‘Koreans love the Irish, we just aren’t that employable’ – Irish teacher rejected by S. Korea school
Katie Mulrennan spoke to RT live from Seoul about difficulties she’s faced with being Irish in a world that holds her nation in high esteem for its pubs – rather than its intellectual capabilities. “They prefer North American people,” she said.
RT:So tell us what happened?
KM: I’ve really enjoyed my time here – I’ve had snippets of insults at the Irish so I think – as a nation – we’re kind of used to it. So, even though this was in a league of its own – this email – it’s not put me off. I’m going back to Ireland – there’s not much opportunity there so I’m just going to go with the flow here and just keep working and travelling while I can and just experiencing this lovely country and wonderful culture. So as frustrating as it was receiving this – right now, on reflection, I can see the hilarity of it all – especially the feedback and exposure it’s getting in Ireland and around the world – it’s incredible.
So, back at the end of October I was job searching – I had just finished my year contract in a different district in Seoul. My initial plan was to go back to Ireland but I decided to stay another year, just to experience a little more and travel a little more. So, I applied for this position on Craigslist. The school details – like a lot of positions on Craigslist – were kept anonymous – we were just given the details of the school and the benefits that you would receive. So I forwarded them my email – my resume – having two years experience here and having a management degree, I assumed that I would receive the position or at least have a face-to-face interview. And it wasn’t to be. I received an email the next day with those words that were written…so yeah.
RT:And how did you respond when you found out?
KM:It was very frustrating at the time. I was quite stressed – in between jobs, trying to find work. And it’s currently in the middle of the semester here in Korea, so it’s difficult enough to find jobs, and being from Ireland – they don’t particularly want to hire Irish people because – it’s not what they’re hoping for. They prefer North American people –it’s not what they’re hoping for.
I would have liked it if they’d explained themselves a little bit more at least, had met me and reviewed my character before making this assumption and harsh judgment. I mean, In Korea here the Irish stereotype is very much solidified. Former employers I’ve had – they’ve asked me about my drinking habits. Since I’m from Ireland they said – of course, you’re a big drinker aren’t you, but you’ll have to play it down – be very PC here, and say that you don’t drink or that you drink on a rare occasion.
RT:Had they perhaps had some bad experiences with Irish people previously? Why do you think they had this impression?
KM:The stereotype of the Irish – there are Irish pubs everywhere – in Seoul and all across Korea. That is what we’re known for. It’s very sad. It’s very unfortunate. When I’m introduced to Koreans here – “You’re from Ireland – oh, you like to party, you like to drink!” so, it’s just a shame – it’s very unfair to be rejected in such a harsh manner. I was unemployed for a while in Ireland, after I came back from Abu Dhabi, so that’s why I came out here – and they welcomed me very well in this country, and it’s just a shame to be rejected so harshly, having so much experience and having good qualifications – so I think they really need to look beyond the stereotype and really try to – you know – open their minds and open their horizons to other cultures and other expats, and not just focus on north American teachers here – who they hold on such a pedestal.
The Korean people love the Irish here – we just aren’t that employable – especially in Seoul, when they have such a massive amount of expats – in particular from North America. They just don’t want to choose the Irish. I think we’re just seen as unreliable. I think maybe other employers – possibly – as you said, have had bad experiences. I myself don’t drink during the week – I’m very professional in my work, so I just think it’s laughable…
RT:You've been inundated with job offers from around the world since your rejection e-mail went viral, has that made you feel better?
KM:I have – it’s crazy! Really crazy – I’ve been getting so many messages on Facebook – first from many, many Koreans apologizing – and I quote: “I want to apologize on behalf on my country, we all don’t think like that. I’m sorry that you were so harshly treated in such a rude manner” – it’s crazy. I’ve gotten emails from Hong Kong, from China, Taiwan, Saipan, America, Russia, Middle East – “Come to our country, we will employ you!”. I even got a message from a guy in Oxford – he said “please come to Oxford so I can test how much of an alcoholic you are”.
It’s funny – it’s great that the world is laughing about it, even though there’s a shock factor to it. You have to laugh in these circumstances. There’s no point in getting a plane home back to Ireland and crying in the corner, and just being miserable about the experience – it’s onwards and upwards.