About Irish Alcoholics and Education Thingies


The story of the Irish woman who was refused a position in the Korea because of the alcoholism nature of her kind is one we are all familiar with (if you’re not here’s the original scoop!). It’s a sad story, it really is, and the fact that it is still being discussed is probably all the more sadder.

For starters, the woman who was refused the job was dead right to report and to notify the press about it. It’s this kind of stuff that people put up with in foreign countries all the time that needs to be highlighted. I think the fact that it went viral enough to be taken note of in the Korea means that some level of embarrassment should have a positive effect. Remember, no ones wrist will be slapped over this as there are no laws against this behaviour in the Korea.

It’s kind of a typical Korea story. Normal person applies for normal job but gets refused because someone heard that all these people from the same country do something abhorrent which may effect the well being of the poor children’s education. Or whatever.

First thing we are quick to point out is that this is someone in the Korea saying that the Irish are all alcoholics, which isn’t news to any Irish person who has lived abroad for longer than a weekend. In this instance there’s the serious case of the pot calling the kettle a pot. I would wager that whoever earned this opinion won it from keeping good company from some other bottom feeder who was familiar with Irish ‘culture’, and by ‘culture’ I mean drinking all day on St Patricks Day – be that in the Korea or wherever.

Ireland and it’s ‘ness is not a well known subject in the Korea. I suppose some people are aware that Ireland is where the film Once came from, and they’ve heard of Robbie Keane, some of our golfers, and that it’s beside England. Things like Guinness are regularly confused as from other parts, Germany in this case, and notions such as our infectious charm, love of potatoes, tollerance of precipitation, and enjoyment of a drink or two are in fact alien to many a Korean in the street (and there are many Koreans). My point is that said numpty didn’t lick their opinion off a stone, they heard a rumour and sure that’s good enough for them. A stereotype was preached, and not for the first time an Irish person didn’t get a job because we’re all mad drunks. Maybe because it’s 2014 we are upset, but I’ve heard this to be a common enough reaction in parts of Australia.

I’ll give you a comparable anecdote.

Back in 2007 I was interviewing for a hagwon (read small privately owned school which taught mostly kids and likely to where our victim applied). I spoke with two manager type teachers, and was grilled kind of awkwardly about my nationality. Somewhere along the line this person had encountered Irish people, and there was a big problem – Irish people played a lot of sport. Yes, this is pretty serious I know. I mean athletic healthy people are problem in any business right? What’s worse is I’m not athletic although I eat like a weight lifter. So you can gather that at this point I was pretty incensed.

Her argument was that Irish people played a lot of sport and got injured and couldn’t teach because of said injuries. I tried to wrangle how serious she was about this accusation, but decided to let it settle. The rest of my interview seemed to progress well, and I managed a second stab at it. Maybe that’s why it’s always good to have two people interviewing you at the same time.

Later in the week I met with the principal and we interviewed again, and the woman who was so endeared by the athleticism of the Irish (myself included) was present. She attempted the spiel about Irish people playing sports, and may have even thrown in a bit about us having a drink or two, but as she said it in Korean my internal bullshitometer kicked in and I cut across her and said ‘excuse me no – your’re interviewing me, and I’m professional blah blah blah.

In the end I got the job, and low and behold, the woman who interviewed me wasn’t a feature a month later. I stuck around for another year and a half and still get a big hug from the principal if/when I walk in the door – and this is coming from a guy who was so locked on the teacher induction day I tackled a co-worker into a table where all the senior teaching staff were seated. But maybe I was lucky to have a decent boss who liked a good laugh (although she’s gone a bit OCD on the whole CCTV in the classrooms of late I’ve heard). If I had not got the job maybe I would have emailed the Irish Mirror or whoever was certain to publish the story.

I’m glad this story went viral though, and I hope there’s some numpty at a recruiters desk is now nursing their wounds, be they merely inflicted on their self esteem. This whole thing though shouldn’t really tarnish the Irish’s reputation as English teachers or people in the Korea. Every so often you hear stupid stories like this coming from the penninsula and you just have to shake your head and wonder when will they learn. Learning doesn’t really mean that they should be more open to other cultures and respectful, just that they stop and think before they make projections about other nationalities, and perhaps remember that it’s another person you are speaking to (with access to the internet).

The other problem we have here is that, much like Korean knowledge of Ireland, Irish knowledge of Korea is at about a similar level. Despite the large number of Koreans in Dublin at the moment of which most are studying English, many people don’t know anything about their country, other than….well you can tell me yourself. Are we perpetuating reverse racism by being appalled by the actions of one probably poorly made decision and seeing it as a judgement presribed by the entire Korean society? It’s hard to see any benefit in this whole charade to be honest. Yes, we’re raising awareness about a kind of serious incident, which the victim herself said she kind of laughed at, then took the right steps. Listening to the radio and reading the news reports was enough for me to see that a change of perception of Koreans by Irish people is a concern.

