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11 August 2004
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Korea Life Blog - African-American with Children

I received this e-mail from a reader last night:

Hi Shawn,

I've been reading your blog for about a month now. You experiences are hilarious and very inspiring. I just graduated with a degree in English and have been contemplating coming to Korea. I'd like some advice about how feasible it would be to teach. My situation is a bit unique. I have two children ages 8 and 4. I know that people are discouraged from coming if they have children, but I think I have a bit of an edge because my fiance is currently in Seoul at Yongsan Garrison. He is the father of my children and when we get married I will likely move to Korea. I want to be able to work part-time at least, but I want a good teaching situation. I have been noting your advice about the kind of jobs to take and what to avoid. I don't want the fact that I have children to be seen as a negative point in applying for jobs. I will be visiting my fiance in October and I hope to see some schools for myself.

What advice can you offer. Is it easy to find a part-time job with full-time pay and benefits. Also, I am african-american; would that be much of an issue? I've read Dave's ESL cafe and have seen the threads on discrimination. I am 33 years old, but look much younger. I have done my research and I feel that I could live in Korea. I love learning about other cultures and am open to new experiences.

I hope that I have provided you with enough background information to be able to give me some helpful advice. Oh I am currently working as a Techical Writer for a NASA contractor so I am also looking into the possiblity of working for the Army.

Thanks in advance for your help. Keep up the good work and I can't wait to read the rest of the Geoje-do story.


I thought about if for ahwile and did my best to offer advice:

Samantha, thanks for your e-mail. I've been working
hard on editing the Geoje-do story and it's driving me

Being African American will have it's disadvantages,
mostly when it comes to getting the job, and then with
the students. Employers almost always want a picture
beforehand, pretty much for that very reason. It's not
so much the school owners are racist, though they may
be, it's the society at large. The boss may fear not
being able to attract new students.

That being said, once you do get a job, you're
unlikely to experience any overt racism from adults.
Koreans would never say anything directly about it, no
matter how they feel. Kids on the other hand, and I've
seen this first hand, may not be so kind. Whenever
they see African Americans in their textbooks, you
hear the snickers and in Korean they usually say
"monkey!". I'm sure it will take some time for them to
overcome that stupidity. I would take an optimistic
approach and treat it as an opportunity to educate
them. But realistically you should be prepared to feel
frustrated and angry. I can't really recommend any job
in particular. Perhaps a public school would be more
likely to hire equally, but even they want photos in
advance...I hate telling you this reality. Have you
considered teaching in Japan? They are much more open
there to different races. As far as the children, that
won't be an issue if you don't mind a small apartment.
Keep posting messages of Dave's ESL for better
insight. I may also do a post with your e-mail in it,
if you don't mind.

She's given me permission to post her concerns here and I thought it'd be helpful if any of my readers could also offer advice. It's a sad shame that people are afraid to teach here or are just unable to because of the color of their skin. In this day and age that seems so backwards.


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