This is going to be an uncomfortable blog post for me to put out there in the universe but, after telling those close to me about this experience it was overwhelming how many people wanted me to share this experience.
I guess I would like to start off by saying this experience didn’t really affect me in a lasting way. It was something that happened, shocked me and then I moved on. It wasn’t until I later told loved ones what happened that I realized how truly shocking it was. But, I don’t want to get any sympathy or outrage on my behalf…I’ve moved on from it and there are so many others out there who experience much worse racism much more frequently then my once in 28 years.
So…here we go. I’ll just tell it like it happened, from my point of view.
Starting around mid September I began the process of applying to teaching English positions in South Korea. Prior to this I had completed one year of teaching ESL in South Korea and before that I had experience working in the field as a therapist for developmentally delayed infants in California. I had always wanted to live in South Korea, my mother’s family is originally from South Korea but I had never visited. When I heard about teaching English in Korea it just seemed like a natural fit, I worked with children, I wanted to live in South Korea…seems like the perfect job for me!
I had heard from online forums that if you look Asian then you will experience some prejudice because private academies will not want to hire you, wanting instead someone who looks Caucasian. The first time being hired in Korea I was hired as half of a couple and didn’t really notice any overt racism towards my half-Asianness…
The second time around when it came to going through the hiring process as a single person I was a little overwhelmed by how many times I was asked…”what are you,” “are you Asian”….and other variations. It just stood out a little since Josh was going through the same interviewing process and was never once asked what he was. I even had one person ask me to clarify what type of “white” I was….ummm….I don’t really know, many “white” people in the States are a mix of European descent, and my dad is a little of everything…Scottish, Irish, Polish, Danish….to name some. I guess me telling him my dad was Caucasian wasn’t enough.
Throughout this process I was honest with everyone, I told them my mother was from South Korea and my father was Caucasian…. I have always struggled with how to describe my dad…I guess I never have thought too hard about what his ethnic background was…it has never mattered to me! Plus, usually by the time you interview directly with someone from a school they have your resume and a picture of what you look like, so there really is no hiding it if you look Asian.
My story is about one particular school I interviewed with. Prior to interviewing with the school I had spoken to their recruiter and had explained by ethnic background and had sent along a recent picture with my resume. After this I had a Skype interview with someone from the school where they were able to see what I looked like on the video feed. The interview went really well and the person I spoke with basically told me that I had the position and to expect the contract for the position to be sent out immediately. Less than an hour after the interview I also received confirmation from the school’s recruiter that the school had accepted me and that I would get sent over the contract very soon.
About 20 hours later I was waiting for another interview with a different school that I had scheduled a few days earlier. Going into the interview I wanted to be straightforward with the second school and let them know I had received an offer I was pretty sure I was going to take. So, I emailed the recruited and asked about when I might expect to get the contract from the first school. And that was when I received an email that said I was rejected from the school. I was really confused and asked why and was told that it was because of my “Asian face.” My “Asian face” that I made pretty clear from the get go…I didn’t try and hide my background and the school had seen what I looked like prior to choosing to interview me. So this was pretty shocking to me.
Here is a screenshot of some of the email conversation, to understand it read it from the bottom up.
After the last email response from the recruiter I did what I was raised to do as a polite person, I thanked them for being honest with me. Which is so funny to me…but honestly the recruiter didn’t have to tell me the exact reason I wasn’t hired. He could have easily made up some bullshit answer. I was pretty saddened by this for a couple hours after it happened, but luckily for me there is a silver lining to this cloudy story.
3 hours later I had my second scheduled interview with the second school…and they hired me during the interview (for real this time).
I guess the moral of my story is that when one door slams on your “Asian face”…another door will open…for your same “Asian face.” Any advice I can give to someone else with a similar experience when looking for a job in South Korea is to just let it go, there is another job out there for you where you can be you and will be treated well.