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Teaching in Korea VS Teaching in China

SOUTH KOREA | Friday, 5 February 2010 | Views [3060] | Comments [2]

I'm a Malaysian who grew up in the Philippines. I'm more Filipino than Malaysian, thanks to the fact that I've spent more than three-fourths of my life there, since my dad's a Filipino-Chinese. This mixed heritage is something I'm very proud of, and I hate it whenever anyone tried to take it away from me.

So you can't imagine how happy I was when a company in Beijing (EasyEnglish, thank you Mr. Wilson) selected me to join their pool of teachers in 2008. They knew about my background and that I wasn't a native English speaker, and yet still they gave me a chance. They never reminded me of how big a risk they were taking by accepting me, and they never attempted even once to pound into my head how my lineage had a big negative effect on the students' families. All they did, really, was help me improve. I'm still very grateful for that to this day.

I just recently got married, and am now working in Korea. The strange thing is that here in Korea, compared to the Chinese the people here aren't as open-minded. It seems that you have to be either an American or a Canadian to be considered a "real English teacher" (Korean-Americans are sometimes categorized under "Americans"). That's what my company has been telling me for at least two-three days a week: how my lineage is compromising their company, how big a risk accepting me was and how important every little thing I do is. In other words, how unworthy I am of my current teaching position, and yet they accepted me because they felt like giving me a chance.

I feel like quitting. I really do. It's not only not motivating, but the payment that I was told about in the beginning doesn't match the payment that they gave me at the end of the month. No wonder they kept on telling me and my husband that since I'm not really a "native speaker," therefore my salary was lowered to...well, much lower than it was originally.

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that teaching here in Korea is a bit more stressful than teaching in China. In China, people are aware that there are actually people other than Americans and Canadians who can speak AND teach English. Here, on the other hand, it's either you're an American or you're a Canadian. If you're a Korean-American/Canadian, then sure, why not. But if you're anything other than the above-mentioned, then don't expect a red carpet when you get to work.

Tags: teaching in korea



Keep your head up! I'm an American with blond hair and blue eyes.. The poster child of English speaking.. EVERY hagwon I have worked for so far has border lined verbally abused me or made my work environment feel threatened. I think it is Korean culture, to try to make people work harder - or for the principle to feel (s)he is in the driver seat.

With that being said, the moment I have briefly fought back, the principle always backs off, usually for the duration of my contract. And when my contract is about to expire, they want to re-sign me. This has happened at all three schools I've worked for.

The same thing is happening now at my current school.. But the difference is this time, they have raised my hours (and are paying over time) But they again, wanted to make me feel inadequate in some way (despite my 2 years of teaching experience). I feel like celebrity at my school, the children love me and it's unfortunate that the company doesn't know how to treat people well.. I am quitting next month to teach at a university in china.

But this isn't my individual rant.. Almost every foreign teacher, that I've spoken with, (american or canadian) has had the same experience that I have had. I think it's because Korea has a long brutal history, and they haven't learned to let go of this. that's why addiction is so prevalent in this society. Anyway, can't wait to go to my 14 hour per week teaching job in china ;)

With Koreans, if they bite, just bite back a little.. It works in your favor. Good luck!

  Chris in SK Aug 4, 2012 7:46 PM


I taught at a University in Korea for two years.It was an extremely easy job but overall, I didn't connect very well with the Koreans. I found them very superficial and obsessed with how they look.

Now, I'm about to teach at a University in Hefei China, and I'm VERY curious how it will compare to Korea. Right now, I'm being warned not to eat out in too many restaurants since they often used 'old-oil' and the cleanliness standards aren't very good. (so I'm a bit worried about that!)

  Melanie Jul 17, 2014 1:38 PM

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