A while back, I had an interview with KpopStarz. They were really respectful and especially the interviewer had good questions that would benefit teachers who wanting to teach English in Korea so I thought it would be good to present the interview here too.
1) Tell me a little bit about what you do at PlanetESL.
I mainly speak and counsel ESL teachers beginning with the initial interview. I help them secure a job, guiding their visa process and arrival in Korea. If any issues occur during their stay with our jobs, then we also advise and do our best to help teachers.
2) Could you describe what you see as the ideal applicant for an ESL job in Korea?
Most school directors care about applicants having a serious attitude about coming to Korea to teach. A lot of teachers want to come to Korea only for the fun aspects of exploring Korea and traveling. However, teaching in a classroom, working 30 hrs a week and finishing a year contract is not something applicants can take only as fun. Directors are also looking for teachers who are open to learning about a new culture and who can accept Korea’s traditions, teachers who are not convinced that Korea is behind Western culture. These are the ideal applicants who can happily live in Korea.
3) What are some of the most common perceptions about Korea that you hear from applicants? Do you think their idea of Korea matches up with the “real” Korea?
Right now there is so much hype about Gangnam because of the song, so a lot of applicants want to come to Gangnam. However Gangnam is full of high buildings and shopping stores mostly. There are plenty of other areas and cities where people can experience in-depth Korea.
4) As K-Pop is becoming more popular in all parts of the world, are you seeing a rise in the number of people that want to take an ESL job in Korea? I don’t see a huge difference when it comes to applicants who want to teach in Korea. However I see more expats who come to Korea on working holiday visas from Europe.
5) Do you think K-Pop becomes a big part of life for people who come to Korea, whether or not they were fans of it before? How can an understanding or knowledge of K-Pop help ESL teachers connect to their students and the world around them?
I think people from the outside the world seem to know more about Korea from K-Pop. However it’s hard to say if K-Pop creates positive or negative expectations of Korea. What I hear from people around the world is that they think that all Korean men look like women and put on make-up. Likewise, they think all Korean women do plastic surgery. These cultural phenomena, which are by no means universal to all Koreans are becoming “common knowledge” of people in the world about Koreans. I think it’s time to spread different aspects of knowledge about Korea. I hope your company can do that one day.
6) What’s your favorite part of your job?
I enjoy my job because I feel I can help people find the right job for them to work better and be happier. Also I’m a fan of traveling and living overseas so I completely understand people who want to live overseas once in life. The joy I get from helping others motivates me to continue doing this job.
7) What are some of the key pieces of advice you would give to people when they’re ready to take an ESL job in Korea? Maybe the answers to this question are too varied and complicated. In my experiences, teachers from Western countries find most difficulties when they think Korea has no equality at work and society. Yes, Korea has a hierarchical system, a system that is the foundation of many Asian societies. Trust me it is hard for me and for a lot of Korean people at times to deal with the system. However this system is the foundation of Korea, and it builds relationships and society. Although it is hard to see through some times especially when you miss so much what you have left home, still try to let your heart open. I would encourage people to see this system in shades of grey rather than white and black.
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