Making the rounds in the news is the tale of one Katie Mulrennan. She’s a 26-year-old Irish woman who recently applied for a teaching job in South Korea. Why is she in the news? It has very little to do with her, but rather with her rejection.
Mulrennan was turned down from a prospective teaching job not because she was unqualified, but because she was Irish. The recruiting company she had contacted to find her a new job let her know what was what.
“I am sorry to inform you that my client does not hire Irish people due to the alcoholism nature of your kind”.
She told the BBC: “When I got the email, it was so abrupt and short. I actually laughed when I read it initially. I was annoyed about it. But I can also see it was a little bit hilarious as well.”
South Korea is a small, homogeneous country with very little exposure to foreign populations. In fact, only about 2% of the nation’s residents are non-Koreans. This story demonstrates an underlying problem with the country – exposure to diversity and what discrimination is. Given how much South Korea worries about it’s perceived image on the world stage, it’s ironic that a video making the rounds this week is of a South Korean man downing 4 bottles of soju (which is about 20% ABV) in less than 2 minute has gone viral.
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
But acts of discrimination in South Korea are routine. It’s common to see job postings for “white only” or “female only” teachers. About three months ago, a pub in Itaewon barred “Africans” from entering because some South Koreans were afraid of contracting ebola… but that ban was only extended to dark-skinned people. Just this week, Korea Nazarene University posted a job announcement clearly stating drinking, smoking, and homosexuality were not allowed.
To be truthful, South Koreans are friendly, caring, and welcoming. However, just like everywhere in the world, a few bad apples can spoil the bunch or give a bad impression. What’s needed is time, education, and frank discussions. It’s the only way we, as a global society, can move forward.
What are your thoughts on this issue? How can we create a more open society, devoid of prejudices? What’s the best approach for addressing the issue in homogeneous societies? I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter.
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