It is important in these situations to be wary that we do not allow ourselves to descend to a similar level. Regardless of what you think, racism and discrimination is active in every society. In some cases it is more obvious than others. Ireland and Korea both have their problems, namely that we are both very prone to lazy stereotyping. I can’t speak for other countries, but I’d be surprised if I was far wide of the mark.

I’ve heard of plenty of Irish people getting screwed over for it just being the Korea and the English language schools there have in many respects little to no moral standards. Most Irish people have the problem of trying to convince potential employers that they can teach in an American accent, and I would now urge any Irish teacher never to lower themselves. If they can’t accept diversity then you certainly don’t want to be part of that staffroom. There have been worse incidents, but I can’t think of any directed at Irish people specifically because they’re Irish.

It’s sad that these stories do come out, not just because someone has to endure this sort of stupidity, but also because despite all the developments and hard work many people have done to make Korea more internationally welcoming and diverse, idiocy still prevails. I would advocate for some kind of legislation that sees every person, regardless of nationality, age, and of course gender, as equal and with the right to be free from being discriminated against. But it’s the Korea, and there are just too many factors that need to be changed before anything as reasonable as that will happen. One of these factors is the need to enforce the plethora of laws which are currently ignored on a regular basis.

To conclude I hope that girl went out and got herself a better job, and one where her employers respect and trust her to be a professional, not one where they just play up to stereotyping and hearsay. Korea is a great place to live, make friends, gain job experience, and from my perspective fall in love and start a family. I only wish, dream, hope, that one day it will just tidy its act up and catch up with whatever standard it seems to expect it projects.

On Press Freedom


Roboseyo has a good post up about press freedom in Korea on his blog which I’d recommend to you.

Press Freedom: KBS Walkout and the Steady Decline of Press Freedom in Korea

The post is also noted for the large audio interview for the Seoul Cafe podcast which is something I’ve just learned about. I’ve actually recently started (again) listening to podcasts, although I know myself and imagine I’ll stop or forget to continue (but any recommendations are indeed most welcome in the comments).

The audio interview features John Power, and Irish journalist who has worked with the Korea Herald, and currently Yonhap, as well as freelancing for other sources. He’s quite active on twitter and would be worth a follow, if you ask me (as would Roboseyo).

I’ll just leave the audio here and let you have a listen to it, and from there all conclusions are you own to draw.

Blogging: 2013 in Review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

It’s the end of the year as we know it – 2011


One of my favourite things about using WordPress is the statistics. They feed my ego like my mammy did with potatoes for my appetite for donkeys years, and Herself now does with rice and kisses. What’s especially great for this appetite is this annual report provided by the good people at WordPress with details of what you have been reading throughout 2011.

For a statistics nut like me, this is delicious! For an If I had a minute to spare nut like yourself, this will also be one of the most exciting reads of 2012, guaranteed.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,500 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

 

Now, I’ve never been to Sydney but now that I’ve read this I’m going to make it my business to be there one day to see what a sold out performance looks like. If it’s even a quarter the quality of If I had a minute to spare then I’m be impressed.

 

Click here to see the complete report.

 

What people and bloggers, are saying about If I had a minute to spare in 2011:

“So so pretty” – Roxanne @ riotheels.wordpress.com

“Eh, my little Deutsche cheri, maybe a menage-a-trois with Berlusconi some time?” – wetcasements.wordpress.com

“whining about turning 30 is for babies” – Jim @ jemurr.wordpress.com

“Such is a matter of opinion as to what is shite or not” – Thomás Ó’Cártaigh

“You, sir, are a racist” – Some anonymity called Ryotaro

“Korea looks JUST like an Irish field” – Peadar O’Donoghue

“I’m always scared of getting displaced by going away long-term but I know that if I don’t I will never be satisfied staying here in Ireland without ever having properly experienced living in another place.” – Kate @ katekatharinaferguson.wordpress.com

“Ireland has come a long way in terms of accepting and recognising the gay community, and Korea will too in the not too distant future.” – a commenter by the name of Sandra

“as the Nun said to the Vicar. It falls in line with so much that ‘Sparkling Korea’ has to offer. All style and no substance. Or as I like to say, ‘All fur coat and nae knickers’.” – Craig @ cbinseoul@wordpress.com

“I see the notorious Bandi and Lunis point card. Perhaps this will be the most common thing that foreigners carry” Jake @ expathell.com

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!” – Simon @ eatyourkimchi.com

 

It has been a great year writing for all of you and I do hope you all continue to come back.

 

Here’s to another year of fun and frolics at the one and only, world famous, internationally sought and respected

If I had a minute to spare…

…I would probably say something like this