South Korean Human Rights Monitor


“White Only” Trend When Hiring English Instructors Still Prevalent

Daniel Corks January 7, 2014

As anyone with experience working as a foreign English instructor in Korea knows, nationality-, age-, gender- and racially-based discrimination in hiring practices of hagwons (private after-school tutoring centres) or even public schools is not hard to find. The surprising characteristic is that it is often very open, to the point where job postings on message boards will clearly state “Whites only”, evoking images of racial segregation under the Jim Crow laws in the U.S.A. or apartheid laws in South Africa.

One newspaper recently conducted a survey of message boards with job postings for positions in Korea, and found numerous posts that explicitly stated that the positions were for “White person only (sic)” or “White people wanted”; some were even brazen enough to include such phrases in the title of the postings. The newspaper followed up with the hagwon behind one such post, and the clarified answer they received was, “No Blacks.”


One individual, Teacher A, revealed that nationality-based discrimination can make this situation worse still. Teacher A, a Black individual born in Africa, related an experience where a job offer was rescinded after the employer heard of Teacher A’s place of birth.

On these same message boards, those new to the employment market in Korea are quick to voice their surprise and their criticisms at discovering the reality of finding work. One person stated that they have had trouble finding work simply because their friends are not White. For the sake of people that are considering employment in Korea as an English instructor, these sites start off by stating that White individuals from Canada or the U.S.A. are at an advantage. Some job advertisements now go as far as to say that a position is open to those of any race in order to distance themselves from the unfortunate pattern of racist hiring practices.

A representative from the education ministry wished to make clear that in the cases of public schools that employ racially discriminatory hiring practices, these are schools that are directly hiring teachers or are going through a recruiter, and that there are no guidelines from the government that are causing this behaviour.

Whatever the cause, the government does not appear to be doing much to actively discourage this practice. Setting up a way for applicants to submit charges of racial discrimination against potential employers would be a start. As well, it is necessary for teachers to stand up to their employers in solidarity if racially discriminatory hiring methods are used, and also for hagwons to stand up to the parents of the students since it is often the parents’ prejudices that often cause the hagwons to be racially discriminatory in order to stay competitive.

Kim, Yeo-ran; 2013-12-26; 영어 강사 구인 때 “백인만” 인종차별 못 고친 한국사회; Kyunghyang Shinmun

About Author

Daniel Corks

Daniel worked as an HRM intern before becoming a research fellow at KHRF and taking on the role of editor on the HRM project. He is currently an assistant professor at Dongshin University. View all posts by Daniel Corks →

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