her arrest.

    “What do you mean robbery?” FourHorn remembers asking the officers. Her only brushes with the law had been a few speeding tickets.

    She was locked up in a Colorado jail. They took her clothes and other belongings and handed her an oversize black-and-white striped uniform. She protested for five days, telling jailers the arrest was a mistake. Finally, her husband borrowed enough money to bail her out.

    “They wouldn’t tell me the details,” she said.

    Later, it became clear that FourHorn was right, that Denver police had arrested the wrong woman. Police were searching for Christin Fourhorn, who lived in Oklahoma.

    Their names were similar, and Christina FourHorn, a mother with no criminal record living in Sterling, Colorado, had been caught in the mix-up.


    February 23, 2010 at 1:30 am

  7. @Receicecphew Who cares?

    RangerQi Fan

    February 26, 2010 at 5:38 pm

  8. Thanks for this info. I often read here…

    Kartenlegen per email

    March 5, 2010 at 9:53 am

